Posted on 20 Dec 2014

Stability Balls for Workplace Fitness

Most people find that they spend a huge chunk of their waking time seated on their office desk, usually in front of the computer. This sedentary lifestyle has obvious implications to one's health. Aside from the lack of regular exercise a typical office employee experiences, being seated all day affects one's posture and adds a myriad of health issues to the poor employee.

The negative effects of excessive sitting In fact, some health and wellness researchers have discovered a host of illnesses and conditions that people who sit excessively may have to cope with in their future. According to Dr. James Levine, director of obesity solutions at the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University, spending too much time in a chair can increase the risk of certain diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Aside from increasing susceptibility to these future afflictions, excessive sitters can also look forward to many other negative physiological effects plaguing them. Dr. Michelle Olson, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University adds that excessive sitting can flatten the buttocks, soften the stomach and round the spine.

To combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting, workplaces are beginning to look into "stability balls" as a way to help their employees ease and soothe back pain, improve posture, and even allow some exercise time within the confines of their offices.

Benefits of stability balls in the workplace Developed in 1963 by Italian plastics manufacturer Aquilino Cosani, stability balls are soft elastic balls that range from 35 to 85 cm when filled with air. They are popular for physical therapy, athletic training and for fitness purposes. With their growing popularity in the workplace, some newer models have incorporated a blend of stylish design and innovative technology. Now, balls are covered in snazzy fabrics and even have a QR code that allows users to access exercise tutorials and synchronize their customized training programs on their smart phone and tablets.

Research has shown that using stability balls have distinct fitness benefits. Studies have shown that using stability balls help users burn calories. A study conducted at the State University of New York Buffalo found that people who sat on stability balls burned up to 4.1 more calories per hour than those who sat in an office chair. With regular usage, this can add up to 160 additional calories burned in a week.

Despite the touted benefits of stability balls and their relative resurgence in these times, Dr. Edward Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic warns that these balls are good for fitness but are not necessarily the solution to poor posture issues. Seating on a stability ball requires users to balance themselves to keep upright. This constant movement provides users with the benefits of core-strengthening exercises. However, prolonged balancing can also lead to increase fatigue and discomfort in the user's back.

Further implications of stability balls in the workplace Dr. Laskowski further adds that if a user's back requires more support, sitting on a stability ball is not recommended. Instead, he suggests using an ergonomic chair that is designed to reduce back pain.

Given these findings, it makes sense to wait for more definitive research to come out before the stability balls become the de rigueur office furniture of the modern workplace. What is for sure, however, is that stability balls have a positive impact when it comes to fitness training and exercise.


Health and Fitness Advice by FitFarms Editorial Team

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