Can a Yoga Ball Help You Learn?

A school in Philadelphia has replaced the chairs in one fifth grade class with yoga balls to help kids focus and learn!

The idea behind the switch is basically this: kids have a lot of energy. When they sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair, they’re able to be a little bit antsy but still concentrate on their schoolwork. Robbi Giuliano, the teacher who made the switch told the Washington Times, “I have more attentive children. I’m able to get a lot done with them because they’re sitting on yoga balls.”

Exercise and Learning

Ms. Giuliano’s yoga ball experiment wasn’t just a random wild idea that turned out to work. Many schools are incorporating exercise gear to help facilitate education, and there’s research showing that physical activity improves learning. Dr. Majid Fotuhi, the Chairman Baltimore’s Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness has studied how exercise affects cognitive function, and he says that exercise helps kids’ brains in three ways:

1. Increases blood flow to the brain.

2. Increases the production of BDNF, a protein that improves brain growth and function.

3. Increases the brain tissue growth.

The exact amount of exercise kids need for better learning is still unclear, but Fotuhi recommends at least an hour a day for improved cognitive function.

Related Reading: 7 Ways to Jumpstart Your Workout

He also stresses that fitness is about more than just getting in that exercise: it’s also about getting good nutrition. He points to the childhood obesity epidemic, saying that exercise and good nutrition should be part of our children’s educations.

Health Benefits of a Yoga Ball

What strikes me most about this wonderful story is that these kids are getting benefits beyond increased concentration in class. Anyone who sits all day can benefit from ditching that chair for a yoga ball. Sitting is hard on our bodies, and the yoga ball helps counteract many of the problems that come from planting our butts in desk chairs all day long.

Related Reading: 10 Exercises for Better Posture

When you sit on a yoga ball, you’re active. Just keeping the ball under your body helps strengthen your core muscles and engages the muscles in your legs.

It’s also a lot easier to stretch on a yoga ball without being disruptive. Just slightly shifting your weight around can stretch your abs and lower back, so you can stay limber even if you’re stuck at a desk for eight hours.

When I started having lower back pain from pregnancy, I started using a yoga ball instead of a chair, and it’s made a huge difference. I mentioned how much I liked it on Facebook, and several people suggested that I needed an expensive, plastic apparatus to “turn” my yoga ball into a chair. After a little research, this seems to defeat the purpose of the yoga ball. Isn’t the whole idea to improve balance  and strengthen your core while you’re working? Maybe I’m missing something about these things, but they seem like a waste of money and resources to me.

The kids in that Philadelphia classroom aren’t using any expensive gadgets – just big, bouncy, wobbly yoga balls – and from what their teacher is reporting, they’re definitely seeing the benefits!

Do you sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair or use one of those fancy yoga-ball-chair-gizmos? Do you feel like it improves your concentration or overall fitness? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!


Sonia M

Interesting post thanks for sharing

Hj J.
Hj J.3 years ago

I teach third grade students who all sit on stability ball chairs. I sit on a ball chair that has a back, arms, and rollers. I chose this chair instead of the ball chair, because I roll from my desk to the carpet during direct instruction times to quickly check for understanding. It's quicker for me to roll than to get up each time, because it takes longer to get up and sit back down on a regular ball chair. I do, however sit on the students' ball chairs at their tables when I travel around the room to conference. I have used ball chairs in my classroom for three years. This August will begin my fourth year to teach with them. I LOVE having them in my room. I also have two fit disks for students to sit on that cannot balance on the balls. I had one student last year that had problems with balance, and could not sit on a ball chair.

Christie Millette

I am a research analyst - almost 95% computer job, and I'm normally a very active/healthy person, so sitting all day is pretty unbearable for me. I get up every 30 minutes and walk around every couple of hours, but it's not enough. When I start getting antsy I pull out my yoga ball. I just balance on it with my legs out straight and rock back and forth. I may look like a freak, but I'm healthier than all of my inactive co-workers who just sit and sit and sit and eat while they sit. I highly recommend one. I've also ordered a standing desk - I'm excited to see how this will help also.

j sian J.
j sian J5 years ago

I'll give this a go!

Vicky P.
Vicky P6 years ago

I think it's a good idea :)

Tammy Baxter
Tammy B6 years ago


Kate S.
Kate S6 years ago

I think it is a great idea

Robyn Bashaw
Robyn Bashaw6 years ago

This sounds like a great idea! I'd love to hear about more schools implementing this. And I think I need to try it for myself!

Mary B.
Mary B6 years ago

I have a yoga ball chair that I bought used and I have it at my home computer. I really like it because it causes you to sit up straighter and it's squishy enough that it releases compression on the tailbone and lower spine. Also, since it's round, you don't get the pressure on the backs of the legs.The chair has casters on it so you can move around on it like a regular desk chair. I don't know how much excersize I'm getting on it, but it's very comfortable and perhaps in a few months the results of the minor movements will be more evident. I do find that lifting my torso up as I straighten encourages me to flex the larger outer core muscles. This seems like a good thing.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago