Patients often ask me for advice about an exercise regimen that’s reasonable and that they’ll be able to stick to over the longterm. In fact just this week a patient asked me to help her come up with a program. So we talked about some of the ways they could support their fitness and here one of the ideas they liked.
The Swiss fitness ball. This is a big inflated ball that my patient had seen for years in pictures and at the sporting goods stores but never used. I myself love these things and actually recommend them in every conversation about exercise. The reason I like these fitness balls is that they are a cheap, easy to get started with, and they cover a lot of bases. They are safe and use your body’s own weight for strength and resistance. They can be used to help with movement & coordination, balance, and strength. The term for this combination is “core development”. The idea is that real fitness comes from more than just building “power” muscles. Our real power also includes the development of stabilizing muscles and getting them to fire regularly.
If you sit on a fitness ball for a minute you realize just what a challenge it is to stay upright. By putting yourself on an unstable platform, your brain has to recruit muscles that aren’t commonly used – the kind of muscles that normally allow you to slouch. On the ball though, these smaller muscles are constantly firing to keep you from tipping over. Now, imagine using your dumbbells or doing sit-ups on one and the challenge becomes much greater. My inspiration to get one was a Personal Trainer’s ad I once saw where they were doing weight lifting exercises kneeling on a fitness ball. I then proceeded to make my family crazy as I replaced my dining room chair with a ball.
As well as supporting those core muscles and helping to create neuronal pathways in your brain for balance, the ball can be used as a tool for movement and coordination for every part of your body. Common exercises include moving while tossing the ball between your hands and feet, using it as a platform for push-ups, improving symmetry, and much more. I like this website where there are several workouts for everything from metabolism-boosting to ab-strengthening.
An exercise ball is a relatively cheap piece of equipment, you don’t need to get yourself to the gym and it’s not hard to learn some exercises. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!