Are you considering replacing your office chairs with exercise balls? There are some things you need to know first.
Many offices seem to be replacing the traditional ergonomic office chair with exercise balls for their claims of health benefits. The typical finding is that exercise balls improve posture and burn more calories.
In this blog, we’ll compare office chairs vs. exercise balls to help you decide whether the claims have any merits.
Table of Contents
What Is An Exercise Ball?
An exercise ball, often called a ‘yoga ball’ or ‘stability ball,’ is a large inflated ball made of soft elastic. It is used in yoga and various stretching exercises. They typically vary from 35cm to 85cm in diameter, although custom sizes are also available.
Exercise balls are a way of mixing exercise with entertainment. When used correctly, they can help you strengthen your flexibility, core stability, and balance. Some of the exercises they can help you with include hamstring curls, single-leg glute raises, pushups, and chest press locomotives.
How Does It Work?
To start, there is truth to the theory that using exercise balls burns more calories. According to a 2008 study by The State of New York University published in the New York Times, sitting on an exercise ball burns roughly four more calories per hour than sitting on a chair. And this doesn’t factor in calories burned from the exercises such as bouncing or leg lifts, which people claim the exercise balls inspire them to do.
There’s no conclusive evidence for exercise balls improving sitting posture if you’re only sitting on them the whole time. However, you can get the most out of an exercise ball if you use it for stretching and balancing exercises.
When used correctly, exercise balls make people feel less lethargic. They also help relieve back pain and tone core muscles. Sitting all day can be unhealthy, but most jobs require it. This is why exercise balls are a great way to mitigate the consequences of sitting all day.
Here are some easy exercises you can do on your exercise ball to alleviate back pain:
- Side Stretch
Sit up straight, spread your legs apart as much as you can, put your hands on your hips and stretch back. Hold the position for 5 seconds at a time and try leaning left or right as well.
- Spine Rotation
Place your hands on your chest with your fingers facing upwards while sitting straight up. Next, rotate your body to the left and hold for 5 seconds. Then turn your body to the right for 5 seconds. Doing this will ease up your back muscles a bit and loosen your spine if it’s feeling stiff.
This is a fun one. Sit on the exercise ball and slowly raise your feet while tilting your head back. Next, raise your arms over your head, so it seems like you’re forming a bridge on the ball while trying to maintain your balance. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds at a time and return slowly to your starting position.
Another fun exercise that can align your back and burn some calories is bouncing on the spot. It also helps you rejuvenate your mind a little when the work gets too cumbersome in the same way that getting up and walking around would.
What Is An Office Chair?
An office chair is specifically designed to be used at a desk in an office. They have features like a swivel, armrests, wheels for mobility, and height or back adjustment knobs. High-end office chairs come with an ergonomic back that helps you maintain your posture while sitting.
There are several kinds of office chairs—some are folding, some are armless, some are designed for tall desks, and some for opulence. Here’s a glance at some of the most common kinds of office chairs.
- Ergonomic Chairs – Designed to help improve back posture
- Executive Office Chairs – Extra-large office chairs made to signify prestige
- Mesh Office Chairs – Chairs made out of super breathable material
- Kneeling Chairs – Adjustable stool to help you straighten your back
- Saddle Chairs – Chairs with saddle-shaped bottoms to make your bottom comfortable. They also make it easier to sit with your back straight
- Active Sitting Chairs – You can rotate on these but not move around
- Sit-Stand Chairs – Chairs that support your body both when you’re sitting and standing
- Balance-Ball Chair – If you’re ever looking for a hybrid with the features of an office chair and an exercise ball, this would be it. Balance-ball chairs are regular chairs except with an exercise ball for the base
Before switching out your current office chairs, consider factors such as the age group of your employees and the nature of their work. For instance, an architecture firm with extra-large desks would benefit from ergonomic chairs with matching heights.
How Do they work?
Evident from our list, office chairs come in many varieties, some far better for your back than others. Irrespective of what office chair is the latest vogue, the underlying commonality is that they’re all designed to be adjustable—there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
How does adjustability work in chairs?
Most chairs have pneumatic controls—springs inside cylinders filled with air attached to a piston. As the lever is worked, the air increases or decreases in the cylinder, moving the seat up or down.
Depending on the office chair type and manufacturer, you’ll either find a ratchet system, a bolt system, or paddles and levers for features such as adjustable armrests, back height, synchro tilt, etc.
Aside from comfort, is there another reason for some of these features, though? The answer is yes.
Office chairs are designed to provide the human body with a certain degree of support.
For instance, a pneumatic control allows us to reduce or increase the height of the chair seat from the ground, thus ensuring that the seated person’s feet are at a comfortable angle.
Adjustable armrests work along the same principle—having arm support eases pressure on a person’s neck and shoulders while swivel armrests allow for ease of movement when typing.
An S-curved backrest provides lumbar support—a feature that is helpful to people prone to back aches when sitting for long durations.
To make the most out of an office chair, you need to familiarize yourself with its mechanics and moving components to match the anatomy of correct posture with chair settings that support it.
Breaking It Down
Exercise balls are, in essence, a fitness tool. When brought into the workspace, they’re being “repurposed” to serve a different purpose. Perhaps this is why we see a lot of mixed results—some good and some not so much. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
Sitting on an exercise ball as opposed to office chairs will certainly help you burn more calories. They’re also more affordable and enjoyed by everyone, although that can be a distraction sometimes.
Due to the lack of back support, it does demand you sit in a more upright position to feel the most comfortable. This position forces you to engage your muscles and maintain your balance. However, there is no evidence or study to suggest that exercise balls do anything for posture because of how they are used.
Nonetheless, they may still be worth a try. But remember to consider the age of your employees before ushering in this change.
Exercise balls are typically inexpensive, whereas Office chairs are priced depending on the model and features they offer. Leather Office chairs would probably cost three times as much as a regular office chair, for example.
Safety while using an exercise ball depends on your sitting posture. Prolonged sitting in a bad posture on an exercise ball can be detrimental for your lower back and spinal cord.
On the other hand, office chairs have a variety of features that contribute to safety. It depends on the model—a top-end ergonomic office chair might provide the best results in terms of safety. However, that’s not to say that your back is immune to injury.
After all, they’re not preventive. They only help to provide support to your back and reduce the possibility of back pain. For example, if you have poor posture and often slouch or slide down your chair, you can still develop back pains.
if neither exercise ball nor office chair sounds appealing to you, consider our list of alternatives:
- An adjustable stool
- A custom pillow
- Bean bags but only for low desks
- Standing chair or standing desk
- Kneeling chairs
- Balance ball chair
- Saddle Stool
- Treadmill desks
- Zenergy ball chair
- Bicycle desk
- Balance board
- Anti-fatigue mat
|No contributing features||Several contributing features|
Ease of Movement
Can exercise balls replace office chairs? The answer is yes.
But should you? We’d recommend weighing the pros and cons of office chairs and exercise balls, factor in age, fitness levels, and medical conditions before deciding to pick one over the other.
My name is Vance, and I am the owner of To Ergonomics. Our mission is to improve your workflow by helping you create a supportive and welcoming environment. We hope that you’ll find what you’re looking for while you’re here.