Originally designed as a toy called a Gymnastik, the exercise ball has predominantly been used in fitness and rehabilitation settings. Today, many office workers are replacing their desk chairs with an exercise ball chair because it provides a mini workout while at work. No need to go to the gym, simply sitting on an unstable ball engages and strengthens your core muscles. For more challenge, take a short work break and perform a few exercises.
Video of the Day
Choosing the Correct Size
Exercise balls are available in several sizes to accommodate different heights. To maximize the benefits of your exercises, it's important to select the correct size. The size of a ball is its diameter, which is usually measured in centimeters. Guidelines recommend a 30 to 35 centimeter ball if you are less than 4 feet 10 inches tall. If your height measures between 4 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 5 inches, use a 45 centimeter ball. A 55 centimeter ball is the correct size if you are between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet tall. If your height measures between 6 feet and 6 feet 5 inches, use a 65 centimeter ball. For exercisers who are taller than 6 feet 6 inches, choose a 75 centimeter ball. Overweight people should use an 85 centimeter ball. With the correct size your hips and knees will be bent 90 degrees when you sit on the ball.
Before you begin any exercises, roll the ball away from your desk or other objects that might interfere with your movements. Sit squarely on top of your ball and place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, for stability. Keep your back straight and avoid leaning too far forward or backward. Pull your shoulders back -- no hunching -- and keep a small curve in your lower back. This is the proper posture alignment and should be maintained while performing the exercises.
Rock and Roll Hips
Moving your hips in different directions while sitting on the ball can help improve your posture, flexibility and strengthen your lower back and core muscles. To perform this exercise, keep your torso as still as possible and rock your pelvis forward and backward from 12 to 6 o'clock. Rock 10 to 12 times in a controlled manner. Next, rock side to side from 9 to 3 o'clock. Finish with an around-the-clock hip roll. Move your hips clockwise in a circular manner for six complete circles and then reverse to a counterclockwise movement for another six circles.
Lifts, Kicks and Marching
Work on your ability to balance and continue to strengthen your core with exercises that require you to lift and kick your legs. Begin by lifting your right foot 6 inches off the floor and holding the lift for a count of three. Lower your foot back to the floor and repeat with your left leg to complete one repetition. For the next exercise, kick your right foot forward, extend your leg and hold it parallel to the floor for a count of two. Lower your leg and repeat with your left leg. Finish with a marching exercise. Bend and lift your right knee toward your chest as far as you can and without pausing, lower your leg and repeat with your left leg. Perform one set of 10 to 12 reps with each exercise.
You'll benefit the most from these exercises if you keep your core muscles tight throughout. If you're having a hard time balancing, position the back of the ball against a sturdy wall. Use a high-quality, burst-resistance ball for long-term use. Avoid sitting on the ball for long periods of time. Doing so could over stress the muscles in your core and lower back. Get the okay from your health care provider before using an exercise ball as a chair and before using it as an exercise aid.
- The Science: Stability Ball History
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using a Stability Ball
- Exercise Ball Workouts: Exercise Ball Basics
- Doctor Jo: Core and Back Strengthening Exercises &amp; Stretches with Swiss Ball (Basic)
- MSNBC.com: Exercise Balls as Office Furniture