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Does using an exercise ball help strengthen your core and back muscles?

Are there any concerns or downside with using a body exercise ball as a chair?

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+1 IMO its very advance fitness routine when replace stationary chair w/ a medicine ball, but if done with success your overall fitness will surge! –  kjy112 Apr 27 '11 at 13:20
    
Please have a look at this question and see if you have additional questions, because your current question is rather open. See if you can make it more specific when you have some more background –  Ivo Flipse Apr 27 '11 at 14:43
    
I know it's late to the party, but it would be better to keep questions about exercise balls to actual exercise. –  Berin Loritsch Sep 22 '11 at 12:16
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2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Using an exercise ball as a desk chair is not a magic bullet. It will not work for all people and may actually hurt some. There is no replacement for strength training if you want a stronger core (including back muscles). Some articles I've read (I couldn't find a source other than the article themselves) suggest that you may be compressing your spine and discs while sitting on an exercise ball due to the constant muscles strain caused by trying to keep yourself balanced. These articles and other also suggest there is not good replacement for a fully ergonomic desk chair.

Like running barefoot or weight lifting, if you're going to switch to using a exercise ball as a chair you should transition slowly to allow your body to get use to it. I have personally used an exercise ball as a chair and loved it. I only stopped when my cats decided it was good fun to deflate the ball when I was sitting on it.

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I'm actually using a swiss ball as a chair 1/2 of the day. There is a transition period and you need to 'listen to your body' and switch back to the chair as needed. Overall I (and the group with me doing this) have found that sitting on a swiss ball does seem to help with back strain and does seem to work the core throughout the time being on it. –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 27 '11 at 13:25
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Depends - If you tend to sit for prolonged periods without moving, sitting on an exercise ball (for part of the time) can help by giving you a more dynamic posture as your trunk muscles make frequent adjustments. I think of the effect as improving muscle control, so in that respect you could say it is strengthening your core and postural muscles.

For me, sitting on an exercise ball keeps me from slumping. I sit with a better posture and I feel that I have some carry over when I sit in my regular chair. I only use my ball intermittently.

Some down sides of using an exercise ball as a desk chair:

  1. It may cause discomfort or pain depending on your back condition, especially if you use it for too long when you begin. (The up side is that it may make your back feel better.)
  2. You can fall off :(
  3. You may find sitting on plastic is not as comfortable as a padded chair.
  4. Also, there is study that says in essence that the advantages of the increased trunk motion and muscle activity from sitting on an exercise ball, may be offset by the disadvantage of increased spinal shrinkage as compared to sitting in a regular chair. (This may be the study Sparafusile mentioned.)
  5. If you sit on the ball to the point where your muscles fatigue, you are left with no back support, unlike you would have with an ergonomic chair.
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