A recent trend in office-based fitness is for workers to sit on a stability ball instead of a chair. Proponents tout that this will help you build and work your core muscles as you work. It’s important, however, to determine whether the benefits of using a stability ball as a chair are enough for you to make the switch.
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According to MayoClinic.com, using a firmly inflated stability ball can be a way to incorporate a bit of fitness into your daily routine. Sitting on a stability ball encourages you to have better posture and core strength. It will also give you greater freedom of movement as you’re seated.
In a study done at State University of New York Buffalo, researchers found that people who sat on stability balls burned 4.1 times more calories per hour than those who sat in an office chair. Although this doesn’t sound like much, it adds up to more than 160 additional calories burned each week and 640 additional calories burned each month. Using the standard formula of 3,500 calories burns 1 lb. of fat, this equates to more than 2 lbs. of fat per year for a typical office worker.
A study done by Kelly Jo Baute, a researcher in the Indiana Ergonomics lab at Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, found that using a stability ball as a chair not only affected the subject’s core muscles but also their leg muscles. When the patients reached for typical objects on their desk, such as a glass of water or a stapler, the muscles in their opposite leg, including the hamstring and shin muscles, contracted.
Many people believe that sitting on a stability ball can help if you have a bad back. However, Dr. Edward Laskowski, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with the Mayo Clinic, asserts that this isn’t true. Instead, Dr. Laskowski recommends that people with bad backs choose a properly fitted ergonomic chair to support your back.
Using a stability ball too much too quickly can lead to injury. Baute recommends that you build up your time on the ball slowly to allow your muscles to become used to the position.