The stability ball is a piece of exercise equipment used for strength training, improving balance and stability. Replacing the office chair for the stability ball is increasingly popular because of the potential for improved health, posture and strength, but you should be aware of both the benefits and drawbacks before deciding to use a stability ball. Always consult a doctor before starting this or any other exercise regimen.
The stability ball, also known as the Swiss ball, yoga ball or exercise ball, is an inflated ball constructed of soft PVC material. Stability balls come in different colors and sizes, and for best results, you should choose a ball that fits your height range. If you are between 4-foot-11 and 5-foot-4, select a ball that is 55 cm in diameter. If you are between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-11, use a ball that is 65 cm in diameter. If you are over 6 feet, choose a ball that is 75 cm.
Spineuniverse explains that sitting on a stability ball can improve stability and balance because doing so is said to constantly engage the core abdominal muscles. Stronger ab muscles protect the lower back and promote better posture, and can be the result of using the stability ball. A study in the "Journal of Canadian Chiropractic Association" by chiropractors Larry G. Merritt and Celynne M. Merritt showed that two people who reportedly suffered from lower back pain improved when they began consistently sitting on a stability ball. Of course, results vary by individual, and not everyone experiences these results.
According to the United States Army Public Health Command, sitting on an exercise ball can have a few drawbacks. For example, because exercise balls lack arm rests and back supports, the upper body might not be properly and fully supported. The UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center argues that the use of an armrest takes some strain off your neck and shoulders and makes you less likely to slouch. The Health Command also explains that sitting in a chair in a reclined position significantly eliminates disc pressure in the back, but this position cannot be maintained while sitting on an exercise ball. If you use the stability ball in place of an office chair, you might feel that the ball is not tall enough for you to reach your desktop. You also might have concerns that the stability ball will roll away when you stand, so you might need to find a way to anchor it.
Proper Sitting Techniques
Prolonged improper sitting posture and office equipment that promotes bad posture can damage spinal structure and cause recurring back and neck pain. The UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center explains that when sitting and resting your arms on a desk, your upper arms should be parallel to your spine. When you look at your computer, your gaze should be aimed at the middle of your screen. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Keep in mind that you might just as easily slouch on a stability ball as you would in a chair, so practice good posture regardless of the seat.
If you are new to using a stability ball, you might need to start out using the ball in small increments, as your body and muscles might not be accustomed to sitting in this manner for long periods and get fatigued. As your muscles build strength and endurance and become familiar with the seating position, it will become easier and you will be able to use the ball for longer periods. Your employer or work environment might not permit you to use a stability ball in the workplace, so receive approval before bringing your ball to work.
- US Army Medical Department: Ergonomics
- ErgoWeb: Balls as Office Chairs a Bad Idea
- UCLA: Ergonomics for Prolonged Sitting
- Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association: The Gym Ball as a Chair for the Back Pain Patient; Larry G Merritt, DC and Celynne M Merritt, DC; 2007.
- Spineuniverse: Ergonomics