Replace Your Desk Chair with a Balance Ball

Having a tough time fitting regular exercise into your busy schedule? Wish you could improve your posture? Looking to tone up your midsection? Then replacing your desk chair with a balance ball may be the perfect solution.

Balance Ball Basics

Balance balls--also known as Swiss balls, stability balls, exercise balls, yoga balls, pilates balls, or fitness balls--are large, inflatable balls made from puncture-resistant PVC. While used most frequently to tone abdominal and lower back muscles, balance balls can also replace your weight bench in many weight training exercises, and they're great for yoga and stretching. Here's how they work: When you lie or sit on the ball, your muscles--particularly those in your midsection, i.e., your core--automatically contract as your body tries to balance itself on the unstable surface to keep from falling off. There are balance ball workout DVDs that enable you to get a challenging full body workout, but one of the easiest ways to incorporate balance ball exercises into your life is by replacing your desk chair with a balance ball.

Getting Started

Balance balls come in different sizes, and it's important to buy the right size for your height. When sitting on the ball, your knees should be level with or just slightly lower than your hips. If you're planning to order your balance ball online, use the following recommendations as a guideline:
  • 4'11" - 5'4" tall: 55 cm diameter balance ball
  • 5'5" - 5'11" tall: 65 cm diameter balance ball
  • 6' - 6'7" tall: 75 cm diameter balance ball
Some people toss out their standard desk chair on day #1 and never look back, but unless you already have a strong core due to regular balance ball, pilates, yoga, or similar workouts, you'll probably want to ease into your new seating arrangement slowly. In the beginning, you may wish to alternate between your balance ball and your regular desk chair every hour. Once you get used to sitting on the ball, you can increase the length of time you spend on it until it completely (or almost completely) replaces your desk chair.

Benefits of Replacing Desk Chairs with Balance Balls

While sitting on a balance ball won't "force" you to adopt proper posture as is sometimes claimed (it's still possible to slump), it definitely encourages you to sit up straight. Many people see improvements in their posture after only a week of sitting on a balance ball at work. This, in turn, can result in diminished back pain in the long run. Initially, however, you may experience some soreness and discomfort if you're not used to exercising your core muscles. That's why we suggest that you start slowly, switching back and forth between the balance ball and your desk chair in the beginning.

In order to maintain your balance while sitting on the ball, your abdominal and lower back muscles are constantly engaged, providing your midsection with hours of daily exercise. If you do nothing but sit on your balance ball all day, your core muscles will get a low-key workout, but you can increase the effectiveness by incorporating balance ball exercises into your daily routine. In fact, there are a number of exercises you can do sitting at your desk such as lifting one foot off the ground and holding it for a count of at least five seconds or marching while seated, bringing your knees up high and using your abdominal muscles for balance.

To get an even better workout from your balance ball, perform stretches and strength training exercises during your breaks. Some people manage to get in 20-30 minutes of toning and stretching every day since replacing their desk chair with a balance ball. That's in addition to the exercise they get just sitting on the ball during the course of the workday. Not only will you be burning extra calories by incorporating balance ball exercises into your daily routine, but you'll be toning up your midsection and working toward that six-pack you've always wanted!