With all of the research on the dangers of sitting, people are looking for alternatives to the office chair. One alternative people often try is using an exercise ball or yoga ball rather than a chair. We’re often asked whether we think exercise balls are good option, so here is our two cents.
Exercise balls have some advantages for reducing sitting time. First, they are relatively inexpensive. Second, they can be used at a traditional sitting desk, so you do not need to rearrange anything. Third, you might want to stand up more while sitting on a yoga ball than you would in a chair.
Overall though, based on our personal experiences and some research, we can’t give exercise balls a ringing endorsement. First, there is the awkwardness of bouncing around a bit while a co-worker is in your office, combined with the risk of falling off your the ball in front of someone. Second, in one Rebel Desk employee’s experience, they don’t work very well on days when you wear a skirt to work.
The research also has shown that yoga balls as chair result in minimal benefit. One study showed that sitting on a ball causing many people to slump forward, affecting overall spine stability. This in turn created more discomfort in user’s backs and backsides than a chair. Another study showed almost no additional engagement of the core muscles compared to a chair.
And when using an exercise ball, you still are, well, sitting. So the yoga ball may not be doing much to help you avoid the biggest detriment to your health in the office: prolonged sitting. Most medical experts agree that it is best to vary your movement throughout the day – get out of the chair, stand, walk.