Standing Desk vs Exercise Ball: Which is Best for You?

Improving posture is the main reason to consider the standing desk or exercise ball. Both offer the chance to improve posture, but they do this differently. Prolonged sitting is bad for posture and overall health. Some of the regular office chairs today aren’t known for promoting proper posture so desk workers seek out alternatives such as a sit-stand desk or even a cheaper option such as an exercise ball. This article will compare the standing desk versus the exercise ball to see which is better to use.

Key Takeaways:

  • Exercise balls may be used for short sitting periods and have the added benefit of strengthening core muscles.
  • An exercise ball cannot replace a regular office chair for long hours of sitting and should be used sporadically as a standing desk alternative.

The Difference Between Standing Desks And Exercise Balls

There are considerable differences between a premium standing desk and an exercise ball. Both these standing and sitting solutions can impact your focus, comfort, and stability.

CriteriaStanding DeskExercise Ball
StabilityStanding desks are more stable compared to exercise balls
There’s no rolling risk involved with standing desks.
Exercise balls aren’t very stable
This is both a disadvantage and their main advantage as they engage core muscles for proper posture and sitting at the desk.
ComfortUsing a standing desk (either seated or standing) is highly comfortable as it requires no effort.Sitting on an exercise ball is completely different from sitting on an office chair as it requires constant core muscle activation.
FatigueYou can suffer from delayed fatigue from standing for many hours at the desk.Early sitting fatigue is specific to exercise balls which tire muscles quicker. It’s also an excellent way to remain active at a standing desk.
Focus & ConcentrationOptimum and even enhanced focus has been researched for standing desks.The focus might suffer on exercise balls that require constant posture micro-adjustments.

What Is An Exercise Ball?

An exercise ball is a large inflated ball made from soft materials. Exercise balls are sometimes called stability balls, yoga balls, or even ball chairs. Exercise balls have been initially used for exercises but they can also be an alternative to a traditional chair.

An exercise ball can be purchased from sports goods stores and may be used as an alternative to a regular chair for the sitting period of using a standing desk. Apart from the ball shape itself, exercise balls may also come in the form of an exercise ball chair. This is an adapted office chair in the shape of an exercise ball.

exercise ball at a standing desk

The Benefits Of Using An Exercise Ball

Exercise balls or vinyl balls come with numerous posture and general health benefits. While some of these are also relatable to standing at a desk, they are mostly seen with exercise balls.

  • Enhanced core strength – higher core strength or improved core endurance in trunk muscles is specific to exercise ball benefits. The strongest muscles are always those that are frequently activated.
  • Improved posture through core activation – lower body muscles get activated frequently when sitting on exercise balls. In turn, this leads to improved posture as you learn to micro-adjust only with a straight spine.
  • Promoting good posture through core muscles activation – musculoskeletal disorders may be combated by promoting proper posture with sitting solutions such as an exercise ball.
  • Promoting changing positions when sitting to combat poor posture – most importantly, an exercise ball stops you from sitting with poor posture even when sitting for long periods in standard eight hours shifts.

Standing Desk Pros & Cons

Standing desks are now recommended for extended periods at the desk. They support both a normal seated position and standing while minimising health risks associated with long periods of sitting.

  • Ideal for stability and standing posture – even a top physical therapist can recommend a standing desk for better posture at the desk. There’s also improved stability standing or sitting on an office chair compared to sitting on a balance ball.
  • It can be used both while standing and sitting – a standing desk can be used while sitting and standing while an exercise ball forces you to sit. Standing desks can also be configurable to achieve the ideal standing desk height for better posture.
  • Compatible with multiple sitting solutions – you can use standard office chairs with a standing desk. You can also use pain relief chairs such as kneeling chairs or exercise balls at a standing desk.
  • Not as cheap as sitting an exercise ball for sitting posture – lower back pain might be more difficult to manage with a standing desk. Moreover, the costs of a standing desk have a higher price tag compared to simpler solutions such as an exercise ball or even attempting to change positions while sitting on a regular office chair.

Exercise Ball Pros & Cons

The standing desk vs exercise ball debate also needs to take into account the unique advantages of a stability ball. There are also a few drawbacks to starting to sit on an exercise ball chair at the desk.

