Bunny on the Ball

October 4, 2009

Stability balls are a strange and wonderful invention. Also known as Swiss, physio and exercise balls, these big rubber bouncy things are great fun. And great exercise! What’s better than that?

Bunny has two of these lovely things in her home. She keeps one on the side of the bed, for easy access for morning exercises she does once or twice a—well, year. We’re working on that. Buff isn’t thrilled about their presence because they take up space, and when not in use they pretty much turn into rolling roadblocks. They don’t work nearly as well as a treadmill for hanging clothes, and their unstable nature makes them bad candidates for serving as a table or other functional object.bounce

Nonetheless, there are many benefits to exercising with a stability ball:

  • Proper spine alignment. Apparently all that moving around your body does as it attempts to stay balanced is very good for strengthening the muscles involved in that effort. That’s good, because a lot of those muscles aren’t used for much of anything else.
  • Great abs.Let’s face it, flabby fiftyish Bunny is never going to have great abs. But you might, so get on the ball!
  • Muscle strength and endurance. Strong muscles are happy muscles!
  • Core stability.This is a big thing for fitness types. The core is the key to everything. Strengthen your core, and you will be healthy. A strong core will promote world peace and make the terrorists stop hating us. (Well, OK, maybe not.) But a strong core is very important. It distributes the stresses of weight bearing and protects the back. Or something like that.
  • Stretching. Ahhhhhhhhhh…
  • Losing weight. Isn’t that why we’re here?
  • Improves circulation. Using a ball as a chair in your office means you are increasing your bloodflow as you work, while a regular chair decreases it. (Of course, the flip side of that is that everyone who walks into your office will undoubtedly comment on the fact that you’re using a ball as a chair, and you’ll get so tired of having the same conversation that you’ll want to slap someone. This results in stress, which actually decreases your circulation. Someone applied for a patent on a stability ball chair, but this wiggly seat is not yet available.)
  • You will feel more energetic. OK, if you say so.
  • It’s fun. Bouncing on the ball is indeed fun, and you can’t get bored when you’re trying not to fall on your head.
  • It’s great for home use.  Portable and inexpensive, every home should have one.

Using a stability ball can alleviate back pain. Let’s look more closely at this, since it’s one of Bunny’s main issues. The wonderfully-named website UltimateWaterMassage.Com cites the benefits of Swiss ball exercise for people with back pain:

  • Simple way to start moving again after back pain episode
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Greater flexibility and range of motion of the spine
  • Enhanced balance and coordination of muscles used to stabilize the spine and control proper posture
  • Increased tendency to maintain a neutral spine position during exercise.

The exercise ball has additional applications in areas such as general fitness, strength or weight training, and exercise for pregnant women.

Spine-Health.com wants you to be careful using your balls. This is always good advice. Specifically, you should:

  • Use the correct size ball.
  • Read and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Start slow and don’t push it.
  • In the event of pain, discontinue use.
  • Consult your physician before embarking on any exercise program.Bounce

Spine-Health.Com also gets technical with a discussion of how the ball works to keep you fit, including the process of  proprioception— an awareness of where one’s hand, or foot, is in relationship to space. Way to go deep, Spine-Health.com!

Finally, this article at NWHealth.Edu provides tips on the care and feeding of your ball:

  • How to select the correct size for your body
  • How to inflate it
  • How to keep it squeaky clean (wash with soapy water and don’t sit on it until it’s dry)
  • Wear long pants so your skin doesn’t stick to the surface (ow!)
  • Don’t wear slippery socks—barefoot is best (how often do you hear THAT?)
  • Wear a helmet so you don’t crack your head open when you fall off (OK, not really, but Bunny’s house has tile floors, and she’s clumsy, so it’s not such a bad idea)
  • Bounce responsibly. Never drink and bounce. (That one is ours.)

  Happy bouncing!