Sitting on a gym ball (aka. Swiss ball, exercise ball, yoga ball or posture ball) is in fashion, but is it really the healthy choice for your spine? Let's go back to the basics and see if the promise of relieving lower back pain is kept...
what is a good sitting posture?
When you sit well, your sitting posture fulfills these two conditions:
The first posture below (on the sitting bones and against the lumbar support) fulfills the requirements, but not the next ones
Some people think that using a fitness ball as an office chair is the only way to feel comfortable. Very often, I observe that they don't know how to adjust their chair or that they sit for too long in a row (i.e. more than 30 min). Check out this video to discover how to adjust your ergonomic office chair well!
what happens when sitting on a ball at work?
Bringing your heels backwards is also the idea behind a kneeling chair: to avoid slouching, let's hollow the back! Another bad idea, as I explain in this video...
Does sitting on a ball help your back?
You could think that if you know how to sit on an exercise ball, you will train your back muscles. This is another misunderstanding of what sports is: high intensity, short duration, prolonged rest. Sitting on an exercise ball at work is the very contrary of this: it does not create the cardiovascular benefits of sports, but rather tissue inflammation (see The physical activity paradox, by Andreas Holtermann).
does this mean you should ban gym balls?
No, it doesn't. The problem isn't the ball: it's how long and how frequently you'll be sitting on your exercise ball at the office.
My advice is: if you like your gym ball, use it... but only 10 min at a time, max 3-4 times a day, and during activities that do not require an intense concentration. See it as a tool to train sitting position despite unstable conditions, not as some kind of "fitness office chair".
so, how to sit on a ball at the desk?
To hold the pelvis in this neutral posture, you should engage the lower transverse abs (under the navel): if you bring them slightly inwards, you increase the pressure around the lower spine, which stabilizes it. This muscle effort explains why you can't sit for too long on a gym ball.
how about a chair with a ball for seat?
so... a yoga ball for all?
A yoga ball, gym ball, exercise ball, posture ball or whatever name you want to give it is therefore a training tool, not an office chair.
Hence, I do not recommend that companies invest in yoga balls instead of individually adjusted ergonomic office chairs. To choose well, have a look at this video and these technical specifications.
As an individual, you may use a gym ball to train sitting position, when your mind is not busy somewhere else.
I believe that we should invest in expensive things only when there's no other choice: an ergonomic office chair is a must work in proper conditions but for the rest, I prefer to get postural variation from adapting my working style (e.g., stand for phone calls and video conferences) and taking short but frequent breaks during which I practice this short exercise for effective muscle relaxation. The less I depend on "things", I more free I am.
To feel durably better and avoid wasting money on costly accessories, join the Online Posture Programs, the only empowering offer to correct your posture!
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