When you sit in a regular chair your body is supported. While your muscles are working to keep you in that upright position, over the course of a day in that chair your muscles become tight and stiff from being “stuck” in the same posture. Over time your muscles adjust to being in that position regularly to the point that your entire posture is changed even when you stand up. You can recognize the posture of somebody who sits often. They may have rounded shoulders, tilted pelvises, and limited mobility in their spine, hips, and shoulders. Sitting on a fitness ball can help some of the problems that being in a seated position creates for your posture. While you are sitting on a fitness ball your body is forced to maintain a level of balance and control. Being on the round and unstable surface of the ball forces all of the deep stabilizers that keep your posture tall to work together as a unit. Because the ball is unstable, sitting on a fitness ball does not lock you into the position that a chair can. You are able to move and stretch your spine while still performing your work in a seated stance.
The whole object of sitting on a fitness ball is to improve your posture, but just because you are sitting on a fitness ball doesn’t automatically mean you will have great posture. You still need to be aware of how you are holding your body. Lift tall through your spine. Pull your chin back so that your ears are in line with your shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades down your back. Activate your abdominal wall. When your body gets tired of sitting, these simple steps can become more challenging.
When you are sitting on your ball your hips and knees should be at about a ninety-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. It is okay for your hips to be slightly higher than your knees but not the other way around. Also, if you are sitting at a desk or table, make sure that your arms are at a correct and comfortable level for the activity you are performing.
Let’s face it, sitting for a long time is not great for your body. Here are some easy ways to relieve some of the pressure and strain that it causes for your body. Bounce: Gently bouncing on the ball aligns your spine in its most efficient position and improves the endurance of your postural muscles. Bounce for a few minutes at least every hour that you are sitting. Hip Rolls: While sitting on the ball make a circle with your hips. Do 10 circles in each direction about every hour. This will help to relieve and stretch the muscles of your hips, pelvis, and spine. Pelvic Tilts: Tuck your pelvis under and then go the opposite way by sticking your butt out. Move back and forth, going a little further each time. Repeat about 10 times. This motion opens up the muscles around the pelvis and low back.
While it may feel great to have the freedom of motion and an aligned spine when you sit on your ball, that feeling may not last. If you sit long enough your muscles will get tired of being in that position. It is a good idea to alternate between sitting on a ball and on a chair that provides back support. When you start to get tired on one, switch to the other. It is an even better idea to take regular standing breaks. Stand up, walk around, stretch your arms overhead, and get a drink of water. When you change your body’s position often throughout your day you are able to reduce your fatigue and muscle tension.