During the pandemic, many Americans transitioned to working from home, and several still have a hybrid or fully remote job. In fact, nearly 42% of American workers switched to work-from-home jobs. With that came some challenges, including ergonomic workstations.
Whether you work at home or are back in the office, sitting all day can increase several health risks, including stroke. Instead, utilizing balance boards and standing desks can reduce your daily sitting averages, improve health outcomes, and even help you shed a few pounds.
Are you still interested? In our article, we are going to answer the question "what is a balance board?" and help you get started on how to use one during your workweek. Keep reading on for more information!
What Are Balance Boards?
Balance boards are flat or slightly curved boards that you stand on for balance training. Balance boards create an unstable surface and are found in various shapes and sizes, from wood to dome-shaped. Usually, the bottom has a rocker or ball that makes the board tilt from side to side, forcing you to find your center of balance to keep it steady.
Rocker boards function slightly differently but follow the same concept. Their unique U-shape design is easier to store at home and can be easier for balance training or used as a beginner trainer tool.
Most rocker boards are rectangular, allowing you to shift your weight from side to side. Some designs are circular and incorporate front-to-back movements.
Balance Board Benefits
Balance boards have primarily been popularized through physical therapy and sports rehabilitation. Physical therapists and athletic trainers often use balance boards for:
- Ankle injury rehab
- Improving balance and coordination in geriatric populations
- Strengthening lower extremity muscle groups
- Improving motor skills
- Improving posture
- Preventing future injuries
It can be a valuable tool for fall prevention in older adults and help high-class athletes return to their sport. But what about the rest of the population?
In recent years, balance boards have also increased amongst adults looking at improving their physical activity or weight loss. Balance boards can help with healthier body weight by encouraging adults to remain standing for a longer period.
In return, balance boards also help with proprioception or your body's awareness of where it is in space. Chronic ankle instability affects up to 74% of people that have had a previous ankle sprain.
Instability reduces ankle proprioception, leading to higher risks for falls, re-injury, or osteoarthritis. Researchers found that proprioceptive training improved balance, stability, and functional outcomes.
Standing Desk Balance Boards
While there is proof that most Americans can benefit from standing boards to improve balance, proprioception, and prevent the risk of injury, standing desk balance boards have a myriad of advantages. There are two ways you can use office balance boards:
- Increase movement while standing
- Improve balance, strength, and mobility while standing
Let's dive into the first advantage: increasing movement. The downside to standing desks is it can be challenging to start standing for hours daily. There are a few ways to combat fatigue or discomfort while standing, such as:
- Adjustable standing desks
- Ergonomic stools/chairs
- Standing mats or balance boards
Adjustable standing desks are critical for back pain relief and improving posture. Ideally, your desk should be at a height where your elbows rest at 90 degrees with your shoulders relaxed. Ergonomic stools and chairs are a great starting tool if you have difficulty remaining standing, but they ultimately don't fully replace all the benefits of standing while working.
Balance boards relieve pressure and allow you to move more freely throughout your day. If you choose a multi-directional rocker board, you can shift your weight side to side or front to back, creating more movement and mobility than static standing.
Next, you can use your office balance board as an exercise tool. Instead of shifting your weight to the side, so the bottom of the rocker board touches the ground, try finding your center of balance. Even doing a few minutes of balance training before taking a break can lead to several of the benefits noted above.
Do You Need To Stand More at Work?
Sitting for more than six hours daily increases your risk of death by nearly 20%. That statistic alone is enough to prove that standing throughout your workday can reduce chronic illness risks, such as:
- Heart disease
Additionally, you will start to burn more calories. The average number of calories burned while standing varies on sex and body mass. However, most individuals burn between 100 and 200 calories hourly while standing.
On the contrary, sitting burns between 60 and 130 calories. Standing tends to burn more calories because you engage more muscle groups and muscle mass. Individuals also tend to move more while standing than sitting or lying down. Try swapping a few hours during your workday for standing and start seeing the difference in your energy, mood, and weight.
Static Standing vs. Balance Boards
Now that you know some of the key benefits to standing while you work, are balance boards superior to static standing? As with many things, prolonged static standing has some negative health impacts.
Researchers found that workers who performed repetitive movements and carried heavy objects in standing had higher complaints of:
- Low back pain
- Lower extremity pain
However, this study showed limitations since it only evaluated workers who performed heavy labor, and it didn't specify whether sitting rest breaks were given. It does show that prolonged standing can cause discomfort, and it is essential that you take rest breaks as needed and slowly increase your standing tolerance.
Balance boards break up the monotony of static standing and engage more muscle groups, including your core. Using a balance board challenges core stabilization and engagement. Further studies show that regularly using a balance board decreases fall risk and ankle or knee injuries.
