Sitting all day isn’t ideal for your overall health. And this isn’t exactly ‘new’ news. Most of us have heard this before. Yet, if your job requires you to sit in front of a computer for the majority of your day, you don’t have much of a choice.
But can you make this sitting-all-day situation better? Absolutely!
Maybe you’ve even considered swapping out your regular ol’ office chair for a balance ball instead. If this is something you’re contemplating, keep reading. We’ve got everything you need to know about using a balance ball as your office chair.
From the benefits of it to the downsides, we don’t miss a beat.
Understanding the Biomechanics of Sitting
As per any action or movement, sitting also places stressors on certain bones and muscles while also allowing other areas to relax. Yet, this varies based on the type of chair you’re using. For example, an ergonomically-designed office chair will leave you feeling much different after eight hours of sitting than a stool or wooden chair would.
Generally, however, when you take a seat, your feet get a break and your weight transfers to the seat, armrests, and backrest of the chair. But after prolonged durations, this may leave your lower back, pelvis, and hamstrings susceptible to various issues and pain.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for individuals who hold office jobs to experience low back pain or tight hamstrings (maybe you’re one of them!).
Frequently, low back pain arises from a slouched posture, as well as remaining in a sitting position for too long. When it comes to the body, too much of any one thing is never good. In a sitting position, the hamstrings also become shorter and tighter, resulting from the bend in your knees.
This can further contribute to the development of low back pain and hip pain, as well as increase your risk of experiencing a hamstring injury.
So, can a balance ball help prevent and alleviate these issues? Maybe.
The Benefits of a Balance Ball
There are various advantages to using a balance ball at work or as your office chair. Some of these include the following.
1. You’ll Burn Extra Calories
When used correctly, a balance ball can help you burn more calories than you would when sitting in a regular office chair. This is because the ball requires a higher activation of your core and trunk muscles to hold your body upright. Yet, to ensure you’re doing this, you want to make sure you’re positioned correctly on the ball.
To do so, position your knees about hip-width apart. Ensure you maintain full contact with the ground with both of your feet. Keep your shoulders down and back, and ensure you tighten your core in between your hips.
Once positioned, you can also use the ball to move side-to-side and back-and-forth. This can add a little more movement to your day, as well as challenge your core and balance even more.
2. It May Help Relieve Back Pain
A balance ball is in no way a magic cure for your back pain. However, it can help improve your core strength, which is a key foundation when bouncing back from back pain. Most individuals who experience lower back issues have a weak core. An exercise or balance ball can help with this!
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You can also take this a step further and perform various core exercises on the ball.
For example, while seated on the ball, tighten your core and lift one foot slightly off the ground. Hold here for 5 seconds before switching feet. Aim to do 10 repetitions per leg and do 2-3 sets throughout your workday.
Related: Have a look at our favorite alternative office chairs that promote active sitting.
3. It Helps You Breath Better
Since a balance ball forces you to sit up tall (you have nowhere else to lean), you open up your thoracic cavity. This can allow you to take bigger and fuller breaths. In turn, this might help improve your lung function over time.
When you’re able to take full breaths, you’re forcing your respiratory system and diaphragm to work, which means your body is getting more oxygen than you would in slouched or hunched position.
4. It May Improve Your Balance and Core Strength
Again, this comes back to ensure you’re using it correctly (Not sure how to? Check out our tips under the first benefit above.). As previously mentioned, you can also use the balance ball for various exercises, such as planks, crunches, and more.
5. You Can Use a Balance Ball for Stretch Breaks
Use your balance ball as inspiration to stretch out at set intervals throughout your day! Laying face-up with your arms out to your sides on the balance ball can provide a wonderful chest stretch.
You can also use it to stretch out your back by standing and bending forward at your hips while resting your hands or arms on the ball.
Are There Downsides of Using a Balance Ball as Your Office Chair?
We recommend using an ergonomic office chair alongside a balance ball, while also moving every couple of hours. This is simply because any prolonged sitting in one position can result in pain.
One study even noted that after hours of sitting on a balance ball, users reported increased discomfort.
This may happen since your muscles will eventually fatigue, which results in poor posture.
With no backrest for support, this might leave you feeling worse than an ergonomically-designed office chair would.
Instead, use your stability ball for set intervals throughout your day. And if you’re new to using one, consider starting with 10-15 minutes and gradually increasing your time from there.
Or simply use your balance ball for exercise and stretch breaks during your workday.
Remember, sitting in any position for too long – whether that’s on a balance ball or not – isn’t good for the body. Take proper care and ensure you take breaks as needed. Pain isn’t something you want nor is it something you need to experience.
If you’re on the hunt for ergonomic chairs or standing desks, check out what we recommend. We strive to provide you with the best options for your workspace so that you can thwart pain and work comfortably – without issue.