Naturally Rockford: Ask Stephie: Staying in shape at the office, ‘Getting fit while you sit’

Believe it or not, you can get fit while you sit. That’s right, whether you’re at home on the computer or at work in your office at your desk. The trick is in the chair you use. More specifically, it’s all about sitting on a large inflatable ball, known as a stability ball. This “giant” ball may also be referred to as an exercise ball or physioball. Try swapping out your normal desk chair with a stability ball, and you’ll be amazed at the benefits.

This “active sitting” can strengthen muscles (specifically around the core or middle), improve posture and balance, increase calorie burning, and improve overall mood. Still not convinced? Here are some advantages of sitting on an exercise ball while you work:

Conventional desk chairs discourage movement, but a stability ball encourages movement. Active sitting on a ball requires your body to make continuous and unconscious adjustments in your body position, leading to stronger and more toned abdominal and lower back muscles.

Sitting on an exercise ball encourages good posture and improves balance. Sitting in a desk chair tends to “sap” energy from your body, leading to slouching and poor spinal alignment. A slumped-over posture places pressure on spinal discs, muscles and ligaments. Over time, this can lead to lower back problems and pain.

Sitting on a giant inflatable ball is more fun than sitting on a conventional chair! You may be tempted to bounce a little while you sit. That not only keeps your muscles active while you sit, but can help you feel more energetic and less stressed while you work. In contrast, slouching at a desk chair compresses the diaphragm, leading to shallow breathing, a slower metabolism, and greater fatigue.

At this point, hopefully your interest has been piqued, but before you run out and buy a stability ball, there are a few things you should know so you can choose the right ball for you.

Some people find a slightly under-inflated ball to be more comfortable, but a fully and correctly inflated ball will encourage a better sitting workout. Choosing a ball based on your height is usually a good way to go. According to Perform Better, a top functional training and rehabilitation equipment company, the following sizing chart based on height can be used to select the appropriate ball size:

Up to 5 feet 4 inches tall, use a 45cm ball

5 feet five inches to 5 feet, 7 inches use a 55cm ball

5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet, use a 65cm ball

Taller than 6 feet, use a 75cm ball

Another way to be sure it is the right size ball, is to sit on it and make sure that your hips are level or just slightly higher than your knees. This is where body weight can impact the correct size ball. When in doubt, visit a fitness equipment store or seek a professional in the fitness field.

Now, go and sit your way to better fitness and have fun doing it!

Stephie Steele is owner of Symmetry Fitness, LLC. She has been featured in IDEA Health & Fitness Source magazine and specializes in weight loss, sports performance, total body fitness, posture alignment therapy, strength training, core conditioning, cardiovascular and flexibility training. Visit her Web site at or e-mail her with questions at

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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