Original image

Does Sitting on a Big Exercise Ball at Your Desk Actually Do Anything?

Original image

A few years ago, the Swiss ball migrated from the gym to the office en masse. Swarms of desk jockeys rolled them into their cubicles, convinced that sitting for eight straight hours on a rubber ball counted as "exercise" and provided them with a subtle abdominal workout that sitting for eight straight hours in a chair did not.

Here, no less a man than Dwight Schrute explains the ball-chair's many benefits:

Unfortunately, Dwight and every other ball-chair sitter (including one mental_floss staff member who shall remain nameless) were making themselves look silly for nothing. Sure, the hype is all positive and the anecdotes of friends of friends make sitting on a ball seem great, but the data tell a very different story.

In 2008, researchers from the University of Waterloo had folks sit on both an exercise ball and an office chair for 1 hour each while performing various routine computer-based office tasks. Spinal posture and the activation of eight different muscles were recorded, measured and analyzed. While sitting on the ball, the the subjects' showed increased activation of one muscle group and decreased pelvic tilt (too much of which can be a postural problem) versus sitting on the chair, but also complained of increased discomfort. The researchers concluded that the small changes in biological responses were not significant and didn't outweigh the perceived discomfort enough to make prolonged sitting use advantageous.

A 2006 study by a different group of researchers from the same university was even more damning. That group had volunteers sit for 30 minutes each on an exercise ball and a wooden stool. Spinal posture and position, activation of 14 different muscles, and the pressure distribution over the volunteers' butts were all looked at. They found no difference in muscle activation between the ball and the stool, and concluded the ball had no effect on the volunteers' "muscle activation, spine posture, spine loads or overall spine stability." Like the the other study, their volunteers complained of lower back discomfort after sitting on the ball. The researchers suggested this was because the ball creates more butt-to-seat contact area, resulting in uncomfortable soft tissue compression.

So the fitness orb isn't the miracle workout Dwight claimed it to be, but there is a silver lining. If you've already got lower back problems, bouncing away at your desk might ease your pain. In 2007, two chiropractors from British Columbia (what is it with these Canadians and the Swiss Ball?) published some case studies from their practice, explaining that, for a few of their patients, short lengths of time on a ball reduced the recurrence and severity of back pain. (An important lesson gleaned from this paper is that the patients who saw a benefit didn't spend all day on the ball. They only sat while they were comfortable, whether that was for 2 minutes, 20 minutes, or several hours of their workday.)

Original image
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
Original image
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

Original image
Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
Original image

After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


More from mental floss studios