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Kids Get on the Ball to Stay Fit and Focused

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
11/13/2009 2:36 PM   :  129 comments   :  13,739 Views

Stability balls are a common piece of workout equipment- whether at the gym or at home. Some people even use them in place of a chair while sitting at work, because they help with posture and core strengthening. But what about kids who are sitting in a classroom for hours each day? Surprisingly, the benefits aren't just physical, but mental as well.

Chicago-area teacher Donna Yehl did an Internet search to find creative ways to help her restless fourth-graders focus better at school. She found stories about how stability balls not only help improve the posture of students, but also sharpen their attention and improved concentration. So this school year, metal and plastic chairs were replaced by 21-inch stability balls in colors the children chose themselves.

Almost immediately, she noticed the children sitting taller and focusing better during class. Although they aren't common, using stability balls in the classroom is gaining popularity. According to Dr. John Ratey from Harvard University, "Indications are that the tiny movements kids make while balancing stimulate their brains and help them focus." Professor John Kilbourne from Grand Valley State University conducted a similar experiment with college students who felt their concentration and focus improved when sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair.

Balls can also be a more cost-effective option compared to a traditional chair. Although teachers were concerned about misuse early on, by setting boundaries and presenting the balls as a privilege, they haven't had issues with kids misbehaving.

What do you think? Is it just a fad, or could they be on to something?


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Comments

  • 129
    Sooo true. We (my son and I) have a few stability balls. The catch is that although he knows that it is for exercise, he enjoys kicking it at me.
    Too fun funny. For a teenager, I love his spirit. - 10/12/2013   5:21:40 PM
  • 128
    I think that is a great idea. I wish they would have had something like that when I was young.I did not even have a computer though. I got to do all my papers on the typewriter all the while praying I did not mess up the page at the very bottom and could not fix it to look nice. LOL - 2/12/2013   8:14:29 PM
  • 127
    nice blog! I just purchased my second stability ball (smaller for the kids to use for core exercise simutaneously with me)....my first one was purchased as a "birthing ball" years ago....worth every penny! These end up in the yard as toys or chairs in the warmer months and in the living room as a comfortable alternative to traditional furniture. The kids love them!! I would like to see the schools try this more. I think success of appropriate use has a lot to do with the willingness to put the effort into teaching the kids to use them appropriately by all school staff right away. What a great idea by EWESTCOTT above....to have one or two in the classroom as a reward:) - 1/2/2010   5:01:03 PM
  • 126
    I think this is a great idea and would like to see more schools do it! Better to train (and force, actually) good posture early! You can scream, "Sit up straight!" til you're blue in the face and it falls on deaf ears. The benefits are so great but the kids don't know that for a long while. - 12/14/2009   3:40:12 PM
  • 125
    I have lost an inch from my waist since I swapped my office chair for a stability ball after reading an article on sparkpeople :o) - 12/3/2009   11:53:20 AM
  • 124
    We have several teachers at our school who use these in their classroom. The children seem to like them. - 11/22/2009   10:34:53 PM
  • 123
    I think I will take mine to work to give it a try! - 11/22/2009   7:15:53 AM
  • JLG5HEALTH
    122
    I work in a hospital and the nursing supervisor uses a stability ball chair. It is the oddest looking thing but her back has responded really really well to it. She loves it and the rest of us covet it. - 11/20/2009   10:25:00 AM
  • 121
    I was a substitute teacher for 10 yrs (and aerobics teacher) and had to leave for a more permanent type job. This job is sitting at a desk all day long...and ohhhh, how my backside hurt! I brought my stability ball in and ...tada!! No pain and my abs are strong! The chairs for children in school are made completely wrong and are very uncomfortable. I could see where sitting on a ballwould benefit many (once they got the bouncies worked out :-) ) But like many of you have said...for some kids it could spell disaster!! Do they have the stability ball chairs? or just the balls..??? Can you imagine a child having to chase the ball every time they stand up?? ( I have to chase mine!!) It's better than being forced to slouch all day though!! - 11/19/2009   8:27:50 AM
  • 120
    Thanks for this article. I will have to pull out my exercise ball and sit on it when I do homework or watch tv. - 11/18/2009   4:47:00 PM
  • 119
    I'm going to get mine out of the package and inflate it today! - 11/18/2009   10:18:44 AM
  • 118
    Great way to develop balance early on, if only I had a stability ball a decade ago my core would be much much better than it is now. - 11/17/2009   10:42:44 AM
  • VANANDEL
    117
    Guess what? It's what I'm sitting on right now! - 11/16/2009   11:05:27 PM
  • 116
    I, too, think this a wonderful thing! My four-year old son loves playing on the stability ball, and it definitely helps him focus! - 11/16/2009   9:46:46 PM
  • DANIELLEMSG
    115
    I work on school work while sitting on my ball and I think it helps me. - 11/16/2009   6:15:22 PM
  • SANDYF7
    114
    My son has sometimes had problems focusing in the classroom, I wish his school tried this idea. I was thinking of one for home, just afraid of how my dog will react. I have visions of Marley (from the movie) with a stability ball in the house, hee hee. - 11/16/2009   4:03:51 PM
  • 113
    OH MY GOSH! I Want to buy a whole set of these for my sons classroom! - 11/16/2009   3:45:46 PM
  • 112
    I got a stability ball for Christmas last year. I can really feel the muscles when I use it, but I must admit I have not used it that much. I am going to really try to use it more often, maybe try sitting on it while watching t.v.. However, I have two dogs and it is a little difficult to remain balanced with a 78 pound Golden Retriever and a 113 pound Lab / Great Pyrenees competing for your attention while you try to remain upright on a round ball. I guess that just makes it more challenging and more fun! - 11/16/2009   12:21:30 PM
  • 111
    We have one at home, I should use it more for this.

