Using Exercise Balls Safely - dummies

By LaReine Chabut

Using the exercise ball to work out is one of the most fun ways to tone your body. Because of their shape, balls are unstable and challenge your balance. The exercise ball makes you use your abdominal muscles just to sit on it. And if you don’t keep your feet firmly planted on the floor, you’ll fall off. This is where your balance really comes into play!

[Credit: Photograph by Nick Horne]
Credit: Photograph by Nick Horne

You can even substitute the ball for the bench in some of your weight-training exercises and add dumbbells. Exercise balls require little maintenance aside from occasional cleaning and inflation. Consider the following list when maintaining and using your exercise ball:

  • Storage: Your biggest challenge is deciding how to store your ball. If you don’t have space, deflate and inflate your exercise ball in between uses. If you need to do this, buy an electric pump. The pump saves you time and relