Pros and Cons of Sitting on a Stability Ball

You know the stability ball as a piece of exercise equipment used for strength training, improving balance and stability. But have you considered sitting on a ball at work? You may have seen a few of your coworkers replacing their office chairs with the stability ball, too, because of the potential for improved health, posture and strength.

A ball should still allow you to comfortably reach your work space. (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/GettyImages)

Before you follow suit, you should be aware of both the benefits and drawbacks of sitting on a ball all day.

Pros of a Stability Ball

Sitting on a stability ball can improve stability and balance because you must constantly engage the core abdominal muscles to stay upright. Stronger ab muscles protect the lower back and promote better posture, and can be the result of using the stability ball. Sitting on a ball may also increase your daily calorie burn by a small amount.

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're between 4'8" and 5'5", your exercise ball should be 18 inches (45cm) in diameter.
  • If you're between 5'6" and 6'0", your exercise ball should be 22 inches (55cm) in diameter.
  • If you're between 6'1" and 6'5", your exercise ball should be 26 inches (65cm) in diameter.
  • If you're over 6'5", your exercise ball should be 30 inches (75cm) in diameter.

Another way to determine if you have the right ball: Sit on it and check that your bent knees form a 90-degree angle.

Cons of a Stability Ball

You may experience a number of bad side effects from sitting on a ball all day at work. Because exercise balls lack arm rests and back supports, the upper body might not be properly and fully supported.

The use of an armrest, as in a traditional chair, takes some strain off your neck and shoulders and makes you less likely to slouch. Sitting on the ball is often just uncomfortable too, so you can't concentrate as well on your work tasks.

If you are sitting on a ball at work in place of an office chair, you might feel that the ball is not tall enough for you to reach your desktop, which can cause ergonomic strain on your wrists, shoulders and elbows. 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 Stability Ball Techniques

Prolonged improper sitting posture and office equipment that promotes bad posture can damage spinal structures and cause recurring back and neck pain. 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 when sitting on a ball at work. 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 decide to use the stability ball for a chair, use it for short increments at first, 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 ball 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.

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