Though the question may not be keeping you up at night, recent trends have seen some health-conscious professionals (and Dwight from The Office) replacing their chairs with the rounder option. Exercise balls, also known as Swiss balls and “fitness orbs,” have become one of the most popular core-strengthening tools.
Too little research has been done on the muscular effects of sitting on a ball for hours on end to conclude that the ball is head and shoulders healthier than other office furniture, but the flexibility and movement of the ball is said to keep the core muscles active, contributing to increased balance and stability. So while the jury is still out on the prolonged health benefits of losing the office chair, professional trainers and physical therapists have been convinced of their benefits and have used them in exercise routines for decades. For thousands of people who struggle to stay active while sitting at a desk all day, this may be a worthwhile option to check into. And for diehard Office fans who can’t get Dwight out of their head at this point, bear with me.
Buying a fitness orb
Before you jump on the exercise ball bandwagon, there are several considerations to buying and using an exercise ball. The ideal sitting position on a ball is legs bent at a slightly greater than 90 angle, with your weight evenly distributed between feet. Exercise balls come in a variety of sizes that correspond with a person’s height and weight.
Height / Ball Diameter
5’0” — 45 cm/18 in
5’1 – 5’5” — 55 cm/22 in
5’6”-6’1” — 65 cm/26 in
6’2”-6’8” — 75 cm/30 in
6’9” and up — 85 cm/34 in
Important Note: These guidelines are for people of average weight using the ball for exercising purposes. People who plan to sit on their ball for longer periods of time, or are of above-average weight, may want to try one size larger on the chart.
If the ball is going to be used at a desk of 29-30 inches, the 65 cm ball is generally preferred. A common guideline is to use a ball with a diameter of 4 inches greater than comfortable chair height.
Exercise balls range from the name brand FitBall® at around $30.00 to a lesser-known ball around $15.00. Some balls may also come with pump included. However, many bicycle pumps, air raft pumps and even electric air compressors with cone nozzles may be easily used to inflate the ball.
A few exercise ball variations on classic abdominal (and other) workouts can add increased stability and balance training to your workout.
Exercise 1 – Ball Crunch
Lie on your back with knees bent. Reach arms toward ceiling, straight. Place ball against your knees. Hold in place with straightened arms. Tighten abs and roll upper body, lifting shoulder blades off the floor. Hold in position for a full second. Slowly return to start position. Repeat.
Exercise 2 – Push Up
Place hands on ball, straightening back. Lift yourself off the ball, hold, then lower. This can be altered by balancing your feet or knees on the ball and pushing off the floor instead. Repeat.
Exercise 3 – Another Ball Crunch
Sit on ball. Lean back, rolling the ball slightly so that it supports the lower back muscles. Fold arms across chest or behind head. From this position, contract abs and raise yourself slightly. Hold, then lower and repeat.
Exercise 4 – Wall Bend
Stand with back to a wall. Place the ball between your lower back and the wall, stepping forward enough to ensure a 90 degree angle when sitting. Bend knees to 90 degree angle, allowing ball to roll up your back. Slowly return to standing position. Repeat.