Friday, August 24, 2018

Exercise Balls for Recovery, Strength & Balance

Using a Physio Ball at Home

Physio balls are used regularly in therapy offices to manage pain and help patients recover from weakness or injuries. At home, you can do the same. An inflatable exercise ball is easy and affordable and can help you to recover from back pain, establish muscle tone, improve posture and more.

The reasons an exercise ball is so effective in the treatment and prevention of a range of injuries is because it can be used in so many ways. It strengthens and develops muscles that help to stabilize the spine, it allows you to stretch safely, it takes pressure off joints and it helps you engage in lots of small movements to keep the blood moving.

The exercise ball introduces an element of instability that other types of exercises can't. Whether you simply sit on it or you use it in a more advanced way, using an exercise ball doesn’t just keep muscles engaged, it also increases your awareness of how your body is moving and where it is in space. This awareness is called prioception. Most of us don't actively think about how our bodies relate to the space around us; we turn a corner or bend down to pick something up, all without bumping into walls or furniture. But an injury can change all that.

There is a range of ways in which you can safely use an exercise ball at home to reap the benefits you desire. Let's start with the basics:

Step 1: Sitting & Bouncing Lightly

If this sounds too simple to you, but you haven’t tried it, be sure not to discount just how effective something this basic can be. To start, simply sit on your ball and get a feel for it. You'll immediately notice how much more engaged your core becomes in order to keep your center is gravity. If you're nervous about sitting on a rolling object or you find yourself a bit too unstable, let some air out of your ball. The more inflated your ball is, the harder it will be to keep it directly underneath you.

Finding your center of gravity on an inflatable fitness ball will improve your posture, engage your core and align your spine. Initially, try sitting on your new fitness ball for 5-10 minutes; as you become more comfortable, lightly begin to bounce up and down. Switching your office chair for a fitness ball is a great way to avoid lower back and circulation issues.

Step 2: Your Core

Now that you're comfortable sitting and bouncing on your fitness ball, you can take your daily stability and strength training to the next level. Challenge your balance by purposely changing your center of gravity. With your hands on your hips, tilt your pelvis toward you, pulling your stomach in. By slowly rocking on your exercise ball, you'll engage your core while lengthening the spine. Repeat this balancing stretch ten or more times, with hips rocking side to side as well as back to front.
Once you feel comfortable with this, you can add another challenging layer to your daily workout by moving your hips in continual circles. In one motion without pausing, shift your weight in a circular motion, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Adding handheld weights increases difficulty.

A basic seated exercise such as this one can be altered in various ways to build balance and improve
proprioception. Working on your proprioception is especially important after an injury, when certain receptors may have become damaged causing input to be misinterpreted.

Luckily, your proprioceptive ability can be strengthened through exercises that will help you get reacquainted with your subconscious senses. There is a wide range of proprioceptive exercises, from strength training to balancing boards. Sitting on a fitness ball is one great way to regain your senses without placing any additional pressure on the affected joint. Practicing more advanced exercises such as rolling an exercise ball up and down a wall using only your back will help you to retrain your body to move in a way that minimizes re-injury.

Step 3: Stretching

One of the most effective and popular stretches a physio ball provides is the lower back stretch. If you've never performed this stretch before, you might want to consider holding on to a steady object such as a desk or a friend for balance. Then, while sitting firmly with both feet on the ground, slowly begin to take small steps away from the ball while lowering yourself downward. As the fitness ball rolls up your back, relax your shoulders to let your spine curve with the shape of the ball. To fully sink into this stretch, move your arms overhead to drape your entire body over the ball while breathing in and out slowly.

Step 4: Extension

Most people, when they think about "core strength" attribute all of the credit to the ab muscles. We tend to forget about the back, specifically the lower back, which receives very little action aside from bending forward. Little of what we do requires any backward bending, and so, we tend to neglect the muscles that help to keep our core in balance.
Regular extension exercises are great for a variety of reasons, but they're not generally a good fit for people who have had any vertebrae fractures, so we recommend that you talk with your physician before beginning any lumbar extension workouts.

When you're ready to give this exercise a try, lie on your stomach over your exercise ball, arms
resting comfortably. By spreading your feet widely, you'll gain more balance. Keeping your hips in contact with the ball, and without the help of your arms, begin to lift your chest off the ball, actively squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lift as high as is comfortable, hold for five seconds, then repeat. Repetitions of 10 will get you started.

Step 5: Abs

Of course, if we're going to talk about actively engaging our core, we can't neglect that all-time favorite: the sit-up. While some of you might groan at the very idea, keep in mind that the nice thing about doing a sit-up on an exercise ball is that your back is fully supported and you can easily adjust this exercise to your own skill level.
To start, sit on the ball as you normally would. Move your feet forward, as with the backstretch, easing the ball up your back until you've reached your shoulder blades. Engage your core and, without pulling on your neck, sit up slightly. Be mindful that you don't walk back and forth with your feet; the rocking motion you experience should originate from your core.

To ensure you're getting the most out of your ball, it's important to choose the proper size for you. There are three common adult sizes available" 55 cm, 65 cm and 75 cm.
Choose a 55 cm ball if you are approximately 155 to 170 cm tall.
Pick a 65 cm ball if you are approximately 171 to 188 cm tall.
And a 75 cm ball if you are taller.


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