So, if you know what an exercise ball is (think like what you’d use in Pilates), you can start to picture this chair. It’s best viewed, here, on the manufacturer’s site:
A coworker suggested this to me last year after I mentioned my back injury from a few years ago (bad disc, never healed) and my constant un-preference for 8 – 12 hours of computer work in a normal office chair. I hemmed and hawed for the past year about maybe buying one of these funky contraptions, and in the past month or two really seriously considered it after regular office chairs just began causing me too much pain during the day. I even managed to snag a spare “exec” office chair at my office to try and abate the back pain, but it was no better after a day of constant work at the computer and then more hours of sitting at home in a similar office chair: my back would ache and I was pretty miserable by the end of the evening.
I did all the research about buying one for a while, trying to figure out if it was going to be tall enough for me. I’m pretty tall (5’11”) but I like my chairs to sit high, and the description of the chair says it’s good for someone 5′ to 6′. That’s a pretty big range, in my book. I did call the manufacturer and they said that the height of the ball is 25″ off the ground when the chair is assembled. I measured that against the height of my regular office chair and, allowing for the squishiness of the ball when a grown human sat on it, figured I could live with that.
My dad, sweetie that he is, got me one for Christmas because I’d talked about it so much. When it arrived, we realized I needn’t have worried about the height — it comes with 3″ extender feet that can be screwed into the casters to give the chair extra height (I’ll point out that this was mentioned nowhere on the website, however). The chair came within just a few days after my dad ordered it from Gaiam, and it took Engineerboy about 10 minutes to set it up. The ball has to be inflated partway and then let sit for a few hours and then inflated the rest of the way.
So now to the important part!! So far the chair is great. Aside from not putting too much pressure on your rear end, part of the major concept of the chair (as I understand it) is that you “actively sit” all the time. First of all, it sort of makes you sit up straight… it’s not impossible to slouch in this thing, but it’s much a more natural posture on the ball to sit up straight. So you’re working your abs and back muscles naturally while you sit which (just like in physical therapy) hopefully leads to a healthier back. Second of all, you kind of bounce while you sit, so you don’t just sit and get rooted into one (painful) place. I haven’t had it very long yet but I really like it so far over my $199 OfficeMax office chair.
Two other functionality notes: (1) the ball is uncovered. It’s that sort of thick texturized rubber. I was a little worried it would pick up pet hair, either through static or texture (so far it hasn’t), and I think it might be funky-feeling next to bare skin. I don’t think it will be a problem for me because I don’t generally wear shorts in the house. (2) the casters have locks on them to prevent the wheels from rolling if you want them to. So far in the two days of functionality testing they’ve proved remarkably easy to accidentally flick downward into the locked position with my heels. Since I work at home on a hardwood floor and constantly roll back and forth between two laptops, this is not my preferred configuration for the chair. Currently I seem to be constantly dragging one wheel that’s in locked position that I didn’t mean to be that way. A small annoyance but I mention it nonetheless.
If you’re interested in obtaining it for yourself, it’s sold on several other sites besides Gaiam.com, including Target / Amazon, Fogdog, and Drugstore.com, although Gaiam sells it for the lowest price from what I’ve seen and the shipping was fast, so might as well get it direct from the source. If you have any back issues or even if you’re just tired of you’re regular office chair, at $70 it’s a pretty darn good solution.