Exercise Ball vs. Office Chair Experiment
My youngest son is entering 1st grade next year. When we went to visit his new school on orientation night, I noticed one of the classrooms had exercise balls for chairs. At first I thought…so cool! How progressive!! I had an exercise ball at home in my closet (where it has sat quietly for 4 years). I figured since I spend the majority of my professional life sitting (which makes an office chair an all-important piece of furniture) I’d try it out for myself! Here’s what’s been great about it, what’s been less than perfect, and what you might want to consider if you’re interested in switching to an exercise ball as your office chair.
I currently have a very nice chair, which I fit in comfortably and at my workstation everything is measured for ergonomic perfection (as best as I could manage, at least). But, maybe it’s my increased awareness of the health hazards of sitting all day or just the years catching up with me (probably more of the later). Lately I’ve been catching myself standing up to type in bouts of nervous energy or, worse, slouching. My neck and shoulders perpetually ache! Most importantly the exercise ball as a chair promised to allow me to work in some abdominal exercise throughout the day and possibly improve my years-of-working-slumped-at-a-desk posture.
The first time I sat on the exercise ball at my desk, it was a test of balance. My spine was rocketed straight as I used my feet angled to the side to hold my pose. Eventually, I found a spot that worked and allowed me to sit comfortably. And, it only took me about 20 minutes before I was ready to switch back to my regular chair! I tried it for a couple more days and found myself siting on the exercise ball for much longer periods of time. A week later, I spent the majority of my work time on the exercise ball but still took a lot of breaks to switch back to my regular chair.
- I was able to bounce on the chair when a good song came on.
- I was able to bounce on the chair in frustration while waiting for a browser page to reload.
- I felt as if my stomach muscles were engaged.
- I felt like it helped to correct my posture even when I returned to sit in my regular chair.
- The ball was a bit too low in conjunction with my monitor and keyboard. For it to work optimally I would have needed to adjust my whole workstation.
- I couldn’t lean back and relax.
- Too much bouncing to music can make you fall off.
- My neck still hurts.
After a little over a week of sitting on the ball, it’s impossible to tell if it’s helping to increase my core strength, as I hope it will. I do feel like I sit much taller than I used to and can sit on the ball like a pro for longer periods of time. If it’s only that I’m more aware of my posture, that’s fine—in my book, the ball is doing its job. I still love my regular, ergonomic chair best but I now have another outlet for some creative nervous energy. A way to sneak in some extra (albeit minuscule, in terms of calorie-burning) exercise—while working, what more could I ask for?
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