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On the ball, on task, all the time

I have really been on the ball the past few weeks.  No, for real.

At work I have been sitting on a gray fitness ball that is meant to exercise your core.

I was inspired by reading about intervention teacher Lynn Davis's students at Kanawha County's Point Harmony Elementary. The Daily Mail's education reporter, Amber Marra, wrote about them back in September.

After I read the story, I couldn't get those guys and their bouncy chairs off my mind.

Davis called the kids' seats "brain balls."

Many days, I totally need a brain ball. Or at least more coffee.

In Davis's class, students tend to have a hard time sitting still long enough to focus on their work. In the teacher's words, sitting on the balls helps the kids "get the wiggles out."

Back when the story was written, Mikey Toscano, 7, gave the balls a big endorsement as he bounced lightly, waiting on his teacher to hand him his vocabulary cards.

Like the rest of his class, his favorite part about the balls is bouncing, even if it does make him a little dizzy sometimes.

"It helps me because when I bounce and roll it makes me focus my head," Mikey said.

During the next few months, as I sat in my big boy chair and fidgeted, Mikey's impression of his seating situation sounded highly desirable to me.

I wished a lot of times I could bounce and roll and focus my head.

So, one day at Target, on my way to find a buttery pretzel, I got lost in the exercise section. I noticed the fitness balls there. I picked one up and examined it.

Could this be the optimal workplace seating for me?

Well, no.

Actually, I am certain that the optimal workplace for me is one of those Segway people movers with an iPad attached. Using one of those, I would constantly be on the move while also typing away.

But that plan is not feasible for financial and safety reasons.

So I picked up an exercise ball and bought it.

A few days later, I took it in to work and pumped it up. Pumping might be the only exercise I've ever gotten from my ball.

The package was loaded with a black plastic manual pump: "Whoompa, whoompa, whoompa," and eventually there was enough air to take a seat.

The ruling: I like my new throne, especially if I keep it appropriately inflated.

Like Mikey, I can bounce ever so slightly while I'm concentrating. When I get fidgety during a meeting, I can wiggle around a little bit.

Importantly, it is "anti-burst." Furthermore, it is portable.

And, if I get angry, it is almost OK to throw at fellow employees.

I don't do actual exercises with the ball, so I don't think I'm getting a workout. But maybe I'm getting more small muscle movement than I realize.

The ball does make me focus on my posture. And it's a problem if the ball starts to deflate. If the ball sags, then I sag. A couple of times, I've ended the day with a slightly sore middle back.   

Most importantly, my ball changes my point of view a little bit. I don't get settled in to a chair, so I feel like I don't get settled in to a rigid viewpoint either.

Our world is changing fast, so we need some "wiggly" thinking. If it takes a bouncy ball to remind me of that, then a bouncy ball it is.

More to the point, the modern workplace seems to require two kinds of thinking. One is old-fashioned focus. The other is scattered-attention multi-tasking.

Neither is perfect.

Does my bouncy ball encourage a third way that sort of splits the difference?

I hope so. I hope it's the wiggly way.

McElhinny is the Daily Mail's managing editor. Reach him at 304-348-5129, bradmc@dailymail.com or at Twitter.com/BradMcElhinny.


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