Is An Exercise Ball Suitable As An Office Chair? Exercise balls have gained a great reputation in the gym as a means to improve core stability, but are they really such a good idea in the office? It seems some employees with back, neck and shoulder problems are willing to try anything to have a comfortable day at work. There’s nothing worse than spending the day in pain at your desk after all! But is the humble exercise ball really the answer? Let’s take a look at the facts. What is an exercise ball? An exercise ball is a large inflated ball made from soft PVC with a diameter between 35 and 85 centimetres. It is also referred to by a number of different names, including a gym ball, Swiss ball, balance ball, stability ball, yoga ball, pilates ball or fitness ball. See more about the different types of exercise balls here . How an exercise ball works Exercise balls are generally used in the gym or for specific types of exercise classes , such as pilates or yoga. Exercise balls are designed to improve balance, core stability and agility, as well as improve posture and muscle tone. Sitting on the ball challenges your core muscles because the ball itself is unstable and your muscles become engaged to stabilise you. Having a strong and stable core helps to prevent injuries, especially to the pelvis, back, neck and shoulders. A strong and flexible core is essential for almost everything you do because most movements originate from the core. Work seating options So, what actually are the seating options for sitting at a desk in the office? Well, a chair is the obvious answer, but there are so many different types, how do you choose? The best option in terms of office chairs is an ergonomic chair, which can help you to adopt a better working posture (important if you are suffering from back, neck, shoulder, hip or arm pain). Generally speaking, the more you pay for an ergonomic seating solution the better it will be, but the best will have a high level of adjustability to ensure your seating position can be personalised to your exact requirements. YouTube Video [Video Source: Corrigo Design ] Features to look out for include: • Lumbar support • Adjustability • A wheelbase suitable for your office flooring • Swivel base • Breathable fabric • Adjustable arm rests For those sitting at a higher desk, such as a reception area, a stand-up stool is a good idea to help prevent any pain or injury from persistent standing. Kneeling chairs are another option, and like exercise balls offer no back rest, but encourage your core muscles to work harder to keep you upright. Kneeling chairs shouldn’t ideally be used for long periods of time as it increases pressure on the knees and can slow circulation to the lower legs. Kneeling chairs can, however, be useful for short periods enabling you to change from your normal seated position. Standing desks are generally adjustable and allow you to stand and work with the desk at a height to suit you. It’s not a good idea to use a standing desk all of the time, but it can be really useful to use at intervals to change position and prevent you being sat down all day. Is an exercise ball suitable as a chair? An exercise ball isn’t ideal as a chair because most people don’t have the core strength to sit on the ball properly for long periods of time. For example, many people tuck their feet under the ball to help balance it. This creates a completely unnatural seating position and can end up adding to postural problems rather than resolving them. Exercise balls also lack arm rests and a back support, so can actually be quite uncomfortable to sit on for long periods of time. In fact, using an exercise ball for prolonged periods may actually be damaging to the body. That’s not to say an exercise ball can’t be used at all as a chair at work. An exercise ball used for short intermittent periods can be useful to change position and keep the body more mobile. Employers need to be aware that exercise balls don’t meet Health and Safety Regulations for use as an office chair because they aren’t height adjustable, don’t have an adjustable back support or a five star base. Best ways to use an exercise ball If your body and muscles aren’t used to sitting on an exercise ball, it is best to start out by sitting on the ball for short periods. Your muscles won’t be accustomed to the position at first and because there is no arm or back support, your muscles will be constantly working to keep you in an upright position. A good place to start is to try using an exercise ball in a gym or exercise class with a trained instructor. Exercise, after all, is probably your best bet when it comes to improving your posture. About the Author: Dakota Murphey enjoys sharing her experiences of living a healthy lifestyle through her blog posts. Working as a freelance writer for a multitude of different industries, when she's not writing or cooking up a storm in her kitchen she enjoys hiking and countryside walks with her family.