'We're not playing!': West Japan city tests exercise balls to replace chairs
TANABE, Wakayama -- The municipal government of this west Japan city began testing exercise balls to replace chairs at the offices of the mayor, deputy mayor and some other employees this month because they are said to be effective in preventing and easing the symptoms of lower back pain and shoulder stiffness.
Currently, only those who are interested in the balls are using them instead of chairs. The city government is eyeing the balls' full-scale introduction if they prove effective in testing, which will run until January 2022.
The chief of general affairs department at the city government came up with the idea because a number of employees suffer lower back pain and other issues. Sitting on an unstable ball improves core strength and is said to ease the symptoms.
Examples of private companies that have introduced exercise balls were apparently earlier cited at a joint conference on public health enhancement between the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Japan Sports Agency. The Kushiro Municipal Government in Hokkaido, meanwhile, bought four balls at the public's expense and has been testing them since June this year. Exercise balls including privately-purchased ones are reportedly used at more than 10 Kushiro government office locations.
At the Tanabe government office, balls with diameters of either 65 or 75 centimeters are currently being tested at 12 locations, and apparently there have been positive comments such as "My back pain has been eased." In light of public sentiment, the balls are not used at divisions with public counters. If an in-house committee judges in January that the balls are effective, the municipal government intends to allow their use in all departments. Users have purchased balls at their own expense, and the city said this will not change even if their full-scale introduction gets rolling.
Tanabe Mayor Mitsutoshi Manago attended a news conference on Nov. 24 sitting on an exercise ball. Manago, who says he has been troubled by shoulder stiffness, commented: "At first, it was a little bit tough to sit on this for a long time, but it was OK after I got used to it. Though I haven't noticed the effect yet, I feel my posture has improved."
(Japanese original by Yukihiro Takeuchi, Tanabe Local Bureau)