The Uses of Exercise Therapy Balls

Working out with an exercise ball can benefit your body in many ways. Besides toning muscles, exercise balls can be used for improving posture, balance and cardiovascular benefits. Exercise balls are sometimes referred to as therapy balls, Swiss balls, fitness balls, stability balls and several other names. Once you realize the multitude of uses of an exercise ball, you will see why so many people are devoted to them.

Improve Balance and Posture

Sitting on an exercise ball will activate your abdominal, gluteal and leg muscles which assist in improved balance. For proper positioning sit on the center of the ball with your knees in line over your ankles. Your shoulders should be in line over your body and your head directly over your neck. While there are some people who suggest replacing your desk chair with an exercise ball, not everyone agrees on doing this for long durations.

According to Diane Gregory, Ph.D., of the University of Waterloo, prolonged periods of sitting on an exercise ball can cause discomfort that negates the benefits of balancing on the ball. On the other hand, the Mayo Clinic suggests that using an exercise ball as your office chair can improve muscle tone and posture.

Build Muscles

Numerous exercise ball books are available that describe and illustrate movements designed to strengthen arm, leg and core muscles of the body. Core muscles are those deep abdominal and back muscles that stabilize and support your body as it moves.

Squats performed with an exercise ball, for example, can enhance your strengthening routine. Simply stand with the ball pressed between your back and a wall. Your legs should be shoulder width apart and your feet slightly forward from the rest of your body. Tighten your abdominal muscles and bend your knees to a 90 degree angle. The ball will roll up behind your shoulder blades as you do your squats.

Another effective exercise with a therapy ball is the crunch. For this exercise you position yourself with your lower back on top of the ball with your thighs and upper body parallel to the floor. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then use your abs to lift your shoulders and upper back off the ball. You can also perform various Pilates exercises with an exercise ball.

Provide Cardio Exercise

When you add high energy to your exercise ball workout, you increase the cardiovascular benefits. Exercise is considered cardiovascular when it works out the heart and lungs. Sitting on an exercise ball and pumping your arms while marching your feet, for example, can provide a cardiovascular workout. Bouncing on the ball is not only fun but can increase your heart rate. Alternating leg raises while raising your arms provides the large muscle movements that aid in cardiovascular fitness.

Improve Sports Performance

Because the use of an exercise ball can provide a workout to a large variety of muscles, performance in various sports can be enhanced through training with an exercise ball. For example, fitness trainer Susan Hill suggests golfers use an exercise ball, stating that improving inner core muscles, posture and balance helps a golfer with longer drives. Exercise balls can lead to increased strength and stability, which are both beneficial in sports.

Rehabilitate

Exercise balls, or therapy balls, have been used by physical therapists and exercise physiologists for years to assist individuals in recovering from sports injuries and health problems. Clinical trials using therapy balls were performed at the University of Fortaleza on patients who had suffered hemiplegia from cerebral vascular accidents. The study showed that the use of therapy balls in this population resulted in increased strength and contributed to a more efficient recovery for the group overall.

About this Author

Brenda Hagood has been a writer and speech therapist since 1982, and a nonprofit director. She wrote manuals for Total Learning Curriculum and enjoys health, education and family life research. Hagood holds a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders from California State University, Fullerton, and a master’s degree in speech pathology from Loma Linda University.