Why You Should Use Exercise Balls

In the past few years, exercise balls have become all the rage as they've encouraged us to get fit in fun, new ways. Here, the top five reasons to bring balls into your workout routine.

1. Balancing Act. Balls are unstable, and sitting on one requires more balance than you'd expect.  It contracts the small muscles in your abdomen, back, and spine into the most physically correct alignment.  Exercising on the ball means you get a double whammy from your work out-the muscles the exercise intends to target plus the ones that keep you from falling off.  Over time, you'll find your balance and your posture will improve. 

2. Core Work. According to the American Council on Exercise,  think of your core as a strong column that links the upper and lower body together. Having a solid core creates a foundation for all activities, and is especially important when you add a heavy load, such as weights to your workout. Exercising with stability balls helps to develop and strengthen those muscles.  Try doing crunches "on the ball," and feel the difference between those on the ground and those done while trying to balance.  It's a whole different ball game.

3. Office Equipment. Using your exercise ball as your office chair provides an all day workout with proper spinal alignment during what would otherwise be "sitting around time."  Every movement, like turning to answer the phone, requires subtle adjustments using your core muscles.   Traditional office chairs are hard on the butt and back and can impede circulation between the upper and lower body.  Exercise balls, however, require low-level exertion that improves circulation.

4. Support System. Many people find traditional core exercises like crunches and sit-ups are tough on the neck and lower back.  Exercise balls provide guaranteed support to your back and neck muscles and decrease chances for injury.  Exercise balls support the rest the body while you focus on targeted areas.  Don't be fooled: all this support isn't for wimps. You're working muscles that wouldn't get exercise if you didn't have to balance.

5. Fun Times. Exercise is supposed to be fun. Doing the same routine gets boring and makes people quit working out.  Have a ball instead and play around.  Experiment with different techniques and styles.  Try a few of the many DVDs and classes custom made for exercise balls including Pilates and yoga. 

According to the American Council on Exercise, it's important to buy the right size ball and maintain the proper air pressure. The firmer the ball, the more difficult the exercise will be; the softer the ball, the less difficult.  When sitting on the ball, your knees and hips should align at a 90-degree angle.