Shawn Holmes, a ceramist at Becker Dental Lab in Herculaneum, MO, had been going to physical therapy in an attempt to relieve lower back pain and discomfort, which was only exacerbated by long hours at the bench. So when a co-worker made a novel suggestion—sit on a stability ball during the workday instead of a regular chair—he decided to give it a shot. After three weeks of alternately sitting in his chair and on the ball—which allowed his core muscles to acclimate to the new sitting position—he now uses the exercise ball all day. "It relieved my lower back pain and the fatigue in my upper back, shoulders and neck," says Holmes. "I'm also not as tired at the end of the day as I was when I sat in a chair."
Unlike most chairs which keep your body in a single, static position, stability balls promote what's called "active sitting." The ball's unstable surface forces your body to constantly adjust its position to stay balanced. This helps engage and strengthen the core muscles, improve posture and keep the spine and hips properly aligned. Physical therapy is now a thing of the past for Holmes and he believes active sitting played a big role in his relief.
Holmes' success with his unconventional seat has started a trend in the 20-plus-person laboratory. Eight staff members—including Owner Ken Becker and CEO Dan Becker—now use exercise balls for at least part of the day and have had similar success. "I'll never go back to a regular chair," admits Dan.
The lab uses standard stability balls that cost about $20. The balls come in different sizes and the pressure can be adjusted to fit the user's personal preference. Some balls even come with a weighted bottom to prevent rolling when not in use. "You do have to pay a little more attention, especially when you go to sit down," says Holmes. "But to date no one has rolled off their balls or had any ball-related accidents."