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Pros and Cons of Using an Exercise Ball for Desk Work

“The average office worker sits a shocking 15 hours every single day. And people who have long commutes, even more.”  – Forbes

For many American workers, their job requires them to sit at a desk and work on a computer. Whether an employee is working in an office setting or working remotely, it is not uncommon to have experienced discomfort or pain while sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time.

It doesn’t help matters that the American Heart Association claims that prolonged  “sedentary time — even among physically active people — may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and more.”

If sitting at your desk all day is uncomfortable and even unhealthy, is sitting on an exercise ball the answer? Read on to discover whether it is a good idea to use an exercise ball while working.

You may have noticed a trend of people using exercise balls, also known as stability balls or balance balls, as a chair for their desk. The claim is that using an exercise ball helps strengthen one’s core muscles and allows for more body movement while doing desk work.

Sitting on an exercise ball sounds like a fun idea in general. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy having a bouncy ball as a chair? Also, having a stability ball close by could encourage you to use it for exercise when you want to take an active work break.

While merely sitting on an exercise ball is not quite the same as using it for a strenuous workout, science does show that it can engage your core muscles.

However, points out that “while one analysis found that this form of active sitting engages the core muscles, others found no difference in how the core is used between an exercise ball and a regular desk chair.”

The cons of using an exercise ball as a chair.

As fun as it sounds to sit on a giant ball while working, you may find it difficult to maintain proper ergonomics when using an exercise ball as a chair. For example, the exercise ball will often be too large or small for you to properly sit at your desk and view your monitor or reach your mouse and keyboard. An exercise ball does not have the same kind of adjustable height levels that you would find in a typical office chair.

Furthermore, while a stability ball may be an exercise tool, you will still be sitting for a prolonged period of time, which will likely still lead to pain and discomfort. According to one study on the use of stability balls as chairs, “a high number of participants reported pain with use of the stability ball alone and stability ball chair, 42% and 45%, respectively.”

People often start to slouch and develop back pain when they are working long hours and have no back support. Obviously, a ball does not have back support.

The other thing to consider is safety. Ergonomic chairs are designed to reduce the risk of injury. There have been slip and fall accidents when people have been using balls as desk chairs. All it takes to fall is the ball to slide out from under you or for it to burst.

What is the final verdict on exercise balls as chairs? Are there alternatives?

If you already own an exercise ball, it’s best to use it for exercise. When you sit at your desk, it should be in an ergonomic chair with proper ergonomics.

Proper ergonomics while working should always be your top priority. Improper ergonomics may lead to discomfort, musculoskeletal disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome or tension neck syndrome), neck pain, back pain, and less productivity while working.

You may want to consider alternative ideas, like purchasing a sit-stand desk to add variety to your workday. Check out our blog about Sitting vs Standing Up while working for some good ideas on how to avoid pain while working a desk job.

Ultimately, you should find a balance that rests your body, keeps you moving, and allows for breaks when needed. For example, if you are mostly sitting down, stand and move for a couple of minutes every half an hour. If you are always on your feet, change positions every 20 to 30 minutes and make sure to sit down for a few minutes and rest.

By researching the best chairs to sit on at work, you have already taken a step in the right direction.

Try standing at your desk and using an office chair the rest of the day. Always remember to take breaks and adjust your sitting habits throughout the day.

When it comes to creating a pain free workspace for yourself, knowledge is key. At Solutions Northwest Inc., we recommend consulting with an ergonomics consultant to setup your workstation. Proper ergonomics will lead to less injury and pain while working, as well as make you more productive and efficient at work.

If you are a remote worker, we must recommend Solutions Northwest’s $50 Virtual Ergonomics Assessment that allows you to speak with an ergonomics consultant over e-mail, phone, or video call to customize your workstation specifically for your needs.

As always, please browse our ergonomics blog for more advice about safety and comfort in the workplace.

At we value the importance of a positive workplace culture. Part of a positive workplace is a safe workplace, Contact Us to schedule an ergonomics consultation or ergonomics assessment for your office today.

Subscribe to our ergonomics blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics evaluations available in: Seattle, WA, Tacoma, WA, Olympia, WA, Vancouver, WA, Kent, WA Renton, WA, Beaverton, OR, Portland, OR, Salem, OR, San Diego, CA, Carlsbad, CA, La Jolla, CA, Irvine, CA, Costa Mesa, CA, Newport Beach, CA.


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Olympia, WA 98501
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