New Year's Guide to Sitting - Day 4 Backless Seating - The stool and the ball

To kick off the new year, I’m sending out a daily email this week, focusing each day on a different type of chair or way we sit.  At the end of the week, I will launch my long-requested audio guide for sitting!  

How we sit is more important than what we sit on, but...if your seating is working against you, you’ll be on a uphill battle to sitting better.  

Each day this week I’m talking about a form of seating, some common issues with each one, and suggest simple solutions to help with the most common problems.  If you missed the previous days, check them out on my blog.

One of the questions I'm asked most often is, "What about sitting on a ball?  Isn't that supposed to be good for your posture?"  The answer isn't a simple yes or no.

The ball is a great way to practice "active sitting" (ie. sitting upright without something to lean on)...but you actually have to sit actively, like this for it to be effective.  The ball can be especially effective because it moves.  Seating that's a little unstable makes you have to work a little harder (in a good way) and get the right muscles to engage to hold you up properly.

You could also end up sitting like this on a ball if you get tired and forget about your posture.  Slouching on the ball defeats the whole purpose!

So, what's the take-away here? 

1.  If you had never run more than a block or two to catch the bus, would you go out one morning and suddenly run five miles?  Probably not...or at least you'd think twice about it.  It's a similar idea with the ball.  If you're not used to actively sitting, you need to practice and start by doing it well for short periods of time.  When you get tired, stop and switch to a chair.  It's like couch to 5K for sitting.  Work up to it!

2.  Postural education is very helpful so that you know how to sit on the ball well (ie. take some lessons or classes) and so that you recognize the warning signs when you've been on the ball long enough.  

Take the same advice for sitting on a stool or on the edge of your chair.  I love sitting and working on my computer on a stool.  But even with all of the posture practice I do, I might get tired after an hour or so and want a little more support or at least a change of position.  

And check out what further topics to expect this week:

The couch
Seating in planes, trains and automobiles
The floor