The balance ball chair is a unique new development in chair design which combines the exercise revolution of the Swiss exercise ball with a normal chair. There are a range of designs in the exercise ball chair market - some simple chairs have four fixed legs, while office chair variations with wheels and the ability to rotate are also available (but tend to be more expensive).
These exercise ball office chairs force you to use muscles in your abdomen that you wouldn't normally use when slouched in an office chair or on the sofa. This helps strengthen your core, which in turns keeps your spine aligned and helps you avoid back and neck strains and injuries.
Balance chairs typically have low backs, so they support the lower back without allowing you to lean backwards too much as we all have a tendency to do. This leaning backwards, which may seem comfortable at the time, ultimately does a great deal of harm by pushing your head out of alignment with your spine. As a result the muscles that hold your head up straight start to weaken.
Exercise ball chairs are actually a lot more comfortable than typical office chairs for many people. Because you're essentially sitting on air, the ball chair conforms to your shape and weight when you sit on it. There's no resistance from hard material to force your body into an unnatural position.
These chairs are also ideal not just for sitting while you work or watch TV - they can be used for active exercise. A balance ball chair lets you do a range of chair exercises you can't do on a standard office chair.
One of the most important things to think about when you're in the market for a ball chair is design and the range of functions you'll be using it for. Do you just want a more ergonomic chair to sit on while watching TV? If so, a pretty basic low-end model should do the trick.
If, however, you need a chair for your home office, you'll want to go for something with a more flexible design so you can adjust the height, swivel, and roll it around as needed.
If you're going to be doing some basic workouts on the chair, you'll also need to take this into account. Also, is the ball actually attached to the chair? Or can you take it offer the chair base to use it for various workout moves you can't do with the whole chair?
Size is also an important point to consider. If you get a chair with an adjustable height option, this may not be such an issue - but with a fixed-height chair, it's very important to get a size that suits your height. Otherwise you'll have to sit forward just to put your feet on the ground (if the ball is too big) or your knees will be pushed up towards your chest (if it's too small). Neither scenario is ideal.
As a general guide, 75 cm (30 inch) balls are designed for people 6 feet tall and above. In the 5'6'' to 5'11'' range you want a 65 cm (26 inch) ball, and if you're 5'0'' to 5'5'' you want a 55cm (22 inch ball).
You'll also want to check weight limit. Most ball chairs can handle up to around 135 kilograms (300 pounds). If you weigh more than that you may have to seek out a heavy-duty model.
Of course, we all feel more confident in making a new purchase when we know we're buying from a trusted brand with a reputation for excellence. Here are three of the top brans when it comes to balance chairs.
Gaiam has long been one of the market leaders for these products. Gaiam is a company which creates a wide variety of lifestyle products designed to let people live greener, healthier lives. This is one of the major benefits of buying Gaiam - beyond being simply a furniture company, they're a real force for good in the world, promoting spiritual development and better living.
Aeromat is a company which offers an affordable option for anyone in need of a balance chair for the office. They manufacture a chair which looks exactly like a typical office computer chair, except with a ball in place of the usual seat cushion.
J-Fit is a large fitness equipment company which has also made a name for itself with good balance chairs. The J-Fit chairs are less of an office chair and better suited to someone who will be using the chair for workouts or just sitting and reading or watching TV. J-Fit sells sturdy chairs perfect for exercising with as opposed to Aeromat chairs, which are designed for much other than sitting on for hours at a time while working.
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