Imagine a large ball, so large that you can sit on it easily, with little stress on knees. The main challenge is balance.
AT HOME AND IN THE GYM
There are many exercise programs built around the Fit ball (or physioball). Pilates,Feldenkrais, and other standardized programs make reqular use of it. As well, there are books of exercises specifically directed at using the fit ball. It's inexpensive, light weight, and includes an element of fun! It's used for strengthening arms, legs, and torso as well as improving balance and flexibility.
There will be some book reviews on my favorite books coming up.
The Physioball is often used in Occupational and Physical Therapy to develop specific muscle strengths, balance skills, or to stimulate reflex activity. It’s also used to activate particular parts of the brain, stimulating or calming the patient depending on the way its use is applied. It is useful with neonates and with adults.
The ball is a great exercise tool. An inexpensive piece of equipment, it can be used for everything from stretching out your back to a good abdominal work out.
IN THE OFFICE
The Physioball has been proposed as a replacement for the office chair. While I recognize some potential benefits, I also have some concerns.
- • The ball provides an unstable sitting surface. This means that as you work, your body must constantly be adapting to new positions. Every time you reach for something or move to adjust your posture, the change is magnified, and the postural reaction has to be just as great. Many times, there will be unexpected components to the movement you have to adjust to.
o The best posture is the next posture. Your body is always moving. This increases circulation and the variety in all movements of the body. It also uses calories!
• The instability of the ball also encourages alertness. It’s difficult to fall into torpor if everytime you do you may fall off your chair.
• It’s easy to insert little exercise breaks into your day. All you have to do is sit up straight, then shift your pelvis forward and back, left or right. This exercises most of your abdominals.
The entire time you are on the ball, keep your motions constrained. Never move so far from center that your muscles feel strained or you feel you may fall.
The ball definitely is a conversation piece! You’ll have many people asking you about it.
- • Unless you are in GREAT shape to begin with, sitting on the ball for an extended period is not recommended. It is too difficult to maintain a neutral spine without good back support easily available. I suggest 15 minutes to ½ hour at the start. You may build up to 1 hour periods, but no longer than that. If you want longer periods of unsupported sitting, I suggest a saddle seat (more later).
• It is difficult to maintain a neutral working position when you are on a ball. This may be problematic.
• Some companies have indicated they have safety concerns. Floors and hard furniture edges are not generally padded, and if you fall, you may injury yourself.
Because some of these concerns are recognized by those who like the ball as a chair, they’ve developed a chair frame for the ball (see below). This improves it’s functionality, and if it fits you, it may be fine.
Fit is problematic.
The seat height is adjusted by getting a different size ball or adjusting the air pressure. Adjusting the air pressure also changes it’s properties – too soft, and it will tend to pull you in to poor postures. To high, and you loose the flexibility benefit.
Seat depth is set. If your upper leg is longer or shorter than the design allows, you will not benefit from the back support.
Do I Like this Chair?
When it fits, I like this chair (with frame) for short term work in home offices, for waiting rooms, for teachers (especially in lower grades), for conversation corners, and for libraries (customer seating).
I prefer the fitball seating disc for long term, concentrated work. it provides most of the benefit of the stabilzed ball (in frame) without creating any of the concerns. It's compact, fits within a standard chair, and works.