If you're exercising for the first time or in need of something to help you get over a plateau with your current fitness routine at home or the gym, then maybe it's time you try using an exercise ball. They are inexpensive exercise equipment that's versatile, simple to use and as long as you've got a bit of an imagination, sky's the limit when it comes to what you can do on/with the exercise ball.
Let's get started and make you sound like a pro after reading all of this. The exercise ball has been around since the 1960's originating in Switzerland, hence the name 'Swiss ball.' A physiotherapist developed the exercise ball to help patients address orthopedic and medical injuries/illness. You can step up your game with the BOSU Ballast Ball which differs slightly adding 2.5 lbs of weight increasing your resistance / challenge, great for upper body exercises and as a bonus the extra weight keeps it from running away from you during your workout. Another style you may have heard of is called a "peanut" or Physio Roll which looks like a giant peanut used primarily with physiotherapy or occupational therapy patients. Keep it simple, when in doubt call it an exercise ball unless it clearly looks identifiable as a peanut.
Because exercise balls have been around for quite some time, many non-medical places carry exercise balls for home use from stores such as Walmart, Superstore, Canadian Tire and Target to name a few. Don't break the bank buying an exercise ball so you can get fit but keep in mind (in my opinion probably one of the most import criteria) that your exercise ball is anti-burst. Jack-in-the-box was sneaky and scared you as a child but it never physically hurt you. A balloon bursting while holding it isn't terrible but imagine that balloon being 50 times larger. All it takes is rolling your exercise ball over a tack, nail, etc. or filling air into a cold exercise ball that's been sitting in your car for the majority of the winter day in minus temperatures may cause your exercise ball to pop like a balloon and hello fear of balloons and plastic balls. Science will get you every time; if the material (ie. plastic ball) needing to be expanded isn't at room temperature, it
Pros using an exercise ball include positives such as improved balance, improved spatial awareness (helpful for folks with poor depth perception), activates your core, prevents you from "cheating" (with your body) when exercising, helps to overcome plateaus when your current fitness program has become stale, you don't want to increase weights but want to add to body strength, or you're not seeing any results. Cons using an exercise ball are related to skillset, comfort and equipment maintenance.
Just like people, exercise balls come in all shapes and sizes. So which one is best suited for you?
Maintenance for your new piece of exercise equipment is fairly low key. When storing at home, keep your exercise ball away from heaters or vents to prevent the exercise ball from warping its' shape. Always, always, always clean your equipment after use (even if you don't sweat that much, plus it's proper gym etiquette). Keep it simple with soap and water if you don't have any fancy cleaners for exercise equipment that kills everything from H1N1 to SARS, you'll still be fine. Lastly, you want to make sure your exercise ball is properly inflated.