Exercise balls are great tools to use while working out, as they help you strengthen your core muscles as well as your balancing ability.
In fact, they can actually condition your abdominal, back, and oblique muscles.
These three muscle groups help your spine to remain strong and aligned properly. This will undoubtedly improve your posture, which is why exercise balls have actually become very popular replacements to a traditional desk chair.
Using an exercise ball as your office chair is called active sitting, as you’re keeping your muscles engaged while not moving.
This helps to strengthen them while you’re stationary. Who doesn’t want to get a flatter stomach while working?
Plus, they’re great fun for quick five-minute breaks during your work hours. Using an exercise ball as a desk chair incorporates work and play seamlessly.
That being said, using a ball that’s the wrong size may cause you more harm than good, which is why it’s so important to do your research before buying one.
Below we’ll be looking at the different sizes of exercise balls and which you should use for sitting at a desk. We’ll also talk about inflating it and how you should sit on it to work all those muscles properly.
What Size of Ball Should You Get?
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The right size of an exercise ball for you depends on how tall you are, so get that measuring tape out. Generally speaking, the shorter you are, the smaller your ball will need to be. That being said, there are some exceptions to this rule.
If you have longer legs than normal for your height, you may need to size up your ball to avoid those dreaded leg cramps.
If you have suffered, or are currently suffering, from back problems, you may need a larger ball to take some of the pressure off of your lower back.
You may want to consider sizing up if you’re going to be using the ball for yoga and stretching as well as an office chair, as this will give you a better range of motion for your stretching.
Of course, your individual needs will come into play here, but below we’ll list the average sizes of exercise balls that you should aim to get for your height.
Ball Size (Inches/Centimeters)
5 and Under
18 / 45
5 to 5’5
22 / 55
5’6 to 6’1
26 / 65
6’2 to 6’8
30 / 75
6’9 and Up
34 / 85
If you’re still unsure about this, a good tip is to actually take your current desk chair at the height that you often sit on it, and measure from the floor to the top of the seat. This will give you an idea of what the diameter of the exercise ball should be. Clever, right?
Always remember that your exercise ball will compress as you sit on it, so the maximum diameter is not an accurate measure to go from. This can be slightly rectified with the amount of air you inflate into your ball, which we’ll discuss later in the article.
We would suggest choosing an exercise ball that can be exchanged or returned in case it is the wrong size for you. This will help to protect your purchase and ensure that you aren’t left with a useless exercise ball if you find it to be too big or too small.
Supplementing exercise balls for a desk chair might become uncomfortable after a couple of minutes, so we wouldn’t recommend throwing out your old chair just yet.
In fact, we would recommend beginning by using your exercise ball as a replacement for a portion of one or two days a week so that you can get used to it.
The right exercise ball will be high-quality, to avoid it leaking air or bursting, and slip-proof so that you don’t go flying back after unbalancing yourself, potentially taking your expensive work equipment with you.
Our favorite is the Trideer Exercise Ball, and the best part is that it comes in a great range of sizes!
Have a standing desk? Try one of these standing desk exercises.
How Much Should You Inflate Your Exercise Ball?
It’s important to remember that over-inflating your exercise ball could cause it to burst unexpectedly.
For this reason, you should take extra care in inflating it to ensure not to break your ball on the first use.
A lot of people have their own preferred way of doing this, but we’ll walk through ours in case you haven’t heard of one before. It’s really simple, we promise!
- Measure how tall your ball should be from the floor and make a small pencil mark on the wall.
- Inflate the ball to this height.
See, we told you it was simple! We do this because trying to hold an exercise ball still while holding a straight measuring tape to it will be much harder than you might first anticipate. Sure, you can do this if you have a second person to help you, but if you’re on your own, the wall method will be much easier.
Don’t ignore the pencil line if you think that your ball can still hold some more air. Overfilling your exercise ball will increase the likelihood of it bursting unexpectedly, so stick to the correct height that the packaging calls for.
How To Sit on an Exercise Ball Properly
We know that you might be thinking ‘how hard can it be to sit on a ball instead of a chair?’ Well, sitting isn’t difficult, but sitting properly so that you won’t injure yourself takes a little more work.
First and foremost, sit up straight on your exercise ball and ensure that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle and that your thighs are not pointing up or down. This correct leg positioning will give you a stable base so that you don’t find yourself rolling away from the desk.
Sitting with a sufficient amount of space between your calves will further help strengthen your core and therefore will help your posture.
Are you using a computer, or a pen and paper while you work? If a laptop, your laptop needs to be open at a 90-degree angle. This will keep your neck positioned correctly and in alignment with your spine.
If you’re not using a computer, your elbows should be bent to allow your whole forearm to rest on top of the desk. This also promotes the best posture.
Active sitting isn’t supposed to be easy, otherwise you wouldn’t be burning four calories a minute. Your body should be bracing itself to prevent you from falling off of the ball. This keeps your muscles engaged and getting stronger.
Now, as you can probably tell with this whole exercise, it’s a lot of pressure on your muscles. You don’t hold your dumbbells above your head all-day to strengthen your arms, do you? This is because the act of lifting them up and down helps the muscles to rest in between sets.
For this reason, active sitting should not be completed all day. Medical professionals suggest that you shouldn’t do this for longer than 30 minutes at a time, so keep your office chair handy for after each session.
You’ll be able to work up to more frequent active sitting sessions, so don’t force yourself into using your exercise ball every day. Take your time and help your muscles to adjust to active sitting before you shock it with intense sessions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it beneficial to sit on an exercise ball during work?
Yes and no. Yes, as we’ve mentioned before, because active sitting will help your posture and your core muscles to become stronger. That being said, there are a few disadvantages to sitting on an exercise ball at a desk. For example, you have to get a ball in the correct size for both your body and your desk.
This can be tricky, as your desk is not always going to be the best size for your height. However, using an exercise ball that is too small or large for your height will lead to sit with poor posture. Obviously, this is completely counterproductive.
If you’re sitting on your exercise ball with poor posture, you’ll quickly find that your back will begin to hurt more than if you were to be sitting in an office chair. Some people fare better with back support and some don’t need this as much, so you have to determine whether you can sit properly on your exercise ball.
Is an exercise ball good for lower back pain?
Strengthening your core with active sitting will help your lower back pain to an extent, as the muscles around your spine will become stronger. This will allow your spine to remain more stabilized and aligned while you’re moving, so you’re less likely to suffer through lower back pain.
You’ll also be able to use your exercise ball for stretching and yoga exercises, which may help increase the flexibility to your spine so that it’s not so tense and painful. There are plenty of exercises online that you can try with your exercise ball to help reduce tension in your back.