Saturday, November 25, 2006

Are Fitness Balls as Chairs Ergonomic or Not?

Disagreement over the ergonomics of sitting on a fitness ball during work ...

"During a Pilates class I took in grad school my teacher mentioned that the large bouncy fitness balls we used in class also made great office chairs. Active sitting” induced by balls, she said, keeps the core muscles active, strengthening the abs and spine and promotes good posture.

Whether or not she was qualified to give such advice, I tried it. And I have been using a ball as my sole office chair ever since, spending 8 or more hours a day on it. As I mentioned in 5 Reasons Why Balls are Better than Chairs, I love being able to feel active while doing an otherwise sedentary activity. I love sitting on my ball, and over the past couple years my balance has improved so much, I can now actually stand on the ball and juggle.

You would imagine my surprise when I recently uncovered some opinions that balls are not the miracle seating solution that I had thought. In this Ergoweb article, Peter Budnick says “The people who seem most enthusiastic about their use and efficacy are often those that are selling or promoting them, not the users who end up sitting on one for 8 or more hours a day.”

Another argument against balls was addressed by Ergoweb Forum expert John Ridd, who says, apart from the spinal risks already mentioned there are general health and safety risks to consider; the potential for injury, if the user were to become so unbalanced as to fall off the ball is enormous, and I can only imagine the awkward questions that might be asked after such an event.

I have to totally disagree with this. Sitting on a ball takes some getting used to, of course, but your balance and stability actually improves as a result. After sitting on a ball regularly for some time now, worrying about the idea of falling off the ball while sitting on it sounds as ridiculous to me as worrying about falling out of a chair."    (Continued via Ergonomenon)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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