There is a direct relation between sitting in office chairs for long hours and issues with posture and back pain. Employers concerned about this can use balance balls as alternatives to their office chairs.
But the question is, are balance balls better than chairs? Do these balls improve posture? How do you decide which one is right for you compared to a standard desk chair?
In short, you don’t replace your office chair with a gym ball for sitting for long hours. Yes, you can use a ball for periodical sitting, and it will have significant health benefits as well. But you cannot just completely rely on a balance ball for sitting 8 hours a day.
The science of ergonomics will enable us to properly answer these questions. We would address all this in this article; just get through the insights we provided below.
Are Balance Balls Better Than Chairs?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, let’s discuss the thought process behind using a balance ball in an office. You see, balance balls are unstable objects, and the user needs to use his core strength to “balance” on them.
The idea behind this is that prolonged activation of the trunk muscle can help improve core strength correct poor posture, thereby decreasing the discomfort that comes with it.
This theory though widely spread is not backed by science; let’s see why.
Balance Balls And Ergonomics:
There are many benefits of using a balance ball as a form of exercise. This list reduces dramatically when considering a balance ball as an alternative to office chairs.
A study conducted found that “Sitting on a balance ball for long periods does not offer a significant difference in the way an individual sits, in fact, the level of discomfort tends to increase.”
The other thing to consider is the muscles used when using a chair versus a balance ball. Research found no difference in the muscles normally activated when sitting on a chair versus a balance ball.
Verdict: What to do then?
Balance balls are better suited for what they were made for, exercise. A healthier approach would be alternating between sitting and standing when working. Get a workstation that can adjust between these two positions; you could also stretch after a long period of immobility.
If you’re set on using a balance ball, don’t sit on it for long, there is scientific backing that prolonged use of these balls can lead to lower back discomfort. Let’s not forget office spaces have a ton of equipment lying around, and the unstable nature of these balls could lead to an accident.
So, you can get a balance ball chair to keep your muscles active during the day. However, one thing to keep in while getting, consider your height. If you’re tall, you have to get an effective balance ball chair for tall person as these balls come in different sizes.
Pros And Cons Of Balance Balls
Balance balls come with both advantages with a fair share of disadvantages as trade-offs, just like regular desk chairs. Let’s go through both real quick.
When used properly, an exercise ball could prove very beneficial; let’s look at the pros of using a balance ball.
- With proper use, this equipment can strengthen your back, abdominal, and core muscle strength.
- It takes a lot of balance to sit on an exercise ball, even more without your feet on the ground. Exercise balls can improve your balance and stability.
- Users with problems in their lower back (lumbar) will find this equipment useful.
- It’s hard to balance on the exercise ball if you’re hunched over; it helps to correct bad lumbar spine posture.
- With different variations of exercises, it helps you increase your overall core strength, and you gain better control of your muscles.
- Muscle tone becomes more defined after prolonged use of the balance ball as you get more muscle activity in balancing.
- If you sit on a balance ball for a long time, it can lead to pain in the back, not to mention it’s exhausting.
- An exercise ball chair won’t usually have any upper back support unless used in an external frame.
- Ergonomically, they’re designed to be used for short periods
- They are very unstable; without proper balance, you could lose balance and trip off.
- It’s not one size for all; an appropriate size is necessary for your height.
Pros and Cons of Balance ball Chairs
Just like barebone balance balls, balance balls also come in chairs, and they also come with benefits and trade-offs as described below:
- Most users testify to increased concentration levels when sitting in an upright position.
- A good ergonomic chair can improve posture and correct back pain.
- It reduces the risk of neck problems
- Sitting on a chair for a long time can cause back pain. A good way to curb this is to alternate your working position.
- Some users get bored after long periods of sitting down and can sleep off. You can see how this would be a problem in an office environment.
Balance Balls Vs. Chair: Which One Is Right For You?
We now know that no research supports the rumors of balance balls being better than chairs, especially when long sitting hours are involved. Each of them has their advantage and disadvantage.
The best course of action is to meet in the middle. You could use a balance ball when you feel uninspired and bored; the unstable nature will surely keep you awake as you try to keep your balance.
A chair still has its Pros and Cons; in summary, they’re better suited for office environments. It makes more sense to alternate between a standing position and a sitting position if you feel the need to stretch.
Exercises To Do On A Balance Ball
We can do tons of activities on a balance ball; it depends on what you wish to gain. Let’s look at the different exercises and the body they strengthen.
1. The Core
Exercises targeted for the core strengthen the muscles in our stomach area; you could also look at the core as the torso. Strengthening the core can increase your results when you address other body parts. Let’s look at some exercises that target this area.
Teaser toe taps:
To do this exercise;
- Sit on a training mat or any other surface you’re comfortable with; it has to be flat and free of obstruction.
- Raise the stability ball until it’s at your eye level
- With your legs outstretched in front of you, raise them one after the other.
- Make sure your toes touch the bottom of the exercise ball.
Pike and twist:
- Start out in a plank position.
- Place one foot on the ball; for this exercise, let’s use the left foot.
- With your left foot on the ball (toes pointed), lift your hips into the air until your body creates an inverted “v” shape.
- Rotate your torso to the left and bring your right knee towards your left hip.
- Drag your right knee back under your hip till you’ve reached your start position.
- Repeat the exercises.
2. Upper Body
A well-defined upper body is easily noticed because it is mostly exposed. Exercises done with a balance ball focused on this area improve muscle tone. Let’s look at some of them;
Kneeling Triceps extension:
- Assume a kneeling position with your heels under the bottom, and place the stability ball under your laps.
- Extend your arms till the bottom of your forearms and elbow rests on top of the ball.
- With your elbows on the ball, bend your arms till they get to 90 degrees.
- With the arms outstretched, try to squeeze the ball with your triceps as hard as you can.
- Return to your start position and repeat.
- Assume a kneeling position and sit on your heels.
- Slightly bend your arms and hug the stability ball in front of your chest.
- Ensure your hands and forearms maintain contact with it.
- Squeeze the ball as hard as you can for three seconds and release.
- Go to your start position and repeat the exercise.
- Assume a kneeling position with your heels as a seat.
- Using only your palm, hold the ball in front of your chest
- With elbows bent to 90 degrees, squeeze the ball for 3 seconds as hard as you can.
- Return to your start position and repeat
3. Lower body
A lower body in good shape gives you a balanced look and increases your stamina and balance. Let’s look at some exercises to keep it in shape.
- Assume a prone position with your back on the ground, place both arms on the ground with your palm facing downward for added support.
- With your knees bent 90 degrees, place your feet on the balance ball.
- Push your feet as hard as you can into the ball and lift your hips into the air
- While doing the above step, also push your back and arms into the ground; this will make you more stable.
- Return to your start position and repeat
- Lay on your back with your legs extended
- Place your arms at your side with both palms facing downward for added support.
- Place only your feet on the stability ball.
- To lift off, push your upper back and hips into the ground and lift your hips.
- Using your feet, bring the ball towards your button with your knees bent.
- Extend your legs once more and repeat.
A balance ball was made to provide variations during exercises, and it excels in that aspect; it is better suited for what it was made for, exercising. Admittedly, office chairs are here to help people sit for long hours. Since this could get uncomfortable and stretches can’t fix.
That’s where the balance balls come into action, making sure your muscles are active while sitting. However, as we’ve discussed whether balance balls are better than chairs only for periodical usage, be sure to use one accordingly. Alternate your position from the regular desk chair to a balance ball and vice versa.