What is an exercise ball?

Sometimes called stability balls and Swiss balls, these large, durable, air-filled exercise balls come in different sizes and colors. While most people use them for ab training, many incorporate free weights with ball training, using the ball as an unstable surface to strengthen the core muscles while working other body parts. It can be utilized for so many different workouts that everyone from boxers to the elderly use balls.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

Exercise balls were developed originally for physical therapy and evolved for use with exercise. Most recently they have been used for pregnancy and labor. Birth or exercise balls come in 3 sizes small 55cm, med 65 cm and large 75 cm to accommodate various weights and heights of moms. They are portable, versatile and easy to clean. Using the ball during your pregnancy can help keep your muscles in tone and work on your core and posture. During the last part of pregnancy you can use the ball to sit on as it may be easier to get out of then a normal chair. Sitting on the ball in labor helps the pelvis to rock and rotate which can help the fetal head to descend. Sitting on the ball is very similar to squatting which can help open the bones and help to speed up labor. Rocking and swaying on the ball can greatly reduce the pain of contractions and offers mom many alternative positions to be in during her labor. Leaning over the ball in bed can aid the mom in helping to rotate a baby stuck in that posterior position which causes back labor and the resulting back pain. This position also allows the coach, doula or midwife to back massage and counter pressure to mom’s lower sacral area.

Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
Stability balls come in several sizes (55 cm, 65 cm, and 75 cm are most common, but smaller and larger balls are available). To select a ball, check the package for a size chart based on your height. When you sit on a ball, your hips and knees should both be at 90-degree angles. Select a durable, high-quality ball

An exercise ball, also known as a Swiss ball, is a large, inflated, rubber ball that can be used for a slew of different exercises. This ball forces the body to stabilize on an unstable surface, and thus, makes exercises more challenging.

The exercise ball can be used as a progression from the floor to make the original exercise more challenging. For example, the pushup performed on the ground, will become more challenging when performed on the exercise ball.

There are two types of exercise balls: stability/swiss ball and medicine ball. The stability ball is the large air ball used for holding the weight of a person. It can be sat on like a chair. It can be leaned on like in doing a wall squat. It can be laid on for doing push ups or chest presses. These are just a few of its uses. There are several others. The medicine ball is weighted and comes in various different sizes and weights. Its primary use is for core training. It can also be used in the place of a dumbbell. It is smaller yet heavier than the stability ball.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.