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Opinion: Exercise ball a commitment to health, ‘new year, new me’

Liz Young uses her exercise ball at her desk in The Lantern newsroom.

Liz Young uses her exercise ball at her desk in The Lantern newsroom. Photo illustration by Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Like many of my peers, I came back from winter break rejuvenated and ready for a new year, new me.

On my mental list of things to do to be better this year was something I’d seen glorified in commercials and lauded by Internet experts — I was going to bring an exercise ball to work to sit on.

At my job, I sit for roughly eight hours per day. Though my chair is fairly comfortable, sitting for that long was starting to make my back ache.

When I told my mom, she suggested an exercise ball to remedy the issue — 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off alternating throughout the day would “engage my core” and lessen the strain on my back, she told me.

So I did it. I went to Target and got a big, gray exercise ball. Then I got home and read the back of the box, which emphasized that size was for people more than 6 feet tall, which is at least a foot taller than I am. So I went back. I got a medium-sized blue exercise ball, which I was positive would be perfect.

Then one of my friends brought in her blue exercise ball first and we found out that, no, the blue one was definitely not big enough for us to comfortably reach our keyboards.

I returned to Target and grabbed the gray ball for the final time, but already I was beginning to feel like a complete diva who was blowing my real problem of dealing with a backache out of proportion. Already I was starting to move this particular “new year, new me” bullet point into the “try again next year” category.

But I brought it to work anyway. After inflating the ball, which requires pumping it up with a small hand pump and took a surprising amount of time and energy, I began my first day of work on it.

It was magical.

Being able to bounce around sometimes was great, I was pushing myself to sit taller, and mentally I felt like I was actually following through with a goal I’d set for myself. My core, however, didn’t feel engaged, so I was concerned maybe the ball wasn’t doing its job.

People made plenty of jokes geared toward my friend and I, who are still the only two so far to embrace the exercise-ball-at-work lifestyle. But then others started asking to use the exercise balls during our 30-minutes-off periods, and they started liking them, too.

About two weeks after I started using it, I didn’t sit on my exercise ball for several hours at work. And I felt my back cramping. And suddenly I realized — my exercise ball is making a difference.

Now comes the part where I make this into a deeper, broader lesson about life: Accomplishing one goal, just by committing to and following through with sitting on an exercise ball, has without a doubt pushed me closer to completing my other goals as well. Having one easy “resolution” I can check off each day makes me more likely to keep working toward the harder items on my list.

My advice is to get an exercise ball this year. It’s worth the jokes, and it’s definitely worth the $15.

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