Confession time: When it comes to healthy living, we prefer shortcuts whenever possible. Basically, if something promises a reward with minimal effort required, we’re on it faster than you can say “couch exercises.” Take yoga balls, for instance. These bouncy exercise tools are used for everything from sit-ups to planks, and they’re supposedly a better alternative to your stiff office chair—or are they? We did some digging and found some pretty surprising information. Keep scrolling to see if you should swap your chair for a yoga ball!
The supposed benefits of sitting on an exercise ball are plentiful: better posture, more core engagement, and even unintentional calorie-burning. According to this study from 2008, participants who sat on an exercise ball burned four more calories an hour than those who didn’t, which is roughly 30 extra calories in a typical workday. Another study by Dutch researchers found that workers who sat on exercise balls produced more muscle activity and 33 percent more “trunk motion” than those who stay in office chairs with armrests. Calorie burning and muscle exercise without actually trying? We’re all about it. That is, until we kept reading…
You know that last promising-sounding study by Dutch researchers? Unfortunately, they also found that those who sat on exercise balls experienced more “spinal shrinkage” than those who sat in office chairs—yikes. Other studies, like this one, found that there was really no significant benefit to sitting in a yoga ball over an office chair, while others found that those who sat on a yoga ball actually experienced more discomfort without actually improving posture. Basically, the results are mixed. The general consensus seems to be that neither chairs nor yoga balls are great for your posture, back, or health. Le sigh.
You may or may not remember that one disturbing study that said sitting for long periods of time could lead to an earlier death by up to 20 percent. We’re not bringing it up to cause unnecessary freakouts, but rather to remind everyone that getting up and taking a brisk walk (even if it’s just to refill your coffee) a couple times throughout the day is way more beneficial to your body than trying to balance on a yoga ball. The thing is, as much as we wish choosing a different seat was the simple solution, the act of sitting itself is the thing that’s not great for our health. Repeat after us: Being sedentary is bad.
The conclusion? Sit in whatever makes you feel most comfortable, and focus more on getting active throughout the day. Your back (and whole body) will thank you.
Have you ever tried swapping your office chair for a yoga ball? Tell us your thoughts below!