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Using an exercise ball for an office chair
Recently we have had numerous people in our practice ask if they should be using an exercise ball instead of their office chair. You would most likely have seen exercise balls (commonly referred to as a swiss-ball or stability-ball) stacked in the corner of your local gym. When implemented properly these balls can be fantastic tools for improving balance, perform more advanced core strengthening exercises as well as providing variety to stale workouts.

What are the benefits of ditching your office chair for an exercise ball?
  • The proposed benefits of using an exercise ball at the office include improving posture, enhancing activation of core muscles, improving core stability, reducing muscular pain associated with prolonged sitting, improving balance and stability
  • Burning additional calories throughout the day due to enhanced muscular effort
  • Improved vascular circulation due to continue movement opposed to static sitting in a chair
What are the negatives of using an exercise ball to replace your work chair?
  • Inadequate postural and core strength will translate to similar problems whether you use an exercise ball or office chair
  • Potential for worsened back pain and discomfort
  • Initial upright posture is quickly lost due to lack of proper sitting support
  • Enhanced intra-discal pressure is placed upon the spine and its joints
  • Proposed shortening or contracting of muscles increases muscle tightness, spasm and pain
  • A particular study published in 2006 demonstrates that while exercise ball sitting improves activation of certain trunk muscles it more often than not lead to the development of significant discomfort. Based on these findings it was recommended that exercise balls should not replace the office work chair.
Our Verdict
After reviewing the available literature we feel that exercise balls should not replace office chairs. The potential risk for development of further spinal, postural and musculoskeletal problems outweighs the minimal potential benefits. Stick to using exercise balls within an appropriate exercise setting.

Suitable exercise ball workouts
While exercise balls can be used to work majority of muscles, many individuals stick to core exercises. A quick search on YouTube or Google can provide fantastic full-body regimes that are suitable for most individuals to complete. As always, ask a suitably trained exercise professional for advice prior to completing unfamiliar exercises.