  • Exercise balls may reduce pain caused by improved sitting posture – exercise balls engage core abdominal muscles. This forces you to stand up correctly and even to think about your posture more than a regular desk chair.
  • You may burn more calories on exercise balls compared to standing the entire workday – An exercise ball is cheaper than a stand-up desk – researchers agree you can burn around 50 calories per hour simply by switching from an office chair to an exercise ball.
  • Balance balls may not be ideal for long hours of sitting as they require micro posture adjustments – one of the main drawbacks of exercise balls is they lead to core muscle fatigue faster than standing or sitting on a regular office chair.
  • An exercise ball may not be the most elegant sitting solution in an office setting – some offices have strict policies and may not allow exercise balls.
  • Your exercise ball needs to be large enough so that you can still work at the optimal standing desk height in the seated position.

The Practical Differences Between A Standing Desk And An Exercise Ball

Apart from the health and posture benefits of standing desks and exercise balls, there are practical differences to consider for your desk setup.

Body engagement level

You may favour a sit-stand desk over a yoga ball if you don’t like as much body engagement while working or if you have a specific chair that you prefer to use. You might even find sitting on an exercise ball distracting while working.

Range of motion

Your legs and lower torso might be the only moving body part with an exercise ball so you’re a range of motion is much greater compared to a standing desk. There is also the possibility of a little lateral movement depending on how you are using your legs as stability. On the other hand, standing desks allow you to move freely when you want to and more so in the vertical position since you can choose to sit or stand at any time.

Spatial requirements

Depending on the room shape and size of the standing desk, it can be placed against a wall or in a busy office. Computer setups with an exercise ball may require a bit more space and clearance in front of the desk for the exercise ball. Plus, you need to figure out where you are going to store your exercise ball when it’s not in use.

Comfort levels

Comfort is subjective but there are differences between how you feel on an exercise ball and how you feel standing and sitting on an office chair. Exercise balls are soft, but aren’t particularly made for the ultimate comfort since there is no backing to support you. If you have an ergonomic chair then you may prefer to use that with intermittent periods of standing. To aid comfort whilst standing, some standing desk manufacturers provide anti-fatigue mats that are designed to cushion and support your feet for longer periods.

Which Should You Choose? Standing Desk Or An Exercise Ball?

Standing desks and exercise balls provide alternative sitting or standing solutions for better posture and comfort. A standing desk feels more comfortable and typically requires less engagement making it a worthwhile decision to use a sit-stand desk. Exercise balls are typically cheaper than a good ergonomic chair but they require more core strength to sit on they might be a superior option in pain relief or for actively thinking more about proper desk posture. You can choose a standing desk for better overall posture or an exercise ball if you already experience low back pain associated with stiff or weak core muscles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it good to use an exercise ball as a desk chair?

You may use an exercise ball for sitting at the desk for short periods as an alternative to sitting on an office chair or to standing. Using an exercise ball for long hours may be detrimental to your posture or even lead to injuries as they don’t provide a stable sitting surface as standard office chairs.

Can you sit on an exercise ball all day?

You should not sit on an exercise ball all day as this puts extra pressure on the lower back. Fatigued muscles cannot sustain and counterbalance the unstable nature of balance balls and this may lead to injuries.

Is an ergonomic chair better than an exercise ball?

An exercise ball cannot fully replace an ergonomic chair that is designed for long periods of sitting. Exercise balls are designed for exercise or short periods of physical activity and not for a full 8-hour sitting at-the-desk experience.


Exercise balls are a viable and cheap alternative that sitting on a chair at a standing desk. However, it primarily depends on the level of comfort you want and if you have any specific health-related goals that require a bit more muscle engagement. Exercise balls are best used sparingly and in conjunction with sitting and standing. Popular in physical therapy, exercise balls can be used together with a standing desk for the ultimate sitting and standing solution. You may even choose to sit on an exercise ball for short periods when sitting and not standing at the desk and still see improved core strength and better posture. If you’re ready to choose the standing desk, here are some tips to make the transition.

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