Over the years, different solutions have been suggested to replace the classic office chair. The standing desk saw a boom in popularity in 2016 though, apparently, standing communal desks were the norm in the 19th century. Great men of times past have relied on standing desks to do their greatest work, from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Dickens. Though there are many purported beneficial effects to using a standing desk in place of a traditional one, there isn’t actually much evidence to support the positive claims.

Another solution has now caught on: the balance ball.

Img: Comfy Offices
Just as with traditional exercises, form makes a huge difference. Those who use an exercise ball would do well to make sure that they are sitting on the ball correctly. The instability of the ball will tempt sitters to draw their feet inwards. This defeats the purpose of the ball which requires you to balance on the seat using your core. The core should be engaged and feet should be held roughly at a 90° angle.

It may be difficult to find an exercise ball big enough to comfortably seat you at your desk. To reap the benefits, the ball height should allow you to rest your feet on floor. This ideal position will encourage good posture. Elbows should be level with your wrists and the hips should be slightly more elevated than the knees. This is the optimal seating requirements for regular ergonomic chairs as well.

In theory the balance ball works to engage core muscles, activating the abdominal muscles and back by default. This seems like a good idea on the surface, but is less-than-ideal when the average workday is taken into account. People are in the office from five to eight hours every day.  Even the fittest person wouldn’t be able to keep their muscles engaged for hours on end. Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College in San Diego, states that “sitting on a ball creates an increased load on the lumbar spine and discomfort over time.”

To combat this, use the exercise ball in 20-minute intervals, switching to a traditional chair in the meantime. Spacing out usage will give your core muscles a chance to relax, making the next exercise ball session easier to do.

Any sedentary activity automatically lessens the amount of calories the body burns. The reason office chairs are so hard on the body is because, once sitting, the body does not use many muscles. Sitting in a chair causes people to “slouch and use poor posture, and sitting in a chair puts your abs on ‘slack’ and decreases core strength,” according to John P. Porcari, PhD and exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. The number of calories burned while sitting is negligible; for example, people in agricultural work can burn up to 1,000 more calories than desk jockeys. Non-exercise activities, like standing or walking, do burn calories.

Ergonomic design be damned. Actually, before you write off the office chair consider that it is designed to adjust to the body’s most finicky measurements. Armrests can be adjusted to keep forearms at the height of the desk, easing unnecessary strain in the upper back, shoulders and neck. The back can be customised to fully support the lumbar and upper body.  With all the bad that comes from excessive sitting throughout the day, a good chair is going to offer excellent bodily support. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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