Exercise balls (stability balls) have made their way from the gym to the office. You may have seen coworkers sitting on them or maybe the thought of trying one has crossed your mind. Maintaining balance when sitting and working on an exercise ball requires the user to engage his or her core, so it sounds like a no-brainer decision to use them. But, does the research back up the positive claims encouraging the use of exercise balls in the office?
Claim #1: It strengthens your core and improves posture.
- There is little to no differences in muscle activity when sitting on an exercise ball compared to an office chair.
- No improvements in strength nor posture have been reported.
- Prolonged sitting on an exercise ball leads to greater spinal compression, meaning your lower back is under greater stress compared to sitting on an office chair.
Claim #2: It reduces back pain.
- There is no empirical evidence that it reduces back pain.
- The use of an exercise ball has been shown to increase lower and upper back discomfort.
- The greater contact area leads to more soft tissue compression, which can result in poor lower limb circulation, soreness, and numbness.
Claim #3: It increases caloric expenditure.
- There is a low to moderate increase in caloric expenditure, a difference of only 30 to 60 calories for an 8-hour workday.
Based on these findings, the absence of back support and arm rests can increase the risk of the user to develop a musculoskeletal disorder. Although there’s a slight increase in caloric expenditure, the benefits don’t outweigh the negatives.