Anti-Fatigue Mats vs. Balance Boards
Another debate is whether anti-fatigue mats are better than balance boards. Anti-fatigue mats work differently than balance boards. They are designed to:
- Improve comfort
- Reduce stress
If you want to improve standing comfort and tolerate longer periods of standing, you may find an anti-fatigue mat worthwhile. They are designed with thicker cushioning that helps disperse weight and reduce fatigue and stress on your lower extremities.
On the other hand, balance boards are more challenging and engage more muscle groups. The benefit is you don't have to pick or choose. You can start your day by standing on an anti-fatigue mat and progress to brief 30 minutes intervals on the balance board.
Are Balance Boards Replacements for Exercise?
Compared to standing, balance boards provide a form of low-impact exercise and micro-movements. Both these can replace some forms of exercise. Ultimately, if you can't make it on a walk or to the gym, swap your static standing with a balance board.
Ideally, standing or moving more throughout the day while sitting less offers several health benefits. Yet, the CDC still recommends 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.
Additionally, you should also aim for two days of strength training. Here are some ways you can incorporate more exercise into your day while using office balance boards:
- Try taking a short walk before you start your work day (hint: if you have a dog, it would be an excellent time for a morning stroll!)
- Take another short walk during your lunch break.
- Spend some time playing with the kids or dog after work
- If you live alone, look for short hikes or trails in your area
There are several ways you can move more throughout the day and achieve your thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. Using balance boards while moving more will help strengthen your legs and core musculature to help you improve your muscular endurance while participating in walking or hiking activities.
What To Look For in a Balance Board
Durability is a key component when shopping for a balance board. Ultimately, pick a brand with a good reputation, excellent online customer reviews, and affordable prices.
Reputable brands will have a few standing desk balance boards that you can choose from, along with other ergonomic desk features. Quality materials might include wood, aluminum, and non-skid surfaces.
Once you have found a balance board from a qualified company with good reviews, and high-quality materials, you should compare prices. Ultimately, you can find a balance board ranging from under $100 to over $200.
Cheaply made balance boards might have a more affordable price tag but may pose safety concerns, not last very long, or be uncomfortable. Affordable prices are important, but ensure your product meets the three other goals above.
When you purchase your balance board, you need a standing desk (if you don't already have one). While this guide won't dive into the specifics behind each standing desk, there are several options to accommodate your needs, such as:
- Electric adjustable desks
- Mini standing desk
- Desk conversion
You can pick from a brand new desk or a conversion standing desk that fits on top of your current one. Whichever one you pick, ensure it is compatible with your office space and height.
Types of Balance Boards
Uncaged Ergonomics offers two types of balance boards: Base+ and Base. Both are rocker balance boards that allow you to move in every direction. They are also safely engineered to provide the best balance board results.
The benefit of using an Uncaged Ergonomics balance board is the design features. The Base+ and Base were designed with your comfort in mind, allowing you to remain in a relaxed posture without constantly balancing. Ultimately, you receive all the benefits of a standing balance board without over-exerting or fatiguing your muscles.
This allows for greater usage of a balance board and fewer complaints of pain or discomfort. Plus, the board comes fully assembled, and all you have to do is set it on the ground and start seeing the difference!
Two-dimensional balance boards or balance balls are limited in their comfortability and versatility. For example, balance balls are more useful in an exercise setting, but difficult to remain in a relaxed posture while working.
Purchasing a two-dimensional balance board only gives you the option of moving from side to side. While you receive some of the benefits, they do not allow for the forward and backward movement that can improve comfort and engage more muscle groups.
Balance Board Exercises
Ultimately, standing desk balance boards should be comfortable and help you remain standing for the majority of your work day. That doesn't mean you can't also use your office balance board as an exercise tool. Here are some simple balancing exercises to get started:
- Static balance
- One-legged balance
For a simple exercise, try finding the balance board's center, and don't let it tip in any direction. As this exercise becomes easier, you can add squats or try it with one leg.
Luckily, the balance board can also improve your upper body and core strength. Try placing both hands evenly spaced on the balance board.
Like the static balance exercise, don't let it tip. For an added challenge, perform a push-up while keeping the balance board steady.
Improve Your Workspace
Have you wondered how balance boards can help you improve your workspace's ergonomics, strength, and mobility? Balance boards don't have to be used only for workouts.
Although, it can be an easy-to-use tool for on-the-go workouts. Try incorporating a balance board to challenge your muscles, improve proprioception, and boost comfort while standing.
At Uncaged Ergonomics, we have helped hundreds of individuals improve their health and wellness through standing desks, balance boards, and much more. Check out our website to get started with your next purchase!