Is Using an Exercise Ball as a Chair Good: What Research Says?

Prolonged sitting is recognized as a risk factor for everyone who works at the office or home. Whether you are using a dynamic chair or exercise ball, both of them negatively affect your posture if you are sitting for prolonged hours without taking any breaks.

According to studies using an exercise ball as a chair is not a good idea. However, using an exercise ball as an office chair has advantages and disadvantages as well. Unfortunately, according to this research, the advantages of sitting in an exercise ball may not outweigh the disadvantages.

Using an exercise ball as an office chair is a very controversial topic nowadays. Very little research has been conducted on this area so far. Different studies have been conducted in various ways due to the popularity of using an exercise ball as a chair. Unfortunately, using an exercise ball as an office chair is not a good idea, according to this research and many other types of research.

In this article, I will be explaining the advantages and disadvantages of using an exercise ball as an office chair. I will also talk about four types of research that were conducted on exercise balls. Then I will conclude whether you should use an exercise ball as an office chair in your perspective.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sitting In an Exercise Ball as a Chair

Advantages:

  • Sitting on an exercise ball results in more trunk motion and increased lumbar muscle activation, which is good for our posture.
  • Due to there are no armrests on the exercise ball so, arm flexion is reduced on the ball 

Disadvantages:

  • As Muscle activation increases while sitting on an exercise ball can lead to enhanced development of muscle fatigue on your lower back.
  • Due to increased muscle activation, the research found an enhanced spinal shrinkage on the lower back that puts pressure on your nerve lead to spinal stenosis.
  • If you sit on an exercise ball for the 1-h period, you might feel a bit fatigued on your lower back at the end of the period.
  • Exercise ball allows you to lean forward, which leads to slouching.

So, Sitting on an exercise ball has both advantages and disadvantages. However, its disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

Let’s Talk About The Studies

Only a handful of studies were conducted on this topic. Therefore, I will discuss four studies here to emphasize further the idea of using an exercise ball as a chair.

  • Research by McGill and Harvey suggested that prolonged sitting on an exercise ball compresses the glute and hamstring muscles resulting in discomfort. According to their study, the exercise ball has a larger sitting area that distributes the pressure causing sitting and soft-tissue compression pain. 

This compression can lead to circulation blockage, causing pain, soreness, and numbness. They suggested sitting on an exercise ball during more dynamic tasks would be beneficial than using it as a static office chair.

  • A Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation study highly suggests using an exercise ball as an office chair to reduce back pain. They explain two case reports about two patients. 

The first case is about a 55-year-old male with a recurring back pain history. In this case, the patient had severe back pain and had to see his chiropractor frequently. He could not sit on the exercise ball for more than 2 minutes without hurting his back. Then after using the exercise ball for eight weeks, the back pain reduced drastically.

The second case involves a 55-year-old woman who is an office worker. She had lower back, upper back, and neck pain. Her back pain and neck pain were responsible for two traumatic incidents in 1998 and 2000, respectively. Her chiropractor introduced the exercise ball, and she used the ball as a chair for about one year and felt it was reducing her lower back pain.

I tried to summarize the case reports. However, you can read this case report in full detail here. According to this research and case report, using an exercise ball as a chair is an excellent initiative to reduce lower back pain.

  • Gregory and Dunk conducted another study on exercise balls versus office chairs. They suggested that prolonged sitting on an exercise ball is not advantageous compared to office chairs, leading to discomfort.
  • An excellent study was done by Kingma and Dieen. They found that an exercise ball increases trunk motion and lumbar muscle activation. However, it increases the spinal shrinkage causing lower back fatigue. 

All the studies that have been conducted say exercise balls have advantages, but this advantage can not outweigh the disadvantages except for only one study that I explained above.

Related Contents

Is an Exercise Ball Better than a Chair?

In most cases, an exercise ball is not better than a chair. However, an exercise ball can be used during more dynamic tasks(for example, exercising) that would affect muscle activation rather than static office work.

Is it Good to Sit on an Exercise Ball?

Yes, you can sit on an exercise ball until it causes discomfort. However, it would be best to use an exercise ball as an office chair or on a static task, according to studies.

Is Sitting on an Exercise Ball Good for the Back?

According to studies, sitting on an exercise ball is not good for your back. After using it for about an hour, your lower back might become fatigued. At the same time, you will feel significant discomfort in your lower back and upper back.

What are the Benefits of using an exercise ball?

Sitting on an exercise ball increased trunk motion and lumber muscle activation. Exercise ball encourages you to do more dynamic tasks like exercising though using an exercise ball for 10-20 minutes. However, you should not use it for prolonged hours.

How to Sit on an Exercise Ball?

Using Exercise Ball as a chair
Credit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc1924654/

The exercise ball must fit you properly. Most authors recommend sitting on an exercise ball like the way you sit on traditional chairs. Your feet should be flat on the floors, hips, and knees at a 90-degree angle. You can also put the hips slightly higher than the knees.

How Long Should you Sit on an Exercise Ball at Work?

You should not sit on an exercise ball for prolonged hours. Most of the studies that were conducted on exercise balls performed 30 minutes to 1 hour sitting tasks. However, each of these studies have more disadvantages compared to advantages. According to study, seating for 1 hour on an exercise ball causes lower and upper back discomfort.

Before you go

Using an exercise ball as a chair raises a lot of questions. Studies that I found tries to answer some of those questions. However, exercise balls have both advantages and disadvantages as well. Though, using a dynamic chair is more practical than using an exercise ball. 

If you need help finding a decent dynamic office chair. I would suggest checking out our article about “Office chairs for better Blood Circulation.”

Sifatul Shohan

Hi, I'm the co-owner of officechairtrends.com. A blogger and a freelance web developer.  As I work as developer, I have to work for prolonged hours at a desk that's where I developed back pain. I started reseaching on ergonomic chair and gained knowledge throughout the process.  This is the site where I share everything I've learned about office chairs.