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Rumor has it that using an exercise ball instead of a regular office chair brings a number of health benefits. In addition to forcing your core muscles to work constantly to maintain stability, it also burns calories and helps your posture. Such benefits would almost make up for looking like the office weirdo.
Those are the rumored benefits, anyway. Out of sheer boredom, and as part of my post-law school fitness obsession, I figured what the heck: worst case scenario, I do mad crunches between slamming protein and creatine shakes in my cubicle.
Core muscles? Does my lower back count, because after an hour or two on the exercise ball, the only thing that hurts is my lower back. No pain, no gain though, right?
Truth be told, the novelty wore off after a bit, at least for me.
FindLaw legend Adam Ramirez, noticing how much use my exercise ball was getting (none), asked to give it a shot. Within minutes, I got this email, "Be careful not to bounce or play on the ball too much; injuries from falling off the ball will greatly reduce the ball's benefit."
Which reminds me: employers, beware of worker's compensation claims from klutzy kids bouncing around on balls.
In any case, the ball was returned within an hour, along with an article by The New York Times debunking those health benefits.
Not So Healthy?
According to NYT's Ask Well blog, which consulted a number of experts, nearly all of those purported benefits are bunk.
Dr. Jack P. Callaghan, of the University of Waterloo in Ontario strapped a bunch of sensors to young, healthy volunteers. Guess what? They didn't use significantly more of the muscles in their abdomens and lower backs. We also slump just as much on a ball as we do on a chair, so bouncing around like a toddler at your desk apparently does nothing to solve the posture problem.
On the other hand, a different study showed that ball-sitters burn about 4 more calories per hour than chair-sitters. That's enough calories burned for, oh wait, absolutely nothing.
And, of course, there's the injury risk.
And Yet, I'm Back on It
You know what makes eight hours in front of a computer a bit more tolerable? Bouncing around on an exercise ball while listening to the Black Keys on Spotify. And strangely-enough, whenever writer's block kicks in, a little bouncing seems to help.
Have you given the exercise ball office chair a shot? How about standing or treadmill desks? Any other crazy ideas for avoiding sitting for eight hours straight? Tell us all about it on Facebook at FindLaw for Legal Professionals.