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My Experience Using a Fitness Ball as My Office Chair

fitness ball

We tech geeks spend much of our time at the computer, and, as a result, we spend much of our time in a chair.  If this concerns you, it is with good reason.  BusinessWeek recently discussed how your office chair is killing you.  The article points out that as recently as 150 years ago, 90% of human endeavor was agricultural, and that in a small span of time we’ve become “chair-sentenced.”  The article cited several statistics for the proposition that a sedentary job is bad for your health, even if you exercise outside of work.

Image from ilovemypit.

That article finally spurred me to do what I’d been considering for a year or two now – use a fitness ball as my primary office chair.  For over a month now, I’ve been using a fitness ball as my primary office chair, albeit switching to my normal office chair for up to half the day.  How’s it been working?  Read on for my take on the experience.

 

The Ball

The fitness ball that I purchased was the Gopher Sports UltraFit Anti-Burst Stability Ball.  This is the ball that Leo Laporte has recommended, ever since having a cheaper ball explode on him, on the air.  The ball has a much thicker and tougher feel to it than other fitness balls I’ve seen, such as the one my wife bought at Target.  After a month, it’s been great in the all-important “not popping” category.

 

Pros

So far, I’ve noticed several benefits from the ball:

  • Energy level.  First and foremost, I find that I’m more energetic and alert when I use the fitness ball.  Even when I leave the office in the evening, I have a spring in my step that is in stark contrast to my normal, exhausted plod at the end of the day.  This likely is due to the next benefit, which is that . . .

 

  • I’m always in motion, even when sitting.  The fitness ball seems to keep me moving, whether it be rocking and adjusting my position, or bouncing.  Yes, you heard that right.  I often bounce slightly on my ball while at the office.  Much of this is done subconsciously.  The second part of my effort to be healthier at work was to get a wireless headset for my telephone, so I often bounce while on the telephone, without even thinking about it.

 

  • I spend more time on my feet.  Keeping myself on the exercise ball isn’t difficult, but it isn’t effortless, either.  As a result, I find that I often hop to my feet during the day, especially during telephone calls, and walk around my office.  With my traditional chair, it was easy to just kick back in my chair, and stay there.

 

  • It helps my core.  Well, that is what the so-called experts say at least.  It certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing situps after using the ball, but I do notice a very slight difference.  I hope it isn’t just my imagination.

 

Cons

The use of the fitness ball hasn’t been all roses.  Here are a few of the negatives I’ve noticed:

  • Uncomfortable backside.  After sitting on the ball for extended periods, my backside sometimes becomes sore.  That goes away, though, once I’m on my feet for a few minutes.  I have a coworker who also uses a fitness ball as a chair, and he doesn’t have any discomfort in his buttocks when using the ball, so you may or may not have this problem.

 

  • Incompatible with much furniture.  I found a chart online that suggested sizes for fitness balls.  My ball is a good size for the length of my legs, but I do sit higher up than I do with my office chair.  As a result, I find that I crane my neck more when reading what is on my desk.  I also have to raise my computer monitor to get it at eye level.  Fortunately, it slides up and down easily, so that isn’t much of an issue.

 

  • Roll Aways.  In an ideal world, you’d have a flat floor and your fitness ball would stay put when you left it.  Apparently, though, my office floor isn’t perfectly level, so the ball rolls away when I get up.  Fortunately, it rolls about a foot and stops at my computer desk.

 

Tips

I’ve picked up a couple of tips in my use of my fitness ball:

  • Get an anti-burst ball.  As mentioned, my fitness ball feels tough, so I hope I’m spared the indignity and possible pain of a ball giving way from underneath me.

 

  • Don’t overinflate the ball.  My ball came with an elastic tape, that is temporarily fastened around the ball when you inflate it, so that you use the proper amount of air.  I thought I had inflated my ball properly, until I measured it a few days after the initial inflation.  I discovered that the elastic tape must have stretched along with the ball, causing me to overinflate the ball.  So, I’d suggest that you first underinflate the ball slightly, and then measure again with the tape a day or two later, after the tape has returned to normal size.

 

All in all, I’m please with my experiment so far.  I’m actually considering getting a second ball, so that I have one for my desk at home as well.  Do you use a fitness ball?  If not, are you considering it?

 

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About Evan Kline

Evan started 40Tech to write about tech from his perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. When not writing about tech, you might find him with his beautiful wife and baby girl, out on the ski slopes, at his real-life job as a lawyer, over on Google+, or scrounging for followers on his personal Twitter account after years of focusing on the 40Tech account.

10 Responses to My Experience Using a Fitness Ball as My Office Chair

  1. Interesting. I have one in the house from my wife’s exercising. I can imagine me bouncing up and down while I’m on video conferences. Could be amusing to say the least.

    Anthony Russo
    http://www.anthonyrussoblog.com/Anthony
    Skype: anth.russo
    Twitter: @AnthonyRusso

  2. Bouncing while on video . . . hmm, I’m not sure that “interesting” is the word I’d use. :)

    Actually, when I first got mine, some coworkers gave me some good-natured ribbing, but now 3 of them have ordered one.

  3. I saw someone at school using those fitness balls while they were sitting at their desk. I never knew that it actually had benefits.

  4. I got one for Christmas and I love it!! I work from home and can tell that my health has steadily gone downhill as I work more and more hours at the computer. I put on music and bounce to the music or sometimes, when I need a break, I get up and bounce a couple minutes on my jogging trampoline (rebounder), also a Christmas present. No more just sitting at the computer for me!!

  5. One of the biggest advantages in using an exercise ball, for me personally, is that I am forced to keep my feet on the floor rather than tucked underneath me. Even though I know it’s terrible for my posture and my back, when sitting in any chair (office or kitchen) I inevitably tuck at least one of my legs into my chest and curl (hunch) my back… I like being “tucked into myself”. Unfortunately, this has lead to TERRIBLE posture and continuous lower back pain.

    With the excercise ball as a chair I simply cannot bring my legs up under me, unless I want to fall off the ball, and it’s forcing me to sit straight. I have noticed a significant lessening of my lower back pain which I’m so thankful for!

  6. I think the greatest benefit in using the ball is that it encourages you to move more. I like having a chair with back and arm rests but then it’s too easy to just stay in one position for long stretches. Ideally I would like to be able to switch between both in the office but then space becomes an issue.

    I did some research into the chair vs. exercise ball debate: http://www.somastruct.com/exercise-ball-versus-office-chair-comparison/ and I saw at least one study that said the same thing you mentioned about the ball becoming uncomfortable on the backside. It might have something to do with the increased surface area of the ball. It’s not something I’ve experienced. It might be worth inflating or deflating the ball slightly to see if that changes anything.

  7. So you are not using the ball as your chair anymore? I just got myself one and was really interested in someone’s long term experience (you posted the original article more than 3 years ago).

    • I’m not – I actually have a standing desk and a sit down desk now, and keep moving by switching between them. My computer is at the standing desk, and I use the sit down desk for manual writing, etc. I also have a wireless headset for my phone, and do laps around my office when using that.

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