We all have faced major changes in our lifestyles post-pandemic. One of those major changes was working from home or remote shifts. Prolonged sitting on a chair or a sofa, improper posture, and sedentary living has put a toll on our health with chronic conditions like low back pain, cervical pain, depression, diabetes, etc. The high amount of sedentary lifestyle and low physical activity contribute to chronic conditions and premature mortality rates.1
The yoga ball came to the rescue of those who spend 8-10 hours a day sitting on a chair/sofa/bed etc. People are opting for this exercise ball instead of a chair. Sounds interesting!
The yoga ball chair is trending like never before. You must have heard people relate yoga balls with core exercises, muscle activation, preventing low back pain, etc.
Fitness companies are hyping that big fat balls such as yoga balls, exercise balls, physio balls, etc. for the health and fitness of an individual.
Are they beneficial to the human body and are they capable to level up our fitness level? Though the short answer would is be a Yes, that should be used with proper dos and don’ts.
In this article, you will read about the yoga ball and its benefits when used as a chair. You will have a brief idea about its effects on your posture and the major drawbacks a yoga ball chair/ an exercise ball chair holds.
A yoga ball chair is an excellent tool for core stability and is a handy item available in every physiotherapy clinic, yoga centre, gym, fitness centre, etc. It is A great way to impose balance and control over your body.
Benefits of using a yoga ball chair
A yoga ball chair for lower back pain- When we sit, the body’s whole weight that shifted to the ground gets transferred to the seat, armrest, and backrest. We often tend to slouch while sitting and the pressure between the vertebrae column increases. The smaller angle during the pelvic tilt leads to back pain and injury.
The evidence related to a yoga ball chair in reducing lower back pain is controversial. A few research concluded that sitting on an exercise ball had no significant effect on lower back pain or associated disability, but it improves core muscle endurance in the sagittal plane.2
It is not a go-to way to reduce back pain. However, it is one of the ways that might benefit you from a low backache. An exercise ball chair can be used as an adjunct treatment for low back pain along with core strengthening exercises, stretching of hip muscles, etc. Consult your physical therapists for better diagnosis and guidance.
Allows spinal stability- the gym ball has been used by physical therapists or trainers for rehabilitation and fitness purposes. It allows spinal stabilisation in three phases- active (muscles), passive (bones), and control (neural.)
Sitting on a yoga ball chair increases muscle activity and muscle co-contraction making it an alternative to a regular office chair. It improves muscle function, muscle coordination, and muscle strength.3
Increases caloric expenditure- A yoga ball chair (compliant surface over a stationary surface) helps in proprioception by allowing you to be more aware of your movement. This alternative to an office chair is also termed ‘active sitting.’
Sitting on an exercise ball chair (air-filled seat) activates muscle activity of the lower extremities whichfacilitates caloric expenditure. With the rise in sedentary lifestyles, diabetes, and obesity, the exercise ball chair is a tool to increase core muscle activation and caloric expenditure.4
A tool for physiotherapy and rehabilitation- the exercise ball reduces the static load on the spine, improves posture, and acts on the local core muscles- transversus abdominis and multifid.
Drawbacks and precautions
Certain drawbacks have split the benefits of using a yoga ball chair.
Since the surface of the exercise, the ball is compliant i.e. an unstable or not firm surface with no backrest, the tendency to not fall on the ground or balance the body leads to a slouching posture. While you tend to balance your body, this unstable seat fails to keep your body erect for a long time.
A few studies have claimed that sitting on an exercise ball causes soft tissue compression resulting in back pain or discomfort in the lumbar region. This is one of the musculoskeletal hazards when you are using a physioball.5
Overuse of muscles- your muscles tend to get more fatigued because of increasing muscle co-contraction that takes place while you are trying to make your body and the ball stable.
You are exhausted physically because of the constant effort you are putting into sitting on the ball and it is not space-friendly enough with your office furniture.
