How to Sit on an Exercise Ball at a Desk

Prolonged periods of sitting may contribute to back pain and tight muscles in your neck and shoulders. Replacing your office chair with an exercise ball may reduce back pain and improve your posture while building core strength.

An exercise ball can help reduce back pain when sitting at a desk. (Image: Onfokus/E+/GettyImages)

Exercise balls allow more freedom of movement than chairs and sitting on one at work may prevent stiffness associated with sitting in a constrained position. Determining which ball size fits your height and learning the proper way to sit on an exercise ball at work is a comfortable and beneficial addition to your office.

Sitting on an Exercise Ball

Before attempting to sit on a ball at work, it's important to choose a ball that is the proper size. You will likely have to make additional changes to your computer as well.

  1. Buy the right size ball for your height. Generally, if you're 4 feet, 8 inches to 5 feet, 5 inches tall, buy an 18-inch ball. If you're 5 feet, 6 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches, then you'll need a 26-inch ball. Over 6 feet, and you'll need a 30-inch ball.
  2. Inflate the ball until you can sit on it with your feet resting flat on the floor and your legs at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
  3. Tighten your abdominal muscles and straighten your back. Relax your shoulders and place your hands on your desk. In the correct position, your arms will form a 90-degree angle. If you are sitting on the correct size ball and your elbows don't rest on the desk, you may need to adjust your desk height. Incorrect arm positioning while sitting on the ball at your desk may cause shoulder and arm pain.
  4. Widen your feet to increase your stability while sitting on the ball. Move your feet closer to challenge your balance and core muscles.
  5. Adjust your computer screen or monitor to eye level to prevent neck or shoulder strain while you read and sit on the ball.

Keep It Safe

While sitting on a ball at work can promote better posture, it can also pose some risks. Don't forget that you're sitting on a moving object. Keep your feet planted on the floor so that you don't inadvertently topple over. Also, sharp objects can puncture the ball, so keep an eye on your office supplies! Clean your ball with mild soap and water rather than commercial cleaners which could damage the ball's material.

Sneak in a Workout

Although just sitting on the stability ball works your core muscles, you can also strengthen your abs, arms and legs for a quick workout during your breaks. Begin with 10 repetitions of each move, working up to three sets.

Move 1: Shoulder Press

  1. Hold small dumbbells, or other objects such as water bottles, in your hands at shoulder-height.
  2. Press your arms straight up toward the ceiling. Hold for one to two seconds; then lower back down.

Move 2: Abdominal Crunches

  1. Walk your feet forward and lie back on the ball until it is resting under your mid and upper back.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest.
  3. Contract your abs and lift your shoulder blades off the ball.
  4. Hold for one to two seconds; then relax.

Move 3: Chest Press

  1. Hold small dumbbells in each hand while lying on the ball.
  2. Bend your elbows and hold the dumbbells at the front of your shoulders.
  3. Press your arms up toward the ceiling as if you are doing an upside-down push-up.
  4. Hold for one to two seconds; then lower slowly lower back down.

Move 4: Knee Extension

  1. Sit up tall on the ball. Straighten on knee fully.
  2. Hold for one to two seconds; then lower back down. Repeat on both sides.
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