Exercise balls are usually made from elastic and soft PVC. Exercise balls are sports equipment also known as Swiss balls, balance balls, fitness balls, pilates balls, yoga balls or gymnastic balls. When filled with air, these balls are somewhere between 14 to 34 inches wide. These balls are commonly used for different physical exercises but also for physical therapy and athletic training. The first exercise ball was developed in Italy, in 1963. These original balls were known as Pezzi balls and used in treatment programs for newborns and infants. The balls were later introduced to physical therapy for neuro-developmental treatment, and today they are commonly used in athletic training, as a part of a fitness program or as pilates or yoga equipment.
Benefits of exercise balls
Exercise balls provide with the unique benefit to engage more muscles than any other type of training performed on the flat surface. The body will typically respond to the instability of the ball by putting more muscles into the motion while trying to keep balancing. These muscles will gradually become stronger. The exercises performed on pilates balls mainly activate abdominal and back muscles. At the same time, the spine will not suffer any kind of additional pressure since it is gently supported by the ball. Some of the exercises performed on the ball are an excellent treatment for back pain and specially developed to minimize the risk of future problems with this body region. These exercises strengthen and develop the body’s core muscles, which are used to stabilize the spine and secure it from the injuries.
To begin with ball exercises, one should first choose the right type and size of the exercise ball. The size of a ball should match the user’s height. People who are 4' 11" - 5' 3" tall should use a 55 cm exercise ball. A ball with 65 cm in diameter is designed for people 5' 4" - 5' 10" tall. Those who are higher than 5' 11" should always choose a 75 cm exercise ball. The best balls are burst resistant and some of them are even equipped with a pump. Additional equipment may include a yoga mat, dumbbells for some of the arm exercises, ankle weights, and balance board for a more advanced workout.
Before starting the exercise one should make sure to take a proper position by sitting on the ball with the straight back and feet shoulder width apart. One should always make sure to keep the spine nice and long while tightening the stomach muscles.