Exercise Ball Chair Information

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Exercise Balls - Do they Make Good Office Chairs?

Exercise ball chairs are all the rage. Countless websites looking to sell them tout the benefits of using an exercise ball (or fit ball) as an office chair.

But are they really good for your core and back?  The jury is still out on that one, but in the meanwhile, here are a few things to keep in mind before committing to using an exercise ball as your desk chair.

If You Don't Have a Back Condition

If you're uninjured or you've been discharged from treatment and have been doing back-strengthening exercises for a while, an exercise ball may prove to be a time-saving way to work your core. Core strengthening is used in physical therapy clinics to help relieve back pain due to muscle weakness and muscle imbalance. It is also used to help people with back pain increase their ability to perform daily activities.

However, if you have a back condition or are still recovering from an injury, using an exercise ball as a full-time office chair probably isn't for you.

Using an Exercise Ball As An Office Chair

A number of credentialed experts are not so quick to jump on the exercise ball as office chair  bandwagon. Here's what they say:

McGill, et.al. in their study, "Sitting on a chair or an exercise ball: various perspectives to guide decision making," which was published in the May 2006 issue of Clinical Biomechanics, found that participants reported discomfort with the ball as office chair and that sitting on it is seems to spread out the contact area.

 They reason that this causes uncomfortable soft tissue compression.

Jackson, et. al., in their December 2013 study entitled, "Should we be more on the ball? The efficacy of accommodation training on lumbar spine posture, muscle activity, and perceived discomfort during stability ball sitting," which was published in the journal Human Factors, found no evidence that using an exercise ball as an office chair helps to strengthen the trunk or posture, even when participants first went through an "accommodation" program.

Any kind of sitting increases compression on your spine. Remember, the ball does not support your back muscles -- it only challenges them. Compression combined with a lack of support may irritate any injury, condition or muscle imbalance you may have, and will likely increase your pain if used for too long.

But if you've been doing your back exercises faithfully for some time, and your doctor or physical therapist has given you the okay to work with an exercise ball, you may find that using it as an office chair in a limited way makes a good adjunct to your home program. Performing trunk strengtheners while sitting on the unstable surface the exercise ball provides may even help you take your back exercise routine to the next level. Again, get your doctor's approval before trying this. If possible, ask your physical therapist for some things you can do on the ball.

Related: How to Sit with Good Posture


Jackson, J., et. al. Should we be more on the ball? The efficacy of accommodation training on lumbar spine posture, muscle activity, and perceived discomfort during stability ball sitting. Hum Factors. Dec 2013. Accessed Jan 2013.

Kingma I, van Dieën JH. Static and dynamic postural loadings during computer work in females: Sitting on an office chair versus sitting on an exercise ball. Appl Ergon. 2009 Mar;40(2):199-205. Epub 2008 May 27. Accessed Oct 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18508028

McGill SM, Kavcic NS, Harvey E. Sitting on a chair or an exercise ball: various perspectives to guide decision making. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2006 May;21(4):353-60. Epub 2006 Jan 10. Accessed Oct 2010.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16410033

O'Connor, A. The Claim: Replacing Your Desk Chair With an Exercise Ball can Improve Your Posture. New York Times Health. Sept. 20 2010. Accessed Oct 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/health/21really.html

Robinson, J. et. al. A comparative study of the stability ball vs. the desk chair in healthy young adults: sagittal curvature, sitting duration and usability. Scoliosis. 2009; 4(Suppl 2): O33. Published online 2009 December 14. Accessed Oct 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793460/

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