    Also, I have a 7 year old who is in a special ed class. His teach has him use one. HUGE difference. - 11/16/2009   12:17:56 PM
  • 110
    I recently bought a "ball chair" for my office and while I still have my old standard office chair, I have not used it since, as I prefer the ball chair. - 11/16/2009   11:25:23 AM
  • BSTRONG13
    109
    I love this idea for us at work! I have heard this for quite a while in the schools and they have tried it here locally but for some reason, it has not spread thru the community? We do have a lot of "mature" teachers though and they may not be into this type of thinking! - 11/16/2009   10:52:27 AM
  • 108
    I use these balls in my music studio - it really improves posture for my flute players! Plus, they love it:) - 11/16/2009   10:51:59 AM
  • 107
    The teachers could be onto something. I have two kids who are ADD/ADHD, and I could see the stability balls working very well for them. I have one of these balls at home. I should use it more often! - 11/16/2009   10:41:36 AM
  • 106
    My son's school is also using the balls. There are studies out there that also show the correlation between movement and the ability to retain information, esp in male students. - 11/16/2009   9:27:53 AM
  • 105
    This look like fun and everyone will do it..... - 11/16/2009   12:38:18 AM
  • 104
    This is Great!! I will implement this in my own home and with my students.
    I never did agree with the expectation of children sitting still in class. It's ridiculous for us to try and smother their natural energy, It just needs to be channeled correctly! Thank U for sharing this!! - 11/16/2009   12:12:44 AM
  • 103
    We used these in a speech therapy preschool I worked in with kids who had attention issues. We would put the balls on the stands so they couldn't move around. The kids could just bounce up and down and it really did help. It gave them just enough to do with their bodies that they could pay better attention the the teacher without getting bored or distracted. - 11/16/2009   12:03:23 AM
  • 102
    My office chair is a stability ball. Love it. Students in our high school health classes sit on stability balls, too. They seem to like them just fine. - 11/15/2009   7:44:35 PM
  • 101
    Love my Stability Ball...sit on it to watch TV and when doing some computer work. Makes my back feel terrific. - 11/15/2009   5:16:28 PM
  • REABARUAL
    100
    I have a stability ball in my living room, and everyone loves sitting on it while watching tv. They end up bouncing on it or doing some kind of exercise. I love sitting on it as well :-) - 11/15/2009   5:00:14 PM
  • ILLINITEACHER52
    99
    I have a stability ball in my special needs preschool classroom. It is used only with supervision and is definitely helpful. - 11/15/2009   3:56:19 PM
  • 98
    I really should bring mine upstairs and use it while I'm on the computer. Thanks for the idea. - 11/15/2009   3:38:39 PM
  • AJCOELHO
    97
    I watch TV, crochet and do weights at home. I love it. - 11/15/2009   11:52:22 AM
  • 96
    Occupational therapists working in pediatrics have known for years that this works, and have recommended use of therapy balls to homes and classrooms. It effects the underlying sensory processing system, but obviously has do be done with an eye for safety and the monitoring of misuse. - 11/15/2009   10:47:50 AM
  • 95
    I've seen them being voluntarily used in the classroom (special needs) as an option if the kids wanted them. The kids didn't fall off the balls anymore than they fell off their chairs. It gave the fiddlers something to fiddle with leaving them free to think. - 11/15/2009   10:46:00 AM
  • 94
    The teacher must have strict classroom management strategies. All I can see is the kids accidently - on purpose falling off the balls and onto the floor disrupting the class. I worked in a private yeshiva and the students were the rudest I ever dealt with. If you gave an inch they tried to hang you with it. I love the idea but the quality of character in the students and the support of the Dean's Office for disruptive kids would have to be paramount.

    The lightbulb just went off...now I have the solution to my discomfort at the computer. I've been struggling on these two chairs at the computer (one is the type you kneel on) and one is on wheels, and both are not right for my disability and herniated discs. The ball is sitting on the floor right next to me. Duh. Why didn't I think to have it here at the computer. Thanks for the suggestion. And PS I think the higher chairs are best in classrooms. Higher tables and higher chairs are the way to go...not low sitting desks. in loving kindness, Linda the Gardener - 11/15/2009   9:04:56 AM
  • 93
    I really enjoy my ball. I sit on my ball to watch television sometimes and even to do sewing at my sewing machine. This ball really helps my posture.
    Great Ball of Fire! - 11/15/2009   7:44:27 AM
  • CEDWARDS4
    92
    I would love to give it a try! - 11/15/2009   7:21:54 AM
  • 91
    Whatever is a help to children is a real plus in the classroom.
    Making it a priviledge to use one is a great idea.
    Kudos! - 11/15/2009   6:27:15 AM
  • 90
    Interesting concept. Anything that helps promote fitness and learning has to be a good thing! - 11/15/2009   1:12:56 AM
  • 89
    Sounds like a great idea. Gonna have to start using mine at home more. - 11/14/2009   11:56:29 PM
  • KASSIE09
    88
    I love the idea! I wish I would have these in my classroom as a kid! - 11/14/2009   10:43:49 PM
  • 87
    I live on my stability ball... at the computer, watching t.v., I love it!!!! It is here to stay!!!! - 11/14/2009   9:30:38 PM
  • 86
    Interesting... I'm wondering if the kids wouldn't fall off of it though. Are these more of a liability? - 11/14/2009   9:27:16 PM
  • AUNTIEJILL
    85
    I just sent the article to all my children's church and sunday school teachers. I like the idea! - 11/14/2009   6:36:02 PM
  • COLLOMR
    84
    I have been a special education teacher for over 10 years. I have used stability balls with some students and it seemed to help them, BUT with other students it was a disaster. I think it depends on the student and his/her individual needs - stability balls are not some "wonder tool" that will help all the children all the time.
    Also, a few posters have mentioned physical activity - I have found that THIS works great - let a fidgety kid get up, stretch, run a quick errand, go for a brief walk, shoot a few hoops, march in place, do some jumping jacks, etc. Costs nothing and really seems to help kids refocus. - 11/14/2009   6:09:44 PM
  • STOVER22
    83
    I have had a stabilty ball for years. I used to go to a fitness club that had them, so I purchased one for my house. I love it and it is really good for stretching the back - 11/14/2009   6:00:29 PM
  • 82
    what a fabulous idea! i will try this with my day care kids too! - 11/14/2009   5:39:59 PM
  • 81
    great idea!!! i'm going to do this for my neice and nephew while they are watching television - 11/14/2009   5:35:21 PM
  • 80
    Yes, I don't know where I would be without my snack foods. I love the Quaker Mini-Snack Rice Cakes, they come in so many different flavors. I also love my lite applesauce. TGF my Skinny cows ice cream sandwiches.....lol

    Maggie j. - 11/14/2009   5:33:30 PM

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