If you work in an office space with various coworkers spending the majority of time at their desk, you may have noticed a few have replaced their standard office chair with a large exercise ball.
When asked why they switched, your coworkers may say it is better for their health, can help burn calories, and improves balance and posture.
But is any of this true?
There is nothing stopping you from sitting on an exercise ball all day or using it as a replacement for your standard chair, but the health benefits may not be what you had hoped for.
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Can You Sit on an Exercise Ball All Day?
We all know that sitting all day can be bad for our health. It reduces blood flow to your legs, can reduce your metabolism, and may even lead to health concerns such as varicose veins, lower back pain, and obesity.
Some of the easiest ways to help combat these potential issues are by ensuring you are able to get up and move around often.
Simply changing your position in your chair may not be enough. Instead, it’s recommended that no matter what type of item you are sitting on, you should get up at least once every 30 minutes and walk around for two to three minutes.
Ergonomic office chairs and kneeling chairs have been used for many years as a way to improve your health when sitting for long periods of time. Over time, other seating arrangements have been added in as well — such as the exercise ball.
The idea is that sitting on an exercise ball will help you burn more calories as you are in a constant state of balancing yourself.
Additionally, the process of balancing yourself will lead to better core muscles which, in turn, should improve your posture.
However, you are still in the standard sitting position, which means your hips are still compressed, and your leg muscles are restricted. In addition, once you start getting more comfortable with your balance on the ball, you may start to slouch or revert back to poor posture.
How Long Should You Sit on an Exercise Ball?
Even though they look comfortable and fun to sit on, an exercise ball should be limited to use during exercise sessions.
Most personal trainers would recommend no more than 30 minutes of daily use on an exercise ball, with that 30 minutes being broken into much smaller chunks of time.
For example, you can do a 5-minute balance session on the ball before moving into a standing exercise for 10 minutes. After that is completed, you can return to the exercise ball for another 5–10 minutes before switching to another exercise again.
This alternating between the ball and other workout equipment is a great way to ensure your body stays active and is not forced into any one position.
It gives your spine a chance to stretch and compress naturally, as well as to fall into the natural S-curve.
It also helps ensure blood circulation is not restricted in your lower legs, and provides a range of motion in your hips and pelvis.
One of the biggest concerns with prolonged sitting, whether it is on an exercise ball or a standard office chair, is that reduced blood flow to the lower legs can cause varicose veins, swelling, and numbness over time.
Is Using an Exercise Ball as an Office Chair a Good Idea?
Some physical therapists have found that there is no noticeable difference in muscle tone throughout your body when sitting on an exercise ball, or a standard stool.
The soft and flexible surface of the ball can also lead to worse hip alignment than if you were seated on a stable chair or bench.
While there is still some argument of whether or not using an exercise ball as an office chair is a good idea or not, a large percentage of healthcare professionals and physical therapists agree that exercise balls should be kept for exercise and not used as a main seating option.
Instead, it’s much better to consider an ergonomic office chair that offers suitable support for your lower back, legs, and arms.
By ensuring you have a chair that is well suited for your own body shape and size, you can improve your posture as well as reduce the amount of back pain you may be experiencing.
Another great option is to consider a mix of both sitting and standing. Sit-stand desks that can adjust their height are very popular and can be a great way to allow you to sit in a comfortable office chair, as well as stand.
This alternation between sitting and standing is an excellent way to ensure your muscles and spine can still stretch and compress naturally, as well as ensure proper blood flow throughout your lower legs.
While you may have seen some coworkers using an exercise ball as their office chair, this type of seating does not make a suitable long-term alternative to a standard office chair.
In fact, sitting on an exercise ball should be limited to shorter workouts of 30 minutes or less.
If you work at a desk all day, switching between sitting in an ergonomic chair and standing at a standing desk is an excellent way to alternate your body position and help improve your posture while reducing lower back pain and poor circulation in your legs.
Using an exercise ball as a chair is not all bad news.
It can offer some minor benefits when it comes to tone your core muscles, as well as helping to improve your natural balance. However, the same effects can also be obtained by sitting on a standard stool or bench.
In the end, don’t be afraid to sit on an exercise ball. But always remember to keep your seated time-limited and be sure to switch it up between other sitting arrangements as well as standing as often as possible.