Should I use an exercise/balance ball instead of an office chair?
December 21, 2005 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Should I use an exercise/balance ball instead of an office chair? Anyone done it? Is it actually comfortable for long stints at the computer? If so, what size should I get?

I'm 6'1", 170 lbs, male, need to fix up my posture.
posted by sirion to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
I recommend them but you'll need a high desk. Mine was 1.2 metres in diameter so I was quite nearly standing.

I used one for 6 months and just haven't gotten around to getting one for me new workplace. It helped quite a bit.
posted by holloway at 8:29 PM on December 21, 2005

Here's a link from a Google search. I would consult your workplace's OSHA/ergo expert(s) if you have such a thing, and ask them to cover a consult to a therapist for this topic if not. Medical advice here is generally not terribly accurate or correct.
posted by kcm at 8:30 PM on December 21, 2005

Definitely follow kcm's advice. I wanted to use an exercise ball at the office, brought it in, and was informed by HR that it voilated company policy. That's not to say you shouldn't get the ball -- they're wonderful for stretches, and your workplace may be more flexible about these issues -- but you don't want to drag the thing all the way to work only to find out you're not permitted to use it.

(Also, here's another link that includes a sizing chart and more information about how to shop for one.)
posted by melissa may at 8:41 PM on December 21, 2005

I use one at home & switch out between it and an office chair... it definitely helps prevent the really bad slouchy stuff I do in the chair. But I've never taken it to work.

When taking some classes doing exercises with the ball, the instructor said the ball should be the height that creates a right angle at your knee with both feet flat on the floor. Standard ergonomic advice... I think the balls have height & ball size recommendations on the packaging.
posted by susanbeeswax at 8:46 PM on December 21, 2005

I actually wrenched my hip joint badly enough while seated on one that I limped for several months. It was at work, and had I more brains, I would be more wealthy. Leave it at home, where it belongs.
posted by mwhybark at 9:22 PM on December 21, 2005

Response by poster: This is for home use, so checking HR is moot :)
posted by sirion at 9:36 PM on December 21, 2005

Yep - I use one at work and have done for a good 18 months now. No issues with HR whatsoever, and 3 of my colleagues have also converted, all of us favoring a $20 exercise ball over a $500 Herman Miller Mirra chair.
The key points are that you have nothing to slouch against when you're tired so you're forced to support yourself (because of this you also find that you don't sit for such long periods and you get up and walk around more - exactly what is recommended), and you naturally sit with a much better posture.
I also keep a couple of spares in the office because it's much easier to roll a few balls together for an impromptu meeting. As for sizes, I'm 5'8" and use a medium - you'd need a large I reckon.
posted by forallmankind at 9:43 PM on December 21, 2005

This comment on a recent topic at BoingBoing points out a ball-seat alternative:

"A while back I discovered another alternative for better seated posture. Sissel makes those inflated excercise balls that you see in the Pilates commercials, and they also advocate sitting on them as a chair replacement. The constant slight body position adjustments it requires serve to strenghen the back and torso muscles. Replacing my office chair with a big rubber ball was just a tad extreme for me, so I opted for the Sitfit, another product from Sissel. It looks like a fat inflated frisbee, and you simply drop it on your current chair and sit away! It causes the same kind of mandatory good posture as sitting on the ball does, and is much less obvious. I found it very effective, so I like to spread the word."
posted by Tubes at 9:50 PM on December 21, 2005

I have used one at home, using the "right angle" fit advice described above. The only drawbacks I found were that it didn't park well under the desk when I was finished for the night, and that sitting on vinyl all day got pretty hot in the summertime. Or maybe there's just more contact with it than there is with a chair, which can lead to stickiness?
posted by xo at 10:37 PM on December 21, 2005

Never used one but my first thought is that you should make certain to mark it so you know what is the top and what is the bottom so you can keep yourself from getting filthy. Just a thought.
posted by geekyguy at 11:31 PM on December 21, 2005

I used one, but my back is already too slouchy so the ball actually made it feel worse. YMMV.
posted by qwip at 11:51 PM on December 21, 2005

Yes they're good. I'm 6' 131/2 stone and use a standard 75cm Reebok one. You can adjust the height by pumping it more or less. I need a high desk, but I think you would if you were our sort of height and sitting properly anyway. They don't seem to pick up much dirt.

I'm very interested in the sitfit though for work etc. and would probably try one first.
posted by lunkfish at 5:20 AM on December 22, 2005

Do check with your HR or whatever. We can't use them because there have been too many injuries from people falling off. We get better chairs and a visit from the OSH nurse to help configure the chair. Seems to satisfy just about everyone.
posted by bonehead at 5:57 AM on December 22, 2005

My wife, a registered massage therapist and certified athletic trainer, uses one at work and at home. One key benifit that hasn't really been mentioned is you move around a lot on a ball which can prevent tiredness resulting from sitting ridgedly for long periods. The right angle formed by your knee sizing is right and you can adjust that a bit by adjusting the pressure.

A note on filling the ball: they take a lot of air. It took us a good 15-20 minutes to fill a medium-small ball with one of those 12V emergancy compressors. If you don't have a real air compressor at home fill it up at a service station that has service bays attached and therefor an actual compressor feeding the outside air.
posted by Mitheral at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2005

A completely different AskMefi question resulted in quite a few people recommending them out of the blue, which I would take to be a good sign :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:23 PM on December 22, 2005

I use a Fitball for a seat sometimes at work - I have been prone to muscle spasms in my back, and the constant minor shifting for balance on the ball has helped - haven't had a fullblown spasm in almost two years since I've been using it. I don't use it all day, and somedays not at all, but when I feel my lower back getting tense, I bring it out. My use of it was actually noted on a review as a positive in re: ergonomics, and co-workers are amused/intrigued to see me "happily" bouncing away as I work.

I think it would take a type of talent to fall off one?
posted by vers at 3:23 PM on December 22, 2005

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