Play Ball in the House
by Laurie B. LaRusso, MS, ELS
They're not just for physical therapy anymore. You know you have seen them. Big, colorful, lightweight balls at the gym, or maybe your friend's house. They seem to be everywhere, but what do you do with them? They are called stability balls and they can help you get in shape in many ways.
The best news is they are low-impact and inexpensive, so anyone at any age can have one. Find out how you can add this tool into your current routine, or use it to kickstart a new program.
Using a Stability Ball
Rid your mind of that heavy, leathery medicine ball from gym classes of the past. Stability balls are made of lightweight rubber and come in all kinds of colors. Stability balls are great for:
The stability ball allows you to do many exercises that you may already do on a gym mat. Here are some examples of what you can do on a stability ball:
As you can see, this can be a great way to improve flexibility and gain strength, but it is only part of a regular physical activity program. Make sure you also do aerobic exercises to help decrease your risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.
If you sit at a desk all day, consider using a stability ball. It's a great way to improve your posture when sitting in front of a computer (or watching television). Some desk chairs come equipped with stability balls attached to them.
Getting the Hang of It
Trying something new does not always go as planned. Consider your fitness level and remember it might be best to get some help from a certified trainer before you get started. Fun is the name of the game when it comes to keeping your interest in exercise. Your approach can make all the difference. Here are some considerations:
The stability ball is something you can use at the gym, at home, or even as a chair in the office. It is an inexpensive way to keep your body toned. Purchasing a ball is just as simple.
Pricing and Sizing
To use a stability ball safely, you need the correct size for your height. The cost and size of these balls go hand in hand. The taller you are, the larger the ball you need, and the more it costs. Prices start as low as $10.00 and increase from there depending on the size and features you're looking for.
Surveying the various manufacturers of exercise balls reveals that there is no standard sizing in the industry. For example, one company's smallest ball may be 45 cm in diameter and designed for people under 5 feet tall, while another's smallest is 53 cm and designed for someone under 5 feet 3 inches tall. Check the manufacturers recommendations. To check to see if the ball is the right size for you, sit straight up on the ball. Your hips and knees will be at a 90° angle if you have the right size ball.
Fun is fun, but safety comes first. Here is the best way to protect yourself from injury:
Stability balls provide some extra fun to physical fitness. If you want to start a program, or need to perk up your current routine, consider working out with a stability ball.
American Council on Exercise
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine
Health Canada Healthy Living
Physical activity for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed October 13, 2016.
Selecting and effectively using a stability ball. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at:
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Published 2011. Accessed October 13, 2016.
Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 11/5/2014
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