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 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.
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.
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.
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?