Choosing the right balance ball
Balance balls are large plastic inflatable balls used for sitting on and for exercise. Two important health and injury prevention benefits result from using a balance ball for exercise: 1) core strengthening in your abdomen and lower back, and 2) balance improvement. Here are some tips for choosing the right ball for you.
The distance from the floor to your knee converted to centimeters (inches x 2.54) is the approximate size ball you should buy. If your measurement is between ball sizes, buy the larger ball and under-inflate it. Your hips and knees should bend at a 90-degree angle when you sit on the proper size ball. For use as a desk chair, choose one size larger.
Here are the most common sizes and the height range they fit:
- 45 cm ball for people 4’7” to 5’
- 55 cm ball for people 5’ to 5’5”
- 65 cm ball for people 5’5” to 6’
- 75 cm ball for people 6’ to 6’8”
Most balls sold as fitness equipment are made of good quality materials and come with an inflation pump. Look for burst or puncture-resistant balls that deflate slowly if a hole develops – sometimes labeled SDS (slow deflate system).
It is very important to understand your current fitness level and begin balance ball exercises at the appropriate level. Take time to get used to the ball; hold on to something stable like a chair or the wall when you begin so you don't roll backward or sideways and fall off.
Healthy core exercises
Sit on the ball, feet flat on the floor, spine and neck straight, abdominal muscles (abs) pulled in, arms at sides. Shift your weight slightly to feel how your abs and lower back work to keep you upright. Once comfortable, challenge yourself:
- Hold arms out to the side, to the front, then overhead.
- Lift one foot, lift the other foot, then lift both at once.
- Try all of these positions with your eyes shut.
- Increase the length of time you sit on the ball. Start with 10 to 15 minutes and work up to several hours.
Try these exercises to focus on your abs:
- Lie on your back on the floor, feet and lower legs on top of the balance ball. With hands on your thighs, walk your fingers up to your knees, hold, then gently and slowly lower your torso back to the floor.
- Sit on the ball, feet flat on the floor, roll your bottom forward and lay back until the ball is under your lower back. Curl your chin forward and lift your torso toward your knees, hold, then gently lower.
Add these back exercises for a healthy, strong core:
- Lie on your stomach on the ball, knees on the floor, hug the ball with your arms, keeping your back rounded. Gently lift your torso until your spine is straight, lower and relax.
- Lie on your stomach on the ball, legs straight out behind, toes on the floor, arms on the ball. Stretch your right leg back and left arm forward as if reaching for the wall, hold, switch to left leg and right arm.
Arms and shoulders
Balance ball pushups are very effective. To perform pushups:
- Lie on your stomach on the ball, knees or toes on the floor, hands on the floor in front of you. Shift your weight to your hands, roll forward until the ball is under your thighs. Do slow pushups. Challenge yourself by rolling the ball further down your legs as you build strength.
Reviewed in 2023