Sitting pretty

In this day and age most of us don’t have jobs that work us out physically, and though we may try to make up for it in the gym, spending all day sitting at work takes its toll on our back, hips and circulation.

But what if there was a way you could get your exercise while sitting at your desk? Not through a “chair exercise” but just sitting?

Most gyms have exercise balls for workouts, and some people have discovered that using a ball for a few minutes every day while sitting at a desk has physical benefits.

Now, a few different companies have incorporated the balance ball within an office chair frame, creating a new kind of chair that forces one to adopt good posture while sitting and gives the core muscles a subtle, low-key workout all day.

“I like fit ball exercise in general,” said chiropractor Dave Hoganson, “I do it all the time when I’m working out myself. The idea is to cause instability, which causes core muscles to start working.”

Chiropractor Paul Puetz is so enthusiastic about the ball chair he uses it while working on patients and sells them out of his office at Complete Chiropractic Center.

“It gives me the flexibility to move and takes the pressure off my lower back,” Puetz said. “And it allows a better versatility to move around than an exercise ball without wheels.”

Ball chairs have a ring-shaped frame mounted on casters like a regular office chair. An inflatable ball is set in the ring.

Gail Penske, director of patient care at the center, uses one of the chairs, sometimes just to sit on and sometimes as exercise equipment.

“I have used them when I have low back pain,” Penske said, “and it certainly helps posture.”

Some ball chairs come with a back rest and even arms, but Puetz prefers the models without them.

“I don’t favor a chair with a back because it causes muscles to activate in the anterior chest and hip flexors without utilizing the deep core muscles,” Puetz said.

According to Puetz, many schools have found ball chairs benefit students with developmental issues including ADHD.

“What it does is help to occupy children in multiple ways, de-stress and focus,” Puetz said. “The bouncing mechanism is calming and therapeutic.”

According to Hoganson, strengthening the abdominal muscles can take as much as 70 percent of the stress off the spine, as opposed to a back brace, which takes about 20 percent of the pressure off the spine.

It’s one key to staying fit and active,” Puetz said. “The aim is to help individuals sit with a healthier posture.”