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The exercise ball, or Swiss ball, is a dynamic tool that can provide many health benefits when used as a chair. Envision your basic office chair as a cast, or a brace: it keeps your body static, so your core muscles – which are the basis for your posture - become weakened. Moreover, this static sitting position does not allow you to maintain a good relationship with gravity, so that your body “sinks” over time, causing you to slouch and sit in awkward positions to relieve the pressure on your spine. The ball as chair, though, is an active surface, and sitting actively leads to improved posture, core strength and body awareness. The dynamic motions created by sitting on a ball helps relieve the pressure of gravity, and the freedom of movement afforded by sitting on a ball allows your spine to find its optimal posture. You'll make minute adjustments to your position while you sit on the ball, and these help improve circulation, which helps keep inter-vertebral discs healthy. Moreover, the instability of the ball and the lack of a backrest encourage the use of stabilizer muscles in our core, and increased core strength translates to better posture.
Although the benefits of using an exercise ball as a chair are effective, you should be alternating your regular chair and exercise ball every hour. Using an exercise ball for prolonged periods of time can actually result in MSD risks because you're using the small muscles around your spine to stabilize your body the whole time. These muscles fatigue very quickly, and using them to stabilize your position on the ball for long periods of time will eventually cause discomfort. Therefore, yes using the ball is beneficial, but use it in moderation!
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|