In the age of ergonomics, friendlier alternatives to sitting are available for workers whose behinds are glued to a chair for eight hours a day. Two of those alternatives are the wobble chair and the balance ball chair.
But which is better for your tush, your wallet and your office?
We'll take a look to let you decide for yourself, but spoiler alert: The Wobble Stool Air beats the balance ball chair any day of the year.
What is a Balance Ball Chair?
Let's start with the basics. A balance ball chair is all those wheeled things sitting around the office that look like they'll pop with one good poke.
The main feature of these chairs is the seat, which incorporates a balance ball. They come in a variety of sizes.
Some have backs. Most have wheels. But the large ball that makes up the center of the chair remains the same.
These chairs are made to help sitters with posture and to engage the core while users work. Lately, they have become popular for clerical workers.
What Is the Wobble Stool Air?
The Wobble Stool Air takes a somewhat different approach. Like the balance ball chair, it is made to encourage better posture and to work the core.
This design looks like a regular stool at first glance, but upon sitting on it, consumers will realize the seat is unbalanced.
We know what you're thinking: A lumpy seat? Why would I want that?
Except this cushion is uniquely designed to give control to your rump. It's up to you if you want to sit still or wiggle to engage your muscles. Additionally, the five wheels at the base make it easy to roll around the office with a little push.
So Which Is Better?
To determine which is better, we'll look at a variety of factors.
The number one concern many users will have is comfortability. After all, no one wants to sit on a chair that will make them groan, regardless of how good it might be for the spine.
Sarah Jio of Glamour spent a week with her ball chair and found it to be a fun addition to the office. She was surprised at how comfortable it was.
Unfortunately, one cannot overlook the fact that sitters are perched upon rubber, which is neither cool nor moisture-averting. Sitting for long periods of time can lead to some uncomfortable, sticky situations.
Comparatively, LA Times writer Roy Wallack said the Wobble Stool is a "perfect balance of wobbly-ness and comfort -- easily the best execution of the instability-chair idea that I have tested." In response to customer requests, Uncaged Ergonomics increased the cushiness of recent models with high success. Additionally, the stool materials are just like any other stool, meaning no excess moisture in uncomfortable areas.
So in this category, it seems the two are somewhat equal, though we have to give props to the Wobble Stool for the ability to rest or engage, which the ball chair lacks.
Researchers are still studying the effects of ball and wobble chairs, so the cat's not quite out of the bag on this one.
Past users claim the ball chair does encourage better posture because sitters risk falling off without it. However, researchers have found the opposite: The ball chair does not increase posture any more than a regular chair, and people slump just as much in it as they do elsewhere.
Studies also indicate the ball itself may be problematic for ergonomics. The wide seat provides an extra contact for your tush, so sitters tend to sink into the ball. This leads to heightened levels of back discomfort.
In fact, one study concluded that "the advantages with respect to physical loading of sitting on an exercise ball may not outweigh the disadvantages."
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on wobble chairs, but given there is no sinking sensation, the back discomfort may be eased.
Research again indicates ball chairs only minimally work the muscles more than a regular chair. But the sales pitches don't lie: You do have extra trunk and lumbar motion. It's just not enough to make much of a difference.
The Wobble Stool Air offers the same advantages, but with an added bonus.
According to senior ergonomist Line Barlund, ideal chairs are height adjustable so that users can open their hip angle (which works the core) and keep a more natural spinal curve by leaning back rather than fully sitting down. She also advises using something lightweight so it can be swapped for a regular chair when the inevitable slouching occurs.
Most ball chairs do not offer height adjustment knobs, and the sinking sensation means the hip angle is not as open as it should be. Because the Wobble Stool does not increase the contact between our rumps and the stool itself, it means the hip remains open.
Additionally, the height adjustments that the Wobble Stool offers make it ideal for standing or sitting.
While both the ball chair and the Wobble Stool are lightweight, the stool takes the cake here for sheer convenience. Ball chairs take up extra space, so users who have a regular office chair in addition to their ball chair (which Barlund suggests) may find themselves in a cramped area.
Advantage: wobble chairs.
Finally, we have to discuss safety.
If you've ever sat on a balance ball, you'll know the joy of rolling forward and backward or side to side. However, imagine the ball is stationary, you're sitting on top of it and you're trying to reach a cup of coffee.
It's all too easy to fall off.
A 2008 study of clerical workers confirmed this by putting themselves in "comical peril" anytime they had to reach for something.
Writer Gretchen Reynolds reports, "My attempt to use a ball chair ended after my dog ferried a thorn into my home office and the thorn lodged beneath the ball. I still haven't gotten the coffee stains off of the ceiling."
However, a Wobble Stool makes it easy to reach forward or to the side for that coffee mug without upending it over your head. The unbalanced cushion means all users have to do is lean. Even if they are uncoordinated, sliding to a standing position is much easier than it is in a ball chair.
And the Winner Is . . .
Sorry, balance ball chair. You're fun and comfortable, and you work out those muscles, but the Wobble Stool Air has stolen the win.
The height adjustment it offers and the small space it takes up alone may be enough reason to sway most people, but the ease of reaching for items in an office environment takes the cake.
Are you ready to order yours?
If so, read all about the Wobble Stool Air here. With a simple click, you can enjoy all the benefits it offers without the hassle of any personal comical perils.