One of the major drawbacks you face when using a yoga ball chair alternative to an office chair is that focusing on the work is difficult when you are a newbie because a chance of injury is common.
An exercise ball chair has no backrest or arm support.
However, with a little precaution, it can be used safely:
Positioning the ball safely: The exercise ball is unstable, to prevent any back injuries or falls. It is better to keep the ball inside a frame to prevent sliding or on a rough surface when you sit on it.
Picking the right size according to your body: According to American Council on Exercise, the right size ball is important to maintain the air pressure- not too firm nor too soft.
Pick your yoga ball according to your height:
- Below 4'6" (137 cm): 30 cm ball (12 inches)
- 4'6"–5'0" (137–152 cm): 45 cm ball (18 inches)
- 5'1"–5'7" (155–170 cm): 55 cm ball (22 inches)
- 5'8"–6'2" (173–188 cm): 65 cm ball (26 inches)
- Over 6'2" (188 cm): 75 cm ball (30 inches)6
Consider your health status: Avoid using a yoga ball chair if you have spinal injuries or various spinal conditions. A few physical therapists pointed out that an ergonomically designed office chair is always better than a physioball/ exercise ball chair.
For a better approach, consult a spine specialist or a physical therapist.
How long should I sit on a yoga ball chair:
When you are sitting on a physioball, your feet should be flat on the floor, and your hip and knee should be flexed at an angle of 90 degrees. Avoid maintaining a slouched posture for a long time to balance yourself.
20 minutes per day is recommended for rehabilitation purposes. When used as a chair, you should sit as long as you are comfortable sitting on it. Follow guidelines from a physical therapist for it to work better.3
Is it safe for pregnant women
A yoga ball or an exercise ball is used in various ante-natal exercise programs. Although studies have shown, exercise ball programs could be effective in the second or the third trimesters7 improving muscle strength and reducing low back pain.
However, if you are pregnant, it is recommended to consult your gynecologist or your physical therapist before trying a yoga ball chair and it should be used under proper supervision.
A yoga chair is a fancy exercise tool and it looks cool too. It improves body posture, helps in core strengthening, and is quite safe for pregnant women too, ask your specialist first and follow the guidelines. The research is quite controversial about its effect on low backache or posture. But picking the positive side, sitting on a yoga ball chair and performing regular exercises does improve an individual's health and fitness status.
- Ussery EN, Fulton JE, Galuska DA, Katzmarzyk PT, Carlson SA. Joint prevalence of sitting time and leisure-time physical activity among us adults, 2015-2016. JAMA [Internet]. 2018 Nov 20 [cited 2022 Dec 30];320(19):2036–8. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.17797
- Elliott TLP, Marshall KS, Lake DA, Wofford NH, Davies GJ. The effect of sitting on stability balls on nonspecific lower back pain, disability, and core endurance: a randomized controlled crossover study. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2016 Sep 15;41(18):E1074–80.
- Merritt LG, Merritt CM. The gym ball as a chair for the back pain patient: A two case report. J Can Chiropr Assoc [Internet]. 2007 Mar [cited 2022 Dec 30];51(1):50–5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1924654/
- Dickin DC, Surowiec RK, Wang H. Energy expenditure and muscular activation patterns through active sitting on compliant surfaces. Journal of Sport and Health Science [Internet]. 2017 Jun 1 [cited 2022 Dec 30];6(2):207–12. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254615001015
- McGill SM, Kavcic NS, Harvey E. Sitting on a chair or an exercise ball: various perspectives to guide decision making. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2006 May;21(4):353–60.
- Strengthen your abdominals with stability balls [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 30]. Available from: https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/6696/strengthen-your-abdominals-with-stability-balls/
- Yan CF, Hung YC, Gau ML, Lin KC. Effects of a stability ball exercise programme on low back pain and daily life interference during pregnancy. Midwifery [Internet]. 2014 Apr 1 [cited 2022 Dec 30];30(4):412–9. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266613813001320