For once I’m cutting edge. I’m sitting on a ball as I write this, something I’ve been doing for a couple of years when I got tired of folding my body into a chair. At the time, I didn’t realize I was in the vanguard of a trend. But yesterday, I became a confirmed avante-gardist when I saw a story in the Wall Street Journal detailing that the use of exercise or ‘stability’ balls as office furniture was becoming popular with forward looking office trendies in technology companies like Google.
The Journal article displays a photo of employees in the New York City office of Naked Communications intently studying their laptop computers while astride the same size stability ball that I’m riding. From the photos, I can see that the mood of Naked Communication is rather somber, for the balls are either the color of pearl like my own or they are navy blue. I don’t wonder why there are no red ones. Obviously, only the most sedate choices in balance balls would be in keeping with the conservative image politics of Naked Communication. Yes, I have noticed an irony in the choice of ‘Naked Communication’ for that company.
Stability balls come in a variety of sizes and colors. The Wall Street Journal article states that $25 is the average amount for a full-size ball, the type you can sit on almost without fear of falling off. If that is true, I will hurry right down to Wal-Mart where I bought my second balance ball (my wife uses my first one-for exercise) for $7.25 and offer to sell as many as I can for $20.00.
I mentioned a fear of falling off my ball. Actually, that’s never happened to me, although I can see it happening to the inexperienced and recently graduated youngsters of Naked Communication. In the picture, they seem perplexed, a bit unstable, almost as if they didn’t know how to sit on a stability ball. I wonder if they are properly licensed.
An industrial designer interviewed in the Journal article advises ‘novices’ to start out using the ball in thirty minute increments. In the article, the reporter struck another cautionary note, quoting a physical therapist who mentioned that the balls have an ability to roll. Roll? Hello? My biggest fear is that some day my ball will burst and I will have only a nano-second to recover before I hit the floor. There’s a degree of irony in the degree of my worry about that, inasmuch as I work part-time in a boxing gym where the occupational hazards are significantly greater. But this is to digress. Stability balls are soft and comfortable. They do tend to shift a bit but that’s the point.
You must use your stomach and lateral muscles to keep your balance. It’s also fun to bounce a bit since that relieves anxiety and stress. My stability ball is of such a size that it is on eye-level with the computer screen. I prefer this arrangement to buying one of those elevating platforms for computer monitors which take up desk space and are expensive besides. The industrial ergonomist warns against fatigue followed by slouching, but there is something about a balance ball that makes you want to sit up and take notice, more helpful hints. I have more inclination to slump when I’m fatigued and sitting in a chair. I do have a chair in my little office. I use it as a rolling coffee table. I can raise and lower it by pressing on the little bar underneath, a technological innovation my stability ball doesn’t have.