One trend that comes up over and over again in regard to healthier office seating is the use of a stability ball as a seat. Producers claim that using a stability ball provides users with increased health benefits such as the strengthening of core muscles, more calories burnt and less back pain. But can these claims be substantiated? The New York Times says no. Using backing evidence from a 2009 British study the article concluded that using a stability ball as an office chair “led to just as much slumping and poor sitting positions as a desk chair” (nytimes.com). Disturbingly, findings from another Dutch study also concluded that using a stability ball as an office seat instead of a conventional office chair led to significant “spinal shrinkage” (nytimes.com).
So what is spinal shrinkage? Spinal shrinkage occurs when cushions between the spinal vertebrae lose fluid due to lack of movement.
If there was one major argument in the comparison of the Move stool versus the stability ball as office chair this would be it. The Move stool was specifically developed to continuously promote movement which increases blood circulation and core muscle stimulation. Increased blood circulation through movement not only helps keep the brain in tip-top shape, it is also crucial to the process of increasing movement of fluid to the spinal muscles and cushions between the spinal vertebrae.
Studies performed using the stability ball as seating actually concludes that using a stability ball as a seat is more detrimental to spinal health (and general health for that matter) than advantageous.
“The small changes in biological responses when sitting on a stability ball as compared with an office chair, combined with the increased reported discomfort while on the ball, suggests its use for prolonged sitting may not be advantageous.” –US Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health
So why do people still choose to use the stability ball as office seating? The price may be a factor as using a ball as an office chair is a lot more affordable than investing in proper ergonomic seating solutions. Others have been introduced to stability balls through misinformed physiotherapists.
There are so many choices when it comes to proper office seating but when looking at the standing support stool “Move” in comparison to the stability ball the choice should fall upon the Move, either as a “back-up” chair for intervals with your regular office chair or continuously (which is even better).
Physiotherapist Jacques Walg from the Netherlands who is a regular adviser to Varier and who champions the Move stool as well as the ergonomic concept of Active Sitting describes the benefits of the Move stool:
“The spine retains its physical curvature in the same way as if one was standing. The load exerted on the spine is reduced and the intervertebral discs are supplied with blood. Load on abdominal and back muscles is applied in a dynamic and alternating way. The blood circulation is not interrupted in the legs due to muscle pump action”.
- REALLY? The claim: Replacing your desk chair with and exercise ball can improve you posture (nytimes.com)
- Replacing chairs with exercise balls (nytimes.com)
- Increasing passive energy expenditure during clerical work. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A comparative study of the stability ball vs. the desk chair in healthy young adults: sagittal curvature, sitting duration and usability (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Stability ball versus office chair: comparison of muscle activation and lumbar spine posture during prolonged sitting. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Using “spinal shrinkage” as a trigger for motivating students to learn about obesity and adopt a healthy lifestyle (http://advan.physiology.org)