• Play Ball in the House

    IMAGE They are not just for physical therapy anymore. You know you have seen them. Big, colorful 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 integrate 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 class. Stability balls are made of lightweight rubber and come in all kinds of colors. Sure, they look pretty, but what can they do? Stability balls are great for:
    • Toning
    • Shaping
    • Increasing flexibility
    • Increasing muscle strength and endurance
    • Aerobic fitness
    • Improving balance and coordination
    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:
    • Hamstring stretches
    • Quadriceps stretches
    • Back stretches
    • Side stretches
    • Crunches
    • Push-ups
    • Squats
    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 disease.

    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 that keeps you interested in exercise. Your approach can make all the difference. Here are some considerations:
    • Use proper movement and technique.
    • Do not move fast, bounce, or make sudden movements.
    • Practice sitting on the ball first to get the feel of the ball. Even just sitting on the ball can help your balance and posture.
    • Move slowly to get used to how the ball reacts to you.
    • Take the time to build your intensity, especially if you are new to physical activity.
    Before you know it, you will get the hang of it. 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 an 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. With a price range of $20-$40, taller people do not make out too badly.
    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.

    Safety Tips

    Fun is fun, but safety is paramount. Here is the best way to protect yourself from injury:
    • Read the manufacturer's information about choosing a ball. Select one that it is the right size for your height.
    • Be sure that you have the correct posture for the exercise.
    • Do not hold your breath. Breath throughout the exercise.
    • Be sure that you have control over your body.
    • In the beginning, try to use the ball for a few minutes every day.
    • Create exercise goals for yourself.
    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.

    RESOURCES

    American Council on Exercise http://www.acefitness.org/

    The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports http://www.fitness.gov/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine http://www.casm-acms.org/

    Health Canada Healthy Living http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/index-eng.php

    References

    Physical Activity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated October 10, 2012. Accessed November 29, 2012.

    Selecting and Effectively Using a Stability Ball. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/selecting-and-effectively-using-a-stability-ball.pdf. Accessed November 29, 2012.

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