Is using an exercise ball for an office chair actually worth it?


young woman sitting on an exercise ball whilst working at her desk

Looking for a way to sit up straight and improve your posture at work? Spending the day balanced on an exercise ball may seem to have merit, but is it a suitable substitute for your office chair?

We delve into the research to find out if using an exercise ball as an office chair is actually worth it.

The Benefits of Exercise Balls

Exercise balls are used to increase strength, stability and flexibility by keeping your body stable as you complete exercise movements while on the ball. Also called stability balls and Swiss balls, they help improve core muscles, balance and can help with body toning.

There are two main benefits of using an exercise ball.

  1. An exercise ball requires you to use your core muscles to remain stable on an exercise ball. Using your stomach muscles and sitting up straight helps you stay on the ball so your core muscles and posture improve. However, prolonged use of the ball can see the user slump and sit just as poorly as they would in an office chair.
  2. The subtle movements an exercise ball creates and the engaged core muscles means you are burning extra calories every day than if you were sitting in an office chair. One study calculated you would burn 300 more calories sitting on an exercise ball compared to a chair for an entire workday.  

Research About Exercise Balls

The exercise ball has been around for many years now and researchers have conducted many studies into the positive and negative aspects of exercise balls. Using an exercise ball during a one hour exercise class has many benefits but is using a ball as a chair for eight hours per day good for you as well? The research says, no not really.

One survey required respondents to sit on a stability ball and an office chair for one hour each while they performed workstation tasks. The respondents reported a perceived discomfort while using the ball compared to the chair.

The Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders reported that using a stability ball can increase the risk of lower back pain and increase the risk of an injury because they are unstable.

Dutch researchers found that sitting on an exercise ball increased muscle activity and 33% more motion in the trunk however it also caused spinal shrinkage.

Using an exercise ball instead of a chair carries a significant risk of injury. Long-term use of the balls can cause them to pop or a worker can lose their balance and fall. Recorded injuries include fractures and concussion. One ergonomics expert has even called for them to be banned from offices because of the risk to workers’ safety.

In Conclusion: Office Chair Vs Exercise Ball?

For prolonged sitting at a desk, a good office chair is the preferred choice for most people. An exercise ball is only going to burn a small number of calories and provide limited core muscle benefits. Exercise balls have the potential to cause an injury and for some people using one all day could cause more fatigue and reduced productivity compared to sitting in a chair.

None of the research studies we looked at found an exercise ball delivered a benefit worthy of making the switch from a chair. An ergonomic office chair and workstation designed to your body’s requirements should keep you free of injury. But if you want to use an exercise ball, leave your yoga ball at home and choose a safer option like the Zenergy Ball that has feet for stability to keep you safe.

Taking regular breaks away from your workstation to stretch your legs is still one of the best ways to avoid a musculoskeletal injury. If you find it hard to remember to take breaks throughout the work day, set a timer or a calendar reminder to get up out of your chair.  

Looking for a new ergonomic office chair? Check out our guides, visit our showroom and test drive our wide range of chairs, call us on (08) 9240 7066 or contact us online for personalised advice.