I used to laugh at those people sitting on stability balls instead of chairs at work. Ha. What clowns, I thought. As if sitting on that ridiculously giant ball does anything other than give someone a perfectly good opportunity to flip over and tumble to the floor and look foolish. It’s the kind of nonsense that makes people feel like they’re doing something for the benefit of their health without doing anything.
I’ve long been skeptical of anything that claims it can improve your health with little or even no effort, that you can have ripped abs by merely dancing around in your living room for 15 minutes a day.
And then, I tried a stability ball.
My lower back had been giving me grief, particularly upon waking in the morning. The other day it took about 30 minutes of core exercises and some basic yoga-type (I say yoga-type because it’s my version of yoga) poses and stretching before I could stand straight and head out for a run. I know, I know. It just happens when you’re getting old. It didn’t help I walked our neighbors’ pit bulls for two weeks several times a day. Although only a year old or so, they’re strong enough to nearly pull me down when they lunge after a chicken or cat. Time to see my friends at Kalaheo Wellness Center for an adjustment. I’m a believer in the skills of chiropractors.
So, when I came across a new stability ball at my favorite thrift store, Blooming Tails that benefits the Kauai Humane Society, I thought, why not.
A week later, it might be one of the best moves I’ve made for my fitness (but not better than running).
Since I began using the stability ball at work, my back stopped aching, I feel like I have more energy and I’m thinking clearer, too. Really. I’m even more positive, if you can believe it. I have, to this point, only good things to say about the stability ball that I formerly ridiculed.
So, what’s the deal? How is this better than a chair?
According to Prevention.com, sitting on a stability ball requires muscle contractions in the core, hip and leg muscles, all of which contribute to muscle tone. Sitting in a regular chair, it says, requires no muscle activity. Plus, it can help your posture if you make sure you use the right form.
That all sounds good, but before you shove your office chair out the door and into the parking lot, know that some health experts say that sitting on the stability ball all day could have negative health effects due to increased pressure on the lower back, which is why they recommend alternating between your chair and the stability ball. I might try that next.
Too much sitting, we are now told, is bad for us. A lot of us sit all day at work, rising only to go to the restroom, the lunch room for food or coffee or the latest gossip. Again, health leaders say too much sitting can counter that great morning workout at the gym. Folks are citing studies that “sedentary behavior increases our chances of getting a disease or a condition that will kill us prematurely, even if we exercise.”
There is a solution to consider. It’s simply about standing, moving and walking at work.
I have in my office tools of the trade for short exercise routines and which cost very little money.
There’s a set of five-pound weights (actually, 50 pounds but they say five), a resistance band (equivalent to bench pressing 200 pounds), juggling balls and a kadama.
Every 30 to 40 minutes I stand, walk around for a few minutes, wave some weights, juggle and quickly do a few push ups. There’s really no way to be discreet about it. You just have to do it and say the heck with it if anyone thinks you’re weird.
A financial adviser told me uses his left hand to bounce a ping pong ball with a paddle at work, daily, to open up new pathways to the brain. Sounds nutty, but his success speaks for itself.
Anyway, the idea is to keep moving, keep active and keep the blood flowing. That in turns keeps the body strong and the brain sharp.
Who knows. Maybe dancing will give me ripped abs, too.
Bill Buley is the editor of The Garden Island. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org