An exercise ball
, also known as a Swiss ball
, is a ball constructed of elastic
with a diameter
of around 35 to 85 cm (14 to 34 inches). It is used in physical therapy
The ball is also known by a number of different names, including balance ball, birth ball, body ball, ball, fitness ball, gym ball, gymnastic ball, physioball, pilates ball, Pezzi ball, sports ball, stability ball, Swedish ball, therapy ball, or yoga ball. It is larger and much lighter than a medicine ball.
The physical object known as a "Swiss Ball" was developed in 1963 by Aquilino Cosani, an Italian plastics manufacturer. He perfected a process for molding large puncture-resistant plastic balls. Those balls, then known as "Pezzi balls", were first used in treatment programs for newborns and infants by Mary Quinton, a British physiotherapist working in Switzerland. Later, Dr. Susanne Klein-Vogelbach, the director at the Physical Therapy School in Basel, Switzerland, integrated the use of ball exercise as physical therapy for neuro-developmental treatment. Based on the concept of "functional kinetics, Klein-Vogelbach advocated the use of ball techniques to treat adults with orthopedic or medical problems. The term "Swiss Ball" was used when American physical therapists began to use those techniques in North America after witnessing their benefits in Switzerland. From their development as physical therapy in a clinical setting, those exercises are now used in athletic training, as part of a general fitness routine and incorporation in alternative exercises such as yoga.
A primary benefit of exercising with an exercise ball
as opposed to exercising directly on a hard flat surface is that the body responds to the instability of the ball to remain balanced, engaging many more muscles
to do so. Those muscles become stronger over time to keep balance. Most frequently, the core body muscles — the abdominal muscles
and back muscles
— are the focus of exercise ball fitness
Some people sit on an exercise ball
instead of a chair (for example, an office chair). This is based on the theory that the abdominal and back muscles are constantly engaged and active in order to maintain proper posture and balance on the ball. However, there is no scientific evidence of those benefits occurring by just sitting without additional exercises. Using a Swiss ball as a chair is sometimes prescribed by physical therapists
for back patients in sedentary jobs. However, some people warn against using a Swiss ball as chair due to ergonomical
This large plastic ball, known as a "birth ball", can also be used during labour to aid the descent of the fetal head into the pelvis. Sitting in an upright position will also aid fetal positioning and is more comfortable for the woman. Sitting on the ball with arms placed on a bed, table or otherwise sturdy object for support and gently rocking the hips may help the woman during contractions and aid the natural physiological process of birth.
Exercise Program: Getting Your Core Right