Exercise Ball Chairs As An Ergonomic Option For Seating

ErgonomicsErgonomicsErgonomics June 17, 2011

Some folks seem to want a silver bullet for the ergonomically correct seated work station.

In past years it was a kneeling chair. More recently it has been treadmill workstations, spring based stools and exercise ball chairs. After analyzing all of these options, it seems that SAFETY must be the major consideration in choosing the correct seat.

The workstation, including the chair should not introduce a hazardous condition for the worker.

Some risks of sitting on an exercise ball include instability, possibility of collapse, as well as fatigue from trying to keep balanced while performing other tasks.

The question to be asked is “Why did someone choose an exercise ball chair?” The most frequent answers are to improve posture, increase movement or decrease pain. All of these issues may be dealt with using safer options.

A traditional ergonomic chair with adjustable features provides proper support for good posture. Most often I find the reason that a chair is uncomfortable is because the user does not know how to adjust it properly. Education on proper setup and adjustment is the key.
To increase movement, readjust the chair every 20-30 minutes into a “new” position, use an articulating foot rest and take frequent ERGO BREAKS.

If sitting appears to be the reason for pain, perhaps a standing or sit-lean workstation will work as a safer option. If the exercise ball chair was able to decrease the pain of the user, one possibility may be the STATIC nature of sitting. As above, find other safe ways to increase movement. Better yet, have a qualified health or safety professional, evaluate the symptoms of the individual and identify the actual root cause.

As a physical therapist, I have used the exercise ball as a therapeutic tool for over 30 years. It is used for short periods of time and in an environment supervised for safety of the client. An exercise ball is NOT a task chair. Safety should be placed ahead of every other issue.

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