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Round Out Your Fitness Routine with a Stability Ball

Bounce Your Way to Fitness
-- By Sara Hambidge, Physical Therapist

You see large, colorful exercise balls lying around gyms, but what are they? They go by many names-Swiss balls, physioballs, stability balls, birth balls-and have even more uses. Physical therapists have used them for years to treat a variety of injuries, but now these oversized balls are showing up in fitness centers, birthing centers, and even many households. They're versatile tools for exercise and useful during birth. So how can they benefit you?

Using stability balls during exercise is quite simple. Here's an easy example. Stand up with your feet wide apart. Pretty easy, right? The wider your base is when standing, the more grounded you are. Now bring your feet completely together. Still simple, but a little harder to hold your body still. Now lift one foot off the ground. This is a lot harder because you have to balance yourself. Your muscles in your legs have to work harder. Your foot is probably shaking back and forth a bit to keep your body upright. Your entire core-your abs, obliques, lower back, and hips-are working overtime.

These are endurance muscles (they work for long periods of time throughout the day) that help you balance. Any time you are walking while carrying a heavy bag, any time you lift up to your tiptoes to get something off a top shelf, any time you bend over to pick up a child- your core muscles are there supporting you so that you don't fall over.

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Member Comments About this Article
"I sit on one in place of a chair at work. Not only does it help strengthen my body, it help reduce back aches:) If I am having a particularly painful day with my back i can do circular motion on the ball that seem to help relieve both back and pelvis pain." -- 1969CSG
"I first used a stability ball during my last pregnancy.It was comfortable to sit around on in late pregnancy and aided in a quick and easy homebirth.It was borrowed from a friend and I forgot all about them until I came across last year and bought one to follow Coach Nicoles exercises.Now I look forward to incorporating it into my pregnancy workouts!" -- MESAFUMM5
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About The Author
Sara Hambidge
Sara, a graduate of Saint Louis University's Physical Therapy Program, practices at a sports medicine clinic in Cincinnati. A certified prenatal and postpartum exercise instructor, Sara is also a proud mother of one.
Sara Hambidge


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