Exercise Balls for Chairs (aka the 2011 Trend I’m Just Now Getting Into)

I’d like to introduce you all to my new friend, "Blue" — the exercise ball. Not a really original name, I know, because it happens to be the color of the ball, but I also feel weird giving a human name to anything I sit on.

I recently slept on an airbed for about four days during a “vacation” to Florida (I say it in quotes because I had my 13-month-old daughter with me and every parent knows you need a vacation from your vacation when they are done).

It did quite a number on my back, hips and knees. I should probably just head to the chiropractor soon, but I’m also on a budget and looking for a cheaper way to strengthen my back and alleviate pain.

When I was pregnant, I’d read that using an exercise ball for a chair was a great way to stretch out the hips and deal with pain, and at that point I was desperate for relief. It worked. The only place I felt comfortable sitting was on my exercise ball.

I’ve seen numerous articles about how American workers are sitting more than ever and that it’s awful for our health and that moving more throughout the day is one of the best things you can do for yourself. A few co-workers have been using exercise balls at work instead of (or in addition to) their chairs. So I’m jumping on that bandwagon.

There are a few exercises you can do on an exercise ball that are low intensity, but work your core (listen to me saying “core” like I’m an exercise enthusiast!) and strengthen your back. I’ve used a few of them since I started using my ball instead of a chair – alright, I’ve only been doing this for two days – but I can already feel the difference.

I’m finding myself able to concentrate longer on my work. Another bonus is that it requires me to get up a little more often. Anytime someone comes to talk to me, I have to turn all the way around, which isn’t really that easy on a ball. So, I stand up.

I can’t find much conclusive evidence of any potential negative impacts. It seems like the most worry surrounds safety: balls rolling away, people falling off of them, etc. Though, if fifth grade students in classrooms around the country are switching chairs for exercise balls and can safely sit, I’m assuming most adults shouldn’t have a problem.

Obviously, check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise routine or switching your chair for an exercise ball. And at least do a little research into the types of balls available and the correct size for your frame. For example, since I am six feet tall, I need a 75 cm-sized ball – and I found one for $26 that came with a pump, exercise band and DVD of exercises.