[Editor's Note: after reading some of the ergoweb.com articles and discussions relating to the use of balls as office chairs, Eric Durak contacted us to share his and his colleagues' work on the subject, including a report they produced following an internal study at the University of Santa Barbara. Eric notes that this is a survey report, not an actual research study conducted by an academic department.]
The use of the fitness ball in the workplace has instigated a storm of controversy and opinion over the course of the past few years in the ergonomics and sports medicine professions. Professionals have raised a number of comments and concerns in using this device as part of the workplace. They have cited a group of reports that have detailed issues related to using the ball (muscle activity, balance, safety) and the appropriateness of the ball in general as a part of office equipment.
The report I am presenting to Ergoweb may shed some light on the subject. In my capacity with the Injury Prevention Program I have worked with a number of staff personnel who are using fitness balls to sit on, and (like many of my colleagues) have wondered what outcomes have been derived from their use.
Our report looks at long term use of the fitness ball - as all of the users have had their own ball for more than a year, and from this initial report, the results are favorable. Does this mean that all office workers should use a ball vs. a chair? No, but in detailing specific issues related to using the ball (safety, back pain, balance, and length of use), we have attempted to answer some of the questions that have come up on Ergoweb. I welcome any feedback (or leave your comments publicly, below) from our colleagues, and thank the editors from Ergoweb for their consideration in printing this report.
Eric Durak, MSc, is a Wellness Specialist in the Injury Reduction Program, Dept. of Facilities Management, University of California Santa Barbara, CA, USA, where he designs, supervises, programs, and implements exercise, wellness, safety, and instructional programs for Facilities Management personnel as part of Worker’s Compensation cost reduction directives from the Office of the President of the UC system.