Posturite's Senior Consultant Katharine Metters explains why fitness balls shouldn't be used as office chairs
They're cheap, they're colourful, they look kind of fun to use - and they claim to tone up your core just by sitting on them. So why wouldn't you want to swap your office chair for a fitness ball?
While we’re huge advocates of bringing healthy living regimes into the workplace, there is one particular trend we’re reluctant to support.
That’s the use of fitness balls (also known as Swiss, yoga, or Pilates balls) as regular-use office chairs. Granted, these balls are excellent fitness tools for working the core. But there’s a big step between a dedicated core work-out, and all-day use of these balls.
A gym ball is an effective piece of exercise equipment because it provides an unstable surface that constantly requires your muscles to work to keep you upright. This is great for short periods of time but most people don’t have the core strength to keep this up for a full working day. Commonly people who use gym balls as chairs compensate for muscle fatigue by tucking their feet under the ball to keep it stable, which defeats the point of having the ball in the first place.
Not enough support
Research into this area has shown that prolonged use of gym balls does not significantly affect the magnitudes of muscle activation, spine posture, spine loads, or overall spine stability and actually increases discomfort — probably due to decreased support for the buttocks and thighs.
Doesn't meet DSE regs
In addition to these problems, gym balls don’t actually meet DSE regulations. These call for a stable, adjustable chair with back support. Most offices have fixed-height desks so there is little chance that the ball will be the correct height for the person to achieve a good arm position whilst working at their desk.
Risk assessment needed
If a gym ball is supplied for the user, there must be a sound reason for this (such as a recommendation from a health professional) — and a risk assessment must be carried out by the employer to make sure they can work in a suitable position and without creating other risks in the area. Naturally, getting on and off the ball will increase the risk due to instability. Especially important is that the users arms are in the correct position. If not, the desk height will need to be adjusted.
In light of all of this, we do not generally recommend fitness balls as computer chairs as general practice.
Should a fitness ball be recommended by a health professional, we would offer the following advice:
- Make sure the ball is the correct size for the individual - the health professional recommending it should be able to advise on this.
- The ball should be robust and have ‘anti-burst’ technology.
- A suitable operators chair should also be available and it is advised that it’s used regularly throughout the day.
Meet Ergo Ball: an accompaniment to your chair
Ergo Ball is a robust, non-slip balance ball designed to blend stylishly into your office or home study. You can use it at intervals to activate the abdominal, side and back muscles while carrying out various exercises. Our bodies are well equipped to move around regularly, so staying in one position for too long on your office chair may lead to health problems like musculoskeletal pain, weight and circulatory issues. Ergo Ball is a great way to enjoy an active break away from your chair.
You could try sitting on Ergo Ball for short periods to carry out quick tasks, like a brief conference call, or during a meeting - but we don't suggest you use it for long periods, or while using your keyboard and mouse. The handle makes it easy to pick up to move around, making it ideal for your home office, work office, or any other room in your house.
Better alternatives - chairs for your core
The sentiment behind using fitness balls as chairs is great. Keeping more active at work is not only good for overall health and fitness, it's also great for concentration, mental health and productivity - all important factors when it comes to a business's success.
There are a few ergonomic chairs designed specifically to activate the core. These are known as active sitting seats, and you can browse our entire category here.
A fun stool for occasional use throughout the day. The ONGO's curved base encourages constant movement. A ball built into a circular track in the base provides acoustic feedback on every movement so you can hear when you're doing it right.
RH Activ Ergonomic Office Chair
As the name suggests, the Activ range from RH chairs is designed for increased movement. These chairs - which come in four different sizes, move with your body, giving the right support to your height and weight to relieve pressure points.