How Trading My Chair For An Exercise Ball Cured My Back Pain And Constant Headaches

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When people learn that I sit on an exercise ball at work, their reactions tend to be a mixture of disbelief, amusement and curiosity.

And frankly, I don't blame them. Twelve months ago if you'd told me I'd be spending eight hours a day sat atop an inflatable ball, I'd have spat my Americano over all over the keyboard and told you to get lost.

But now, I'm hooked. I feel the same kind of happiness sitting on my new-age chair as others do climbing into a bed of freshly-washed sheets or getting a hug from their child.

It might seem weird that I am so enamoured by a piece of plastic. But the reason for my admiration is simple: it saved me. *cue inspirational music*

After just a few weeks of sitting on my magic ball something miraculous happened, my back pain - once the bane of my existence - had vanished completely.

exercise ball desk

Let's rewind two years.

Like the many British workers, I have severe back pain. The cause? My sedentary lifestyle, which is so typical nowadays - I sit at my desk for eight hours a day, fight for a seat on public transport and spend evenings sat in the pub or flopped on the sofa, even when I cycle to work (which is admittedly rare) I'm in a seated position.

Before long my lower back pain begins to rise up between my shoulder blades and before long is causing fitful sleep and painful headaches. Fuck this, I think, I'm only 25 - I shouldn't be having back problems at my age.

And so I embark on a quest - a combination of massages, hot yoga classes and postural self-regulating (translation: forcing myself to sit up straight) - in a bid to ease my aches and pains.

But these activities can only provide temporary release. And I soon realise I'm fighting a losing battle. Three or four hours of TLC per week can't possibly undo 40 hours of wrongdoing, I have to change the way I sit.

So I tried sitting on an exercise ball, Technogym's Wellness Ball to be exact, and the rest is history.

My colleague Daisy (L) on her beloved blue ball and my silver spherical life saver

The ball encourages active sitting - the very opposite of passive sitting, which involves sitting in a fixed position on a chair.

By sitting in this way your back and hips are forced to perform a series of micro-movements that will help you maintain the correct posture and prevent back pains.

It's also great for your core. You have to engage your abdominal and lumbar muscles to keep the ball stabilised, otherwise you'd roll off. And that could be embarrassing.

The ball also allows you to effortlessly perform stretching, muscle strengthening, toning and elongation exercises in a small space.

In short, regularly practising yoga has taught me to think more about my body. Stretching out my hip flexes in crescent lunge posture or deep hip-opening postures such half pigeon, has made me increasingly aware of how little we move our hips on a day-to-day basis.

Our hips are ball and socket joints, not a hinge joints - yet most of us use them as if they were the latter. We walk, sit, walk, sit, walk, sit, lay down to sleep (and repeat).

Our lack of movement is doing serious damage to our bodies. Humans weren't designed to be so immobile. It's time we did something about it. Active sitting may be a small step, but it's a step in the right direction.

In addition to wiggling around on the ball throughout the day, Technogym prescribe regular exercise to aid core structural development - a must for the desk bound.

These exercises with help postural and structural strength, in turn supporting a better posture and reducing the risk of lower back pain usually associated to slouching in a chair over time.

  • Single Leg Lift – Sit upright on the Active Sitting Ball. Raise one foot off the ground and hold 30 seconds. Repeat with the other foot.
  • Dorsal Raise – Lie on the Active Sitting Ball with your stomach in contact with the ball. Straighten your legs and place your feet firmly on the floor shoulder width apart. Put your hands behind your head then lift your chest so your whole body becomes inline. Lower and repeat 7-10 times.
  • Posterior Chain Exercise – Place one foot on the Active Sitting Ball and, keeping the knee straight, flex foot towards your head. Place both hands on the ball, either side of your leg and then lower your torso towards your knee. Rise and repeat 5 times before switching legs.
  • Oblique Stretch – Kneel beside the Active Sitting Ball and bend your body over the top of the ball, keeping contact between the side of your body and the ball. Support yourself using the arm closes to the ball. Stretch out our leg and arm furthest from the ball, keeping your whole body inline. Hold this position for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
  • Crunch – Lie on your back with your feet raised on your Active Sitting Ball. Put your hands behind your head and tuck your chin to your chest. Tense your core to raise your head from the ground approximately 30cms. Lower and repeat 15 times. Alternatively you can sit on the ball, with your toes firmly pressed against a wall. Lean back as far as you comfortably can and then slowly bring yourself back to a seated position.

Each Wellness Ball Active Sitting comes with a code that you can enter when connected to the Technogym app to access training programs specifically developed in collaborations with doctors and spine specialists. Available in two different sizes, can be purchased on Technogym's website for £230 or at Harrods.