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I’ll be honest; it takes very little to convince me that something is terrifying. Thanks to my obsession with Dateline, I assume that everyone is a rapist. I’m afraid to drive alone at night, or to walk anywhere without mace. And it’s not just human attackers that I fear…I am also deathly afraid of butterflies. So you can imagine my reaction to Sitting is Killing You, a graphic article about the health implications of working at a desk job, and sitting on your couch. The article circulated through my office like wild fire. Within two days, everyone had read it, and the whole office was abuzz. Convinced that I was going to die (after Web-MDing “Heart Disease” and self-diagnosing my imaginary symptoms as an indication that sudden death was inevitable), I ran to K-Mart in the 100 degree Tennessee heat to get me a big ball to sit on.
My love affair with this big blue ball didn’t start out as such. The stupid thing came with a GD hand pump, so I spent almost an entire hour huffing and puffing while blowing it up. Within 10 minutes I was sweaty and super mad. Once I finally got it inflated I took a seat. Because I was so sweaty, my legs stuck to the ball, and because I was wearing a skirt, the ball stuck to my butt every time I stood up. The ball was forcing me to sit up straight (I’m a big sloucher), engage my back muscles and tense my core. It was exhausting, and I really missed being able to spin around in my chair when I needed to talk to someone behind me. After that first day, I almost gave up. My back hurt, my legs felt weird, and I just felt off-kilter.
But, I stuck with it, and in the days and weeks that followed it got easier, and more fun! When I stopped being so scared that I would fall, I started bouncing as I listened to music. What I realize now is that the back pain was muscular, and since those first few days, I have not had an ounce of pain. I had also previously been experiencing some numbness in my right hand. That’s gone, too! And, okay, I don’t want to promise any crazy results, but I’ve been looking a lot more muscular lately, too.
Pros of ball sitting:
- Engaging back and core muscles
- Engaging leg muscles
- Active sitting as opposed to passive sitting
- Secret crunches! Here’s what I do: “Oh… I need to reach for this pen behind me” [tense core muscles and lean into almost a full backwards plank.] “Wait. I don’t need it, so I will come back to my normal seated position.” [Sit up slowly, still tensing core.]
Cons of ball sitting
- Not advisable to eat while sitting on the ball… especially soup
- Ball toots (aka fart sounds caused by your legs or shoes rubbing against the ball)
***If ball toots occur, you can limit your embarrassment by making the same sound again. This interrupts your cubicle neighbor’s thought process about you having possibly passed gas. They’ll think “Was that a toot? Oh no, she did it again. It must have been her ball.”
I think that everyone should give this a try for two weeks, and see how you feel. I think you’ll be surprised that you’ll actually look forward to sitting down at your desk—you’ll also enjoy meetings a lot more, since you’ll be forced to sit in a real chair!
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