Using exercise balls as desk chairs at work has become the new trend, because hey, who wouldn't want to get flat abs while sitting? You may have noticed your hip, health-conscious coworkers swapping out their boring, old office chair to reap the benefits of sitting on a ball at work. Unfortunately, that’s all it is, sitting.

While it’s true that sitting on an unstable exercise ball activates your core muscles more than a static chair, it’s hardly enough to develop a six pack. In fact, the difference in muscle activation is only enough to burn an additional 4 calories per hour. Over an 8 hour work day that’s the difference of only 32 calories. The same calorie burn can be achieved by taking a 5 minute walk around your office.

One benefit that a good ergonomic chair can provide that a ball cannot is proper back support, especially for the lower lumbar region of your spine. Since exercise balls don’t have back support the natural tendency is to slouch forward, which in turn puts more stress on the upper back and shoulders. Exercise balls are only effective when you sit up straight with good posture, and that position can be difficult to maintain for long periods of time without a backrest.

Exercise balls are often suggested as a remedy for people who suffer from daily back pain. Though there are exceptions to every rule, the majority of people who have participated in studies found that their back pain was not reduced by sitting on a ball. In part because sitting on a ball chair involves more contact area between the seating surface and your backside, which causes you to sink into the ball. New adopters of ball chairs often reported increased discomfort in their backsides.

Many credentialed ergonomic and spine experts recommend that people with back problems do not use an exercise ball as their main office chair. Studies have shown that sitting on a ball while typing increases back muscle contraction, causes spinal shrinkage, and puts unnecessary pressure on your bones and soft tissues.

So, the simple answer to the question is no, exercise balls are not good ergonomic seating options. Let’s save them for the gym and opt for a well-fit office chair instead.

If you’re looking for a solution to all-day sitting you should try a standing desk or treadmill desk. Standing engages more muscle groups than sitting on an exercise ball and has more proven health benefits. You can also burn up to twice as many calories at a standing or walking desk than you do when you’re sitting, which definitely beats the 32 additional calories burned from sitting on a ball.