Updated: Feb 8
Do you or any of your colleagues sit on a ball at the office? Is it something you have heard is good for your back? I often get questions about using an exercise ball as a chair at work. Whether or not this is a good idea for you depends on a few factors.
If you have ever used a ball as a piece of exercise equipment you know that sitting on a ball properly is difficult. It is unreasonable to expect your body to be able to sit for 6-8 hours a day on a ball without gradually building up to it. When the muscles get fatigued they will begin to compensate and bad habits can be formed. Injury could be the result. In the beginning, I recommend sitting at the the ball for only 20 minutes at a time, starting at 3 times a day. Gradually increase this time over the course of 6-8 weeks to allow your body to adjust and get stronger.
It is a myth that sitting on a ball automatically causes your core muscles to contract and improves your posture. It is definitely possible to sit on a ball with terrible posture and no muscular contractions! When sitting, regardless of the surface, it is important to have your weight evenly distributed between both “sit bones” and be working to lengthen your spine, rising up from the top of your head. By sitting on the ball with proper posture, your core muscles will be more engaged than if you were sitting in a normal chair, but good posture is paramount.
Proper fit of the ball and your work station is crucial. Your feet should be flat on the floor and the angle of the hips and knees should be around 90 degrees. Regular ergonomic principles still apply when sitting on the ball. The computer screen should be at eye level and the keyboard or writing space should be at the height of your hands with your elbows bent to 90 degrees. For a smaller person, the proper height of the ball required to accommodate the lower extremities may make it that the upper body is in the incorrect position. Even of your back feels better, having a repetitive strain injury to the upper body is not a good trade off!
If sitting on a ball at work appeals to you, make sure to take some time to consider the factors listed above. Sitting on a ball for your workstation can introduce a small workout into your day. It can take a very static task and make it a little more dynamic. It should be entered into cautiously and slowly to ensure maximal results and minimize the risk of injury.
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