Ask Alfonso: Should I Use A Balance Ball As A Chair?
I have worked in a sedentary job for the past 20 years and started using a balance ball as a chair at work (some chiropractors recommend this).
I looked online to see the pros and cons of using this and I really couldn’t find any cons that really presented a good argument against it.
However some sites say using a balance ball as a chair burns an extra 350 calories a day, which I find really hard to believe. What is your take on this?
I know you just sent over this question – but I had to answer this question immediately because I think there are so many misconceptions floating around when it comes to exercise balls. So this answer is going to read like a combination of our Ask Alfonso and Infomercial Insanity strands.
In case you don’t know, sitting in and of itself is absolutely terrible for your body. Not only is it bad for postural alignment, it also creates muscular weakness and imbalances. The evidence is fairly overwhelming and in plain English – sitting is bad, period. But I’m not convinced than an exercise ball is the answer. Here’s why…
Whether you sit in a traditional chair or on a ball, you’re still sitting. You’re still not moving, your body is still in a state of sluggishness, with poor circulation and you’re basically still stagnant. The original pitch behind sitting on an exercise ball is that it would improve your posture because it apparently forces you to sit up straighter. But I disagree – you can still sit on a ball and slouch just as with a regular chair. Plus when seated on a ball, you can actually do more harm than good. Sit a bit too far back and you’ll cause your lower spine to flex – making poor posture even worse. Sit too far forward and you’ll put your pelvis in an anterior tilt, meaning you’re now in an extended spinal position – which can lead to its own set of problems.
As you may have seen, the newer varieties of balance ball chairs are actually chairs, with a back and arm rests that simply have a ball inserted where you sit. So where’s the balance component? There is none! I think that claiming an individual will burn 350 calories by using one of these is just silly. The chair is supported with legs and in many cases even has wheels for ease of use. It hardly produces a workout like effect or challenges your muscles.
I recently wrote a post here at Angry Trainer Fitness about the ridiculousness of many modern fitness gadgets telling people to use common sense when investing in products because the marketplace is flooded with garbage that makes ridiculous claims. And I believe this to be another such case. You mention that some chiropractors recommend a ball chair and my answer is “so what?” Just because a doctor or anyone else with initials after their name endorses a product, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Now I’ll tell you what the ball may do – increase your postural awareness. The very fact that you’re sitting on a ball that supposedly helps your posture may make you sit up straighter and be more conscious of your body positioning. But it in no way forces you to make the adjustments. In my opinion you could get the same effect from sitting on a normal chair – just by being more aware. Additionally I suggest you stand up as much as possible and if you can, go for a short walk every hour or so. Some companies have even begun to invest in tread-desks, which are basically workstations built into a treadmill. People will generally walk at a slow pace, perhaps 1 – 1.5 mph while they do their work. Now in those cases, some individuals have been reported to burn an extra 200 or more calories per 8-hour workday. That’s still a lot less than 350!
My suggestion is save the money you’d spend on a balance chair and – if you’re not working out out of hours – buy some basic in home workout equipment like bands, a set of dumbbells, Swiss and medicine ball etc. Additionally try finding an area at work where you can at least stand for part of your day. I wish you luck. Let me know what you decide to do!
All information contained within this site, Angry Trainer Fitness.com, is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health or on any opinions expressed within this website. Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.
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about 1 year ago - 11 comments
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