Sitting on a stability ball improves attention span, reduces disruptive behaviours and anxious/depressive symptomatology, and improves flexibility and balance among grade 2 students


Objectives. Over the last three decades, physical activity, strength and flexibility have declined among Canadian children. Simultaneously, rates of attention deficit disorder and mental health concerns have increased. Using a matched case-control design, this study examined the behavioural, psychological, and physical outcomes of sitting on a stability ball (vs. regular classroom chair) among grade 2 students from a school in Ontario, Canada. Methods. Students in the experimental condition (n = 23; 55.6% female; Mage = 7.20; SD = 0.22) used regular chairs for one month before switching to stability balls. Students matched for age and sex from other classrooms served as controls (n = 18; 56.5% female; Mage = 7.22; SD = 0.27). Classroom teachers completed the Clinical Attention Problem Scale (Edelbrock, 1991) and the NICHQ Vanderbilt Assessment Scale (Wolraich et al., 2003) to measure attention span, frequency of disruptive behaviours, and anxious-depressive symptoms. A registered physiotherapist blind to group assignment assessed strength, flexibility, balance, and posture. Measures were conducted at baseline and repeated at 8-weeks and 5-months after switching to stability balls. Student/teacher preferences were also assessed at year-end. Results. Between-groups repeated-measures ANOVAs demonstrated that students in the experimental condition had improved attention span (p =.002, ?2 = .29), reduced frequency of disruptive behaviours (p = .001; ?2 = .32), and reduced anxiety/depressive symptomatology (p = .01; ?2 = .23),  compared to controls. Although group differences did not emerge for physical measures, within-group ANOVAs demonstrated improvements over time among students in the experimental condition for balance (ps = .03-.04, ?2s = .32-.38) and flexibility (p = .003; ?2 = .73). All students and the classroom teacher preferred the balls. Conclusions. Sitting on stability balls is well received and may improve attention span and reduce disruptive behaviours and anxiety/depressive symptomatology and possibly improve balance and flexibility among grade 2 students.