What is an Exercise Ball?

A woman with her feet elevated on an exercise ball.
Article Details
  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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An exercise ball is a large, soft plastic ball used to work the abdominals and improve posture, stability and balance. It is also referred to as a stability ball, fitness ball or Swiss ball. The exercise ball was invented in 1963 by Aquilino Cosania, an Italian plastics manufacturer and toy maker. Exercise balls can be an easy and inexpensive way to exercise, and generally cost between $10 US Dollars (USD) and $25 USD.

Exercise balls are available in different sizes for various heights and weights. These balls generally come in five different sizes, ranging from about 17 inches (45 cm) to about 34 inches (85 cm) in diameter. When you sit on the ball, your feet should be flat on the ground and your knees should be level with or slightly lower than your pelvis. You should be able to sit up straight without leaning one way or the other to balance your weight. A taller person should use a larger ball than a shorter person.

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Stability balls also specify a weight limit. It is a good idea to get an exercise ball with a weight limit that is about weighted to withstand about two to three times your weight. Exercise balls can sometimes have a "burst proof" feature, meaning that the air will escape slowly if there is a leak and the ball will not explode. If you feel you need help selecting a stability ball, purchasing one from a sporting goods store is a good idea because a salesperson will be able to assist you.

You will want to make sure your exercise ball is always fully inflated before you use it to exercise. A ball that is not fully inflated will flatten into the floor, meaning you will not have to use as many muscles to balance and some of the benefits will be lost. Over-inflating your ball, then, will make exercises more difficult.

Working out with an exercise ball is easy. Some people choose to replace their desk chairs with these fitness balls, though you'll want to work up to this over time so you don't strain your back. Try it for as long as you feel comfortable, and as your abdominal muscles get stronger, you will be able to sit on the ball for eight to ten hours a day. It will also prevent you from slumping forward in your chair and practicing poor posture.

Performing crunches on an exercise ball is another great way to work your ab muscles, because you are using all your muscles to maintain your balance in addition to just doing crunches. You can also work your upper body by lying on the ball and lifting weights, or work your lower body by lying on your back and lifting the ball between your feet. Being creative and having fun with an exercise ball will help you to vary your workout routine and improve your balance and posture.

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