Lately, everyone wants to swap their work chair for the gym ball. In the UK and US there had been a wave of chairs being replaced by exercise balls a few years back and now they are moving towards standing desks. India is now catching up with this trend. The gym ball is also called a physio ball or a stability ball. It is used in gyms, physiotherapy clinics and home gyms for various fitness and rehab exercises. In theory, there are many benefits of using the gym ball to sit on at work. I know many patients who use it and like it. Some people have claimed to lose a few inches from their waist just by using the ball at work every day! I too am currently using an ergo ball chair which is a stability ball mounted on a chair. The research on this is not yet conclusive however but let’s look at why it may or may not work for you.
The stability ball does have some scientific benefits over sitting in a chair all day. The stability ball forces you to sit in a better posture; it activates the deep abdominal muscles of the core and it increases your sense of balance and proprioception. However, using a ball at work may not be for everyone. Prolonged use can bring its own set of issues. Firstly a transition from sitting in a chair all day to sitting on a stability ball all day is a drastic change; one that your body may not be prepared to handle; the core and leg muscles may fatigue fairly quickly leading to pain. Secondly, our bodies are not meant to do anything for a prolonged period of time whether it is sitting on a ball or sitting in a chair. Our bodies are designed to move which can be easily achieved by taking enough stand/walk breaks while using a regular office chair. Lastly but most importantly, even though the stability ball can be deemed more ergonomic, it may not be. While sitting on a ball helps you sit up straight, it does not support your arms like your chair does; it may not position your hips and knees at optimum angles as per ergonomic requirements. Hence, it’s a great option to take your ball to work, however using it consistently may prove more difficult than you think.
For those who do want to try the gym ball at work here’s how to make sure you transition easier and avoid any pain issues.
- Only sit on the gym ball for 20 minutes at a time and alternate between your regular chair and standing in between.
- Make sure you buy the right size of gym ball (three sizes are popularly used) so that you are at the right height for your desk. Your legs should form a 90-degree angle when you sit in the middle of the ball. Use a smaller ball if your hips are higher than your knees. Pick a larger ball if your hips are below your knees.
- Sit in the middle of the ball and keep your feet on the floor in the front. Keep your back straight and pull shoulders down and back. Maintain this posture while working on the ball. This is difficult to do if you are used to sitting slouched in your office chair for years.
- While sitting on the gym ball pull your belly button in and keep feet flat on the floor
- Buy a good quality gym ball. Sitting on it for a prolonged period of time may cause it to burst!
So go ahead and see if taking your gym ball is the right move for you or not.