Exercise balls are a useful, inexpensive workout aid for the home or the gym, where they help to improve your core strength, balance, posture and flexibility.
To use an exercise ball safely and to reap the most body benefits, it’s vital to pick the correct kind of ball. Exercise balls vary according to factors such as size, weight, texture, comfort and quality, so bear these in mind when choosing a ball.
Size matters significantly when deciding which exercise ball to buy. The right size of ball ensures your body is correctly supported and you can perform movements on the ball with maximum efficiency.
Exercise balls come in various diameter sizes, which you should select according to your height. There’s quite a lot of variation in the size range. For example, if you’re five foot or under, a ball with a 45 cm diameter is a good choice, while those over six foot tall should opt for balls at least 65 cm in diameter.
The key thing is to sit on the ball and try it out for size. Your feet should be flat on the floor when you sit upright on the ball. Your knees should be approximately level with your pelvis and bent at a 90-degree angle. The shoulders, pelvis and ears should be vertically aligned.
In some cases, it might be preferable to choose a ball slightly bigger or smaller for your height. For example, if your legs are long for your height or you have back problems, a larger ball may be a good idea. Alternatively, those with shorter legs for their height may feel more comfortable with a ball in the lower-sized category range.
While size is the main factor to consider when choosing an exercise ball, the weight of the ball also needs to be taken into account. This is because exercise balls are flexible and provide resistance when you move on them.
Exercise balls tend to be labelled by both static and dynamic weight. Static weight refers to the maximum amount of weight the ball supports when it is sat on, while dynamic weight takes into account any movements made when sat on the ball such as bouncing or using weights. If you’re planning on using the ball for exercising rather than just stretching, you need to focus on its dynamic weight rating.
Exercise balls are also made from different materials that can influence their quality and longevity. One thing you might want to consider, in particular, is if the ball is made from anti-burst materials. This means that if the ball gets a puncture, it deflates slowly rather than pops instantly like a balloon. A ball with anti-burst materials tends to be safer, as it reduces the risk of falls or injury if it did puncture.
Think about the texture of your exercise ball, too. Some balls have a smooth surface, which you may prefer for comfort when moving around. However, be aware that smooth balls often slide around more and there’s a higher risk of you slipping off it. If you do worry about the prospect of falling off your ball, consider buying one that has an anti-slip texture.
Additionally, consider what kind of floor surface you’ll use your ball on. Smooth surfaces such as wood or vinyl may make a smooth-textured exercise ball even slippier.
If you get the chance, it’s a good idea to try an exercise ball out in-store before making a purchase, to ensure it’s the right fit and feels comfortable to move around on. Or, if you use a ball at the gym and want one for the home, take note of its dimensions and use these as a guide.