An exercise ball is defined as a “firm, very large, usually inflatable ball used in various exercises, chiefly to strengthen the back, pelvis, and abdominal muscles” at dictionary.com. Originally referred to as a “Swiss Ball” upon its inception, this is also known today as a balance ball, gymnastic ball, Pilates ball, stability ball, and yoga ball, among others.
Originally created as toy called Gymnastik which is created by engineer Aquilino Cosani in Italy in the year 1963, the exercise ball turned out to become a great use in the medical field. With its use, Dr. Elseth Kong and Mary Quinton became successful in developing the Bobath method-a pediatric rehab program-of stroke/neuro-developmental rehabilitation. In the year 1990s, it was introduced in the fitness world.
A multitude of benefits can be derived from the use of exercise balls. First among these is posture correction. Because a ball is not stable, sitting on it forces the body to try to balance itself on it, hence, forcing proper spine alignment. This also helps improve one’s spinal health and decrease back pains. These exercise tools are also useful in weight control. As balancing on these balls require constant movement, more calories are also burned while performing these exercises. Also, stability ball exercises target the core body muscles-which are the abdominal muscles and back muscles-hence, allowing one to get the ideal six-pack body figure. Exercise balls are also used in strength training. As the use of these requires the body to respond to the instability of the ball to remain balanced, more muscles are engaged in the exercise, which overtime, become stronger.
Different exercises can be done using exercise balls and there are five easy steps that can be followed in order to reap the benefits of all these exercises. The first thing to do is practicing balancing by initially trying it near a table or any solid material that can be used as support. Once done, try rotating your hips while seated on top of the ball, this will help firm up your bum. While seated on this round object, try taking it for a walk by placing your hand on each side. Such movements will help you tone up your abs. Practicing ball squats is the fourth step. This can be done by positioning yourself against a wall with the ball at your back and moving you knees in a squatting position. Finally, while doing Pilates or yoga, try doing some ball exercises along with it.
Stability balls, medicine balls, massage balls, and hand therapy balls are the four types of exercise balls one can choose from. Strength training, dynamic balance, agility exercise, and dynamic flexibility exercises can be done using the stability ball which measures around 55 to 75 cm in height. Weighing 2 to 12 pounds, medicine balls are the ones used for plyometric exercises. On the other hand we have the massage balls which are used in body rolling. Finally, we have the hand therapy balls which are the smallest at 1 inches and are designed mainly for hand exercises and manual dexterity.
Exercise balls are indeed important inventions that are beneficial both in the medical and the fitness world. As such, owning one and incorporating these equipments on one’s daily exercise routine can definitely provide one with a number of benefits.
Michelle Lorenzo is a gym instructor from Phoenix, Arizona. Included in the exercise routine of her students are ball exercises using pezzi gymnastikballs (exercise balls).