As a full-time network administrator, most of my day is spent sitting behind a desk. Recently, I’ve started to notice some bad habits in my posture that have caused me to have back and knee pain on a regular basis. I’d heard that sitting on a balance ball was a good way to ease back pain, but the balls I tried were too short to reach my desk. I learned about the Gaiam BalanceBall chair while surfing on Amazon and it looked like it was worth a try.
What caught my attention with the chair was the base and how it lifted the ball off the ground enough to help me sit more comfortably at my desk.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the review, let me tell you a few things about balance balls in general.
Balance balls (AKA yoga balls, Pilates balls, gym balls, etc.) are inflated rubber balls that are used in gyms and yoga classes for various exercises. The difference between sitting on a balance ball verses a regular chair is that the body responds to the instability of the ball and forces your core muscles to work at keeping your balance. It also forces you to stay focused. If you don’t focus on sitting correctly when on the balance ball, you’ll find yourself kissing the floor. Sitting on a balance ball won’t give you six pack abs, but working with one on a regular basis will help improve your posture and help strengthen your core muscles.
Now, on to the review…
Some assembly is required to get the chair ready for use, but the instructions are easy to follow and I had mine built in about five minutes. The size of the ball that comes with the chair is perfect for anyone between 5′ and 5′ 11″ in height. The bad news is that if you’re under 5′ or over 5′ 11″, this chair won’t work for you. Instead, Gaiam suggests you check out the Total Body Balance Kit. It’s not a chair, but it comes with three different size balls to use so you can find the right fit for your height.
Once you have it assembled, it’s time to get sitting.
The first step to sitting on a BalanceBall is making sure that you inflate it to the correct height. If you inflate it too much, it may rupture. If you inflate it too little, you will be uncomfortable while sitting on it and you won’t be doing your body any favors. The general rule here is pretty simple: If the ball you’re using is sized at 52 centimeters, then it should inflate to be 52 centimeters tall.
Once the ball is inflated properly, place your “sit bones” in the middle of the ball and keep your back straight (don’t lean on the support beam). Your shins and thighs should be at a 90 degree angle. If they’re not, inflate or deflate the ball until they are.
Getting used to the BalanceBall chair on the first day was a little rough. In my old chair, I would wheel myself around my office space instead of getting up. The wheels on the BalanceBall chair are not designed to handle that kind of swerving around. I also found myself bouncing and swaying to the point where I got a little sea-sick. An hour or so break in my regular chair, though, and I was ready to hit the ball again.
After a few days, I noticed a significant difference in my posture and the overall feel of my back. It’s only been about a week since I’ve started using it, so it will take a bit longer to see if it’s made any difference in my core muscle strength, but right now I’m happy to have less back pain and more comfort in my day.
- First and most importantly, keep it away from your office heater - This seems like common sense, but my first BalanceBall suffered an early death because I got up and it rolled into my heater when I wasn’t looking.
- Take breaks – Sitting too long, in general, is bad for your back. Give your back a break and stand up and stretch every so often. I usually take a standing break once every 30 minutes to once an hour. This is especially important if you’re like me and spend your day staring at a computer. That few minutes standing up and stretching will make a big difference in your comfort levels while at the office.
- Post a note somewhere near you that will see to remind you to sit correctly - The ball will force you to sit upright, but the rest of your body is up to you.
- Keep the ball inflated to the correct size - The chair comes with a pump and it’s pretty easy to pop the stopper out and re-inflate it. The first few days you will need to re-inflate about once or twice a day so the ball can stretch out to its full potential.
- Keep your regular chair - There might be times when you will need to give your body a break from the BalanceBall, so keep a regular chair on standby.
- Keep sharp objects clear of the BalanceBall – The BalanceBall is pretty durable, but things like scissors, pens, staplers, and other sharp desk items should stay away. Even the slightest mark on the ball could become a safety hazard. For safety reasons, Gaiam doesn’t sell repair kits, so if something happens and the integrity of the ball is compromised, you will need to replace the ball.
- Don’t throw away the tools that come with the chair - The small metal flat wrench is perfect for getting the stopper out of the ball when you need to refill it with air.
After losing my ball to a pair of scissors (I should have taken my own advice), I had to sit in my regular chair for two weeks while I waited for a replacement to arrive. During those two weeks, I realized how much of a difference my BalanceBall chair made in my overall focus and comfort levels while at work. Now that I’m sitting pretty on my replacement ball, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go from ordinary chair to extraordinary chair.
The Gaiam BalanceBall chair comes with a neat little book with simple exercises that you can do right at your desk and is available on Gaiam’s website for $79.98.
GeekMom received a Gaiam BalanceBall for review purposes.
Dakster Sullivan is an all-around technology and comic book geek. When she's not at the office being the Network Administrator, she's hanging out with her Minecraft obsessed 8-year old son and magician husband. On the weekends, she enjoys cosplaying for charity with the 501st and Rebel Legion costuming groups. Check her out on Twitter @Dak903