An exercise ball chair makes it convenient to workout anytime, anywhere, even while you work. These chairs combine an exercise ball (often called a Swiss ball) with a normal chair - in some cases they even look like an office chair, with wheels on the bottom, apart from the ball in place of a normal seat.
What's the point of these chairs, you might be asking - sure, they're a novelty, but are they really of use for anything? The answer is yes, absolutely. Not only do exercise ball chairs allow you to do specialized chair exercises which you can't do on a normal office chair, they actually help build your core strength all the time while you're sitting on one - even if you're not exercising! Let's take a look at how these chairs work and a few ways you can use such a chair to get better health and fitness results.
How does sitting on a ball help your back? It seems a little counter-intuitive at first - after all, shouldn't an ergonomic chair have more back support, rather than no back support at all?
They key to exercises ball chairs is in what they do to your body. When you sit on one of these balls, you're no longer able to slouch the way you might in a normal chair and still stay upright. You actually have to make use of core abdominal muscles in order to stay sitting upright.
You might think that sounds like an awful lot of effort - flexing your abs all day just to stay upright. But the reality is, these core muscles are designed to hold us up. They're supposed to be strong. The only reason they're weak in many people is because we simply don't use them enough - a result, not surprisingly, of bad chair designs.
So just sitting on a ball chair - even if you're not doing any exercises - helps to strengthen your core, align your spine and keep you safe from back injury.
In addition, sitting on one of these chairs forces you to keep moving throughout the day, subtly shifting your body position. This ensures all the tiny stabilization muscles in your core get some use. When you sit in a normal chair, it's easy to stay in a single fixed position for hours without using any of these small but important muscles.
Now you know how simply sitting on a ball chair can make your stronger, let's look at some actual exercises you can do on one of these chairs.
Hip roll exercises are a particularly good choice as they're something that can't be done easily on a normal office chair. These exercises help flex and extend your hips, avoiding stiffness and the loss of flexibility over time.
All you have to do is hold firmly to your desk and roll forward slightly, so that your buttocks move towards the front of the ball (rather than resting on top). You'll need to engage your abs as you do this as well, to maintain your posture. Don't roll so far forward that you put unnecessary stress on your back - just go far enough to feel a slight stretch through your hips.
Ball chairs also lend themselves well to twists. Again, grasp onto your desk to steady yourself and stay upright. Grasp the desk with your left hand and tuck your right arm behind you, then twist slowly to the right, keeping your spine upright. Slowly come back to the center, then grab the desk with your right hand, tuck your left arm behind you, and twist to the left.
If you actually have the luxury of having an exercise ball chair to sit on at work, consider yourself lucky. But even if you have one to sit on, that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be appropriate for you to break into vigorous exercise any time you want. That's why it's good to have a few low key moves up your sleeve - exercises you can do any time without others in the office even noticing.
Here's one excellent low key exercise you can do on a ball chair. It combines a neck stretch with simple shoulder rotations.
Keeping your spine upright, simply lower your head forward and slight to the right, as if you're looking at your right thigh, until you feel a gentle stretch in your neck. Hold it for a few seconds, then come back up to center. Repeat on the left side. Repeat 3-5 times for each side.
Then, simply rotate both shoulders at the same time, rolling them forward first for several rotations, then backwards. This little routine helps dispel tension through your neck and shoulders.
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