Review: A month with Hammacher's posture-improving exercise ball chair

I am a huge advocate of combining exercise with other activities &mdash most of my fitness choices have a social component to them (run clubs, volleyball teams, climbing gyms) and I do a lot of my editing and revising in the dog park. So the idea of being able to tone my tummy while blogging was too much to resist. Hammacher's exercise ball chair looks like a little alien on legs, but can it really improve my posture and strengthen my core while I work? I used to sit on a plain exercise ball, but I got sick of it rolling away every time I got up. (It's also only good for your posture if you sit on it the right way: it's just as easy to slouch or wiggle on an exercise ball as it is to activate your core muscles and sit straight.) Hammacher's exercise ball chair comes packaged in a rectangular box &mdash you have to inflate the ball with the included hand pump and build it yourself which, in retrospect, wasn't all that bad. The key is to pump it just enough so that your knees bend at a perfect 90-degree angle. The chrome-plated steel feet screw into a plywood base that keeps the ball from plopping out from underneath your seat. The chair has a pretty light blue, red, or black mesh cover, which makes it look like a cool piece of furniture and not a gaudy desk chair. I've been sitting on this thing for about a month now, and so far, I really like the way my back feels. I like that I can roll around a little bit on the chair without it giving out under me &mdash I can do slow pilates-style belly rolls while I type. Is it slouch-proof? No. But the fact that it feels the most stable when my feet are on the ground and my core is straight is incentive enough for me to stop sinking in my seat. My shoulders, however, are a totally separate issue. They still hurt like hell after hours in front of the computer screen. Does anyone know of a chair that alleviates shoulder pain? Product page [Hammacher Schlemmer]

About Lisa Katayama

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.
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15 Responses to Review: A month with Hammacher's posture-improving exercise ball chair

  1. Lori says:

    I recommend the Evolution Chair as it is an excellent healthy lifestyle seationg choice, combining a stability ball’s core strengthening health benefits with the convenience and manoeuvrability of a rolling office chair.
    Truly ergonomic, the height adjustable base (risers included) and flexible ball (50-60cm) provide the necessary ergonomic adjustments to attain the correct seated posture for users of different heights and weights.

    The Evolution Chair promotes functional fitness, offering an easy way to integrate stretching and strengthening during a busy workday and effectively combat the neck and back pain that plagues seated workers.

  2. Jeep323 says:

    It seems expensive, although you make a good point about it not rolling away and being more stable but again it is worth the extra $230.00, I’m not sure.

    Their’s a lot of posture exercises available that do not require any machines and in my opinion they are the safest and most effective. I especially like the prone cobra that I found on a posture exercise site.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nothing beats a “Swopper” ( Question is whether you can get your hands on it, where you live. Plus it’s really not cheap.

  4. zeta says:

    I agree on the Swopper. They are great. I bought one about three years ago and haven’t regretted it for a second – although the price IS a bit steep.
    A word of warning though: You have to take it slow with a Swopper. Start with half an hour on your first day, then extend this gradually. Although your probably won’t notive it wile sitting, a day on a Swopper is quite an exercise for your body.

  5. tripper54 says:

    Try shoulder and upper back strengthening exercises – pull ups, pull downs, various rows etc.

    As your strength improves, so will your sitting and standing posture.

    It worked for me.

  6. anon says:

    You should look at a Nordic Track Stayball. It’s about US$25 and has a smaller sand-filled bag in it to keep the ball from rolling away.

  7. dculberson says:

    Is it both shoulders or just one? I’ve found that a forearm support (distinct from a wrist rest!) helps if my mousing shoulder is bothering me. Unfortunately my current workstation setup doesn’t work with my forearm support.

    The one I have and love(d) is an Ergorest:

    The caveat is that you must have a solid edge to clamp it to that is at or below the level of the bottom of your mouse/trackball. My current keyboard drawer is metal and doesn’t work. It needs to be a thick surface like wood, particle board, thick plastic, etc.

    If both shoulders hurt, then as Anon1 said it’s probably your keyboard being too high.

  8. nolly says:

    I’m with Anonymous — Check your KB and mouse height. Your forearms should be parallel to the floor.

  9. Ladyfingers says:

    I found that I got shoulder pain from sitting upright and having my chair at the wrong distance and height from the keyboard. Just a centimetre or two made a difference, but it was always hard to get the chair at exactly the right combination.

    Then I discovered that by leaning my high-back chair like a recliner and propping up my feet with box or similar, I remained comforatble and relaxed all day. Lots of ironic remarks from coworkers along the lines of “no, no, take it easy” but I never have back pain any more.

  10. jeremynyc says:

    Other than a plywood bed I made in college, I don’t have a lot of furniture making experience, but here’s a thought for a way to go about this:
    * exercise ball (well duh)
    * bicycle rim
    * six short legs

    Should be able to drill holes in one side of the rim to bolt the legs onto, leaving the other side of the rim unmarred, so as to protect the exerball. As long as the six holes are drilled in the same spot along the edge of the rim, the legs should end up nice and even.

    I think the only trick would be finding a rim of the right diameter to hold the ball in the right spot, but even that shouldn’t be that hard, right?

  11. Anonymous says:

    I use a Fitdisk on a normal office chair. It’s tiny, cheap and gives you all the benefits of a ball without rolling away at being very obtrusive

  12. sarah says:

    Another good option: Gaiam has made a balance ball chair for at least 6-7 years. I still have the one I bought when they first came out, although I have replaced the ball 2x thanks to the cats (any 52-55cm ABS ball will work fine, I don’t buy the replacements they sell for $30).
    $80 right now, $100 normally. No mesh cover and not so shiny but…no way would I pay $250 for one of these, no matter how shiny!

  13. lynch says:

    You can get a swopper from

    They also have the Evolution chair ( which is pretty much the same thing, less expensive, but not nearly as shiny.

    I can’t imagine that it would be too hard to make something similar with some plywood and wheels.

  14. SamSam says:

    This looks good, but it says that it has the same exercise ball used in gyms. Well, those are, what, $20? So this is an additional $230 for, what… some stainless steel feet and a “polyester mesh outer layer”?

    That’s really pretty silly. Let’s see this on instructibles.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Try lowering your mouse and keyboard. Usually if it’s just one shoulder your mouse is too high. If it’s both it’s typically keyboard height and/or angle.

    In general, if any part of the weight of your hand or forearm is resting on anything other than your fingertips when you are typing, you are courting nerve problems in your wrist, elbow, or shoulder (depending on your setup and posture). Your hands should float in the air with your wrists neutral, which is quite tiring over long periods of time so people tend to rest the heels of their hands on something. This can be OK if the resting position keeps the wrists neutral, the shoulders dropped and places no torque or pressure on the carpal tunnel, but otherwise is likely to cause joint problems.

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