Exercise Ball Chair Information

Exercise ball chairs are all the rage. Countless websites looking to sell them tout the benefits of using an exercise ball (or fit ball) as an office chair.

But are they really good for your core and back? The jury is still out on that one, but in the meanwhile, here are a few things to keep in mind before committing to using an exercise ball as your desk chair.

Woman sitting on an exercise ball chair in an office
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If You Don't Have a Back Condition

If you're uninjured or you've been discharged from treatment and have been doing back-strengthening exercises for a while, an exercise ball may prove to be a time-saving way to work your core. Core strengthening is used in physical therapy clinics to help relieve back pain due to muscle weakness and muscle imbalance. It is also used to help people with back pain increase their ability to perform daily activities.

However, if you have a back condition or are still recovering from an injury, using an exercise ball as a full-time office chair probably isn't for you.

Using an Exercise Ball as an Office Chair

A number of credentialed experts are not so quick to jump on the exercise ball as office chair bandwagon.

Jackson, et. al., in their March 2013 study entitled, "Should we be more on the ball? The efficacy of accommodation training on lumbar spine posture, muscle activity, and perceived discomfort during stability ball sitting," which was published in the journal Human Factors, found no evidence that using an exercise ball as an office chair helps to strengthen the trunk or posture, even when participants first went through an "accommodation" program.

Any kind of sitting increases compression on your spine. Remember, the ball does not support your back muscles—it only challenges them. Compression combined with a lack of support may irritate any injury, condition or muscle imbalance you may have, and will likely increase your pain if used for too long.

But if you've been doing your back exercises faithfully for some time, and your healthcare provider or physical therapist has given you the okay to work with an exercise ball, you may find that using it as an office chair in a limited way makes a good adjunct to your home program. Performing trunk strengtheners while sitting on the unstable surface the exercise ball provides may even help you take your back exercise routine to the next level. Again, get your healthcare provider's approval before trying this. If possible, ask your physical therapist for some things you can do on the ball.

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  1. Jackson JA, Banerjee-Guénette P, Gregory DE, Callaghan JP. Should we be more on the ball? The efficacy of accommodation training on lumbar spine posture, muscle activity, and perceived discomfort during stability ball sittingHum Factors. 2013;55(6):1064‐1076. doi:10.1177/0018720813482326