Q&A: Using a swiss ball instead of a chair

Your Question:

“I am thinking of using a Swiss Ball at my desk instead of a chair so that I can improve my core and my posture.”



Our Answer:

We would advise against this, because…


It is exercise equipment

It is not advised to use a Swiss Ball at your desk.

Other names for Swiss Ball are exercise ball, balance ball, fitness ball or gym ball.

You can see, none of those names imply “office,” ‘ergonomic,” or “desk.”

And there is a reason for that!

The ball was designed for exercise, not for the office.

There are numerous exercises you can do on the ball to improve core strength and posture, which will be more effective than sitting on it at the desk.


Why can’t it be for exercise and for the office?

It’s usually too much pressure 

The ideal office chair has sufficient support, to support your back. If you were to decrease that, obviously you would need heavy reliance on your core and back strength.

While this may be “the point,” i.e to challenge and strengthen these muscles, it is most likely too big a jump.

For example, running for 20-30 minutes, 3-5 times per week results in numerous health benefits, including core and posture, but if you can’t run 5 minutes, don’t run for 20 minutes. That’s a great way to get an injury. Same goes here, but that’s just one reason.

It may have the opposite effect

As you’re on a roll and focused in your work, your body can get tired without you noticing.

Without the back support, there’s only one way to go. Forward.

Slouching forward and straining your neck, the opposite effect of what you originally tried to achieve.



Imperfect ergonomics

It’s not just the “core” or the trunk we need to consider when it comes to setting up office ergonomics.

Swiss balls are usually lower than chairs, which would make the desk too high, placing your arms too high and therefore putting extra strain through your neck, shoulders and wrists.

Using a ball, instead of a proper chair, will make it very hard to set up your workspace correctly. You can’t change the ball height like you would a chair, and the ball also goes flat! Yeah, you could pump it up, but would you?

You also need to consider the angle of your knees, hips and neck. This article provides a great desk set up checklist that you can download.


Sitting up too straight hurts

If you’re actively conscious about avoiding slouching, but have no support behind you, it’s very likely you might compensate by sitting up too straight.

People do this in their chairs, when they’re not set up correctly.

It’s one of the top mistakes and causes the muscles to strain and fatigue.


Work Productivity could be impacted

If you’re not on a roll, it will be harder to do so as because more muscles are being used, your body will fatigue a lot quicker.

Your body will let you know through discomfort.

Therefore you’ll likely have to change your posture more often. While that is a good thing, in the sense of encouraging more movement throughout the day, it is likely to impact work quality, as you are stopping and restarting focus more often.

What to do instead

If movement is your motivation, then a Sit to Stand desk would be more effective here.

Keen to use the ball?

Keep it in the corner, and do some core and posture specific exercises hourly. We should be moving our body for 3-4 minutes at least every hour, preferably more often.

Perhaps the ball right there for you would be a good reminder.

You would rather integrate it into your day instead of setting aside time for exercise?

Then sure, sit on the ball. But not at work where there are other components of posture to consider, not to mention work to focus on.

How about for a few minutes while watching Netflix instead? Or brushing your teeth?



Still not convinced?

If you are going to do it anyway, make sure you build up the duration, try to set up everything as per the checklist previously provided and take frequent breaks to stretch and move.




Biara Webster
Exercise Physiologist and Writer/Content Manager, Specialised Health

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