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Why Exercise Balls and Kneeling Chairs Actually Hurt, Not Help

With work from home here to stay, you may have looked into some alternatives to a regular office chair. After all, you don’t have to worry about how you look sitting on an exercise ball or a kneeling chair in the comfort of your own home. Why not give being healthier a try?

Truth is, exercise balls and kneeling chairs are not conducive for productive, prolonged use, and could even pose a risk to your body.

Kneeling Chairs: Knee Deep in Problems

Currently seeing a wide resurgence in popularity, the kneeling chair was invented in 1979. It aimed to provide a more ergonomic way to sit: no back rest, instead a seat that angles forward with shin rests, so that your legs form the shape of a less-than sign (<) underneath you. The shin rests are supposed to take pressure off your back and bottom while you sit, and the shape tilts your pelvis forward and promotes digestion.

However, this shape comes at the cost of your mobility. Kneeling chairs almost lock their user in, preventing natural tilts and shifts of the body. You lose the ability to naturally reposition yourself for comfort, plus the flexibility to quickly meet the demands of modern office life with its many meetings and collaborative activities.

Similarly, if you’re working from home, there’s always something going on: spouses, kids, pets, chores, and life in general. Not to mention, you should be taking breaks to stretch and move around throughout your work day to protect your body from the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Kneeling Chair Cons

  • Restricted movement
  • Restricted circulation to legs with prolonged use
  • Pressure on shins can become painful over time
  • Sitting down and getting up can be difficult

The kneeling chair definitely gets points for creativity, but it’s not as ergonomically sound as its inventor hoped it would be.

Exercise Balls: Exercise Caution

Exercise balls, also known as yoga balls or stability balls, are inexpensive, easily available, and can double as a chair. Seems like a win-win-win.

They became a popular alternative to normal office chairs because they present the opportunity to engage your core, allowing you to strengthen your muscles while you sit. It takes a lot of balance to stay perched atop the ball!

Yet, all that work may be good for your abs, but not for your back. With your lumbar region left in the lurch, and your energy focused on not falling off, it’s difficult to maintain your spine properly aligned. Your feet and legs are kicked out like training wheels on a child’s bike: there for keeping you from falling on your face. Your arms lack any support, making typing, especially on a laptop, more challenging.

While accessories can be added to prevent the ball from moving, exercise balls are still a trip hazard and potential liability at work, or a tempting toy for children and pets at home.

Exercise Ball Cons

  • Lacks arm and back support
  • Results in exhaustion
  • Can make concentration difficult
  • Could cause accidents

 

Study after study have shown that exercise balls are simply too uncomfortable for people to sit on for a prolonged period of time, not to mention get any meaningful work done.

Save the exercise ball for the gym!

The Solution? Practice Active Sitting

According to research by Cornell University, the best approach is to practice active sitting, where you change your posture and stance throughout the day. Experts maintain that humans sit best when their posture is supported, but their need to be mobile is still met.

Your office chair (whether at home or otherwise) should match your needs: supporting your body, encouraging proper posture, and creating a flawless sitting experience that leaves you feeling refreshed, not drained.

Sitting down should not be something you have to think about, but instead a natural, and welcome, process.

Thankfully, there is a way to get all the benefits of exercise balls and kneeling chairs without their harmful drawbacks: a chair that moves with you.