Maximizing the Benefits of Exercise Balls

There are many benefits to using an exercise ball, also known as a physio or a Swiss ball. A ball can facilitate proper posture and core strength. It also is used to increase mobility, coordination, balance and cardiovascular fitness.

The ball is most notable for its use in posture and core strengthening/stabilization. Many employers offer the ball as an alternative to a desk chair, which can include a back rest to provide additional support while still maintaining the instability to challenge the core and postural muscles. The ball forces good posture because the user will not feel balanced or safe if he or she is slouching or leaning too far to one side. For the elderly, it has been shown that working core exercises and incorporating unstable surfaces can improve overall balance and safety with ambulation.

The theory behind exercise balls is that instability promotes stability of your core and postural muscles, so the ball can be used to enhance your normal floor exercise routine.  One study showed that incorporating the ball into a floor exercise routine produced a greater improvement in core strength and balance than the group that did just a traditional floor exercise routine.

Here are some ways to incorporate an exercise ball into an exercise routine:

  • Crunches may be performed lying on the ball and sitting up or lying on the floor while legs rest on the ball.
  • Strengthen upper back and neck muscles to improve neck posture, by using the ball to do planks or pushups.
  • Sit on the ball to do upper body work, such as bicep curls, tricep exercises or rowing exercises.
  • Do bicep work and rowing exercises on the ball, forcing the abdominals to keep the body upright.

To maximize the benefits of the ball, it must be the proper size. A 55 cm ball is for people 5’ to 5’7” tall, and a 65 cm ball is ideal for those from 5’8” to 6’2”. Sometimes people need to adjust the size by their leg length. Ideally, the hip and knee should both be at 90 degree angles while in a seated position. As with any new exercise routine, start at a comfortable pace and if necessary, consult a physician.

To learn more about how to improve your core strength and stability with Good Shepherd Physical Therapy, call 1-888-44-REHAB (73422) or contact us online.

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