Ergonomics done right.®
April 11th, 2017

Humantech Asks: Does your company use exercise balls as seating in the office?

Each month we ask a handful of our readers to weigh-in on various topics. For March’s ‘Humantech Asks’, readers responded to the question:

Does your company use exercise balls as seating in the office?

Survey says: No Balls!

Of 126 responses, there was an overwhelming ‘No’ from 94% of readers, with only 6% giving a ‘Yes’ vote.

These results are very encouraging as we have addressed the cons of ball seating numerous times over the years. Fact is, we still get asked about it… a lot. Our position remains that office workers are best supported by a fully-adjustable office chair, and a standing desk option to allow them to vary periods of sitting and standing throughout the day.

Full Disclosure

Once upon a time, I used an exercise ball as my office seat. There, I said it.

Like so many folks, the idea of ball seating was appealing to me, particularly the notion of strengthening the core muscles and burning more calories while typing away at the computer. It sounded like a no brainer, so I took the bait. However, it wasn’t long before slouching won out and my back muscles became noticeably more fatigued throughout the day, and eventually, my get-fit-while-you-sit dreams were completely deflated. This story has a happy ending, because it wasn’t long before I was back in an adjustable task chair with lumbar support.

What the Experts Say

My experience is supported by numerous studies that have concluded there are no health and postural advantages to using exercise balls instead of an office chair. In fact, our own Greg Cresswell, CPE, says whole-body discomfort scores are actually higher after just one hour of sitting on an exercise ball compared to an hour of sitting on an adjustable office chair with lumbar support. Additionally, Cresswell notes:

  • Exercise balls are not sustainable for long durations, you’re very likely to slouch.
  • They are shown to increase pressure on the spine and can cause soft tissue compression.
  • They are not height-adjustable and have no back support.
  • There are numerous safety concerns, such as falling off/over.

That Said…

I still use an exercise ball almost daily, but in the gym where they belong. Remember, exercise balls are great for improving core strength and balance as part of a workout routine, just not as a substitution for an office chair. Check out our video on exercise balls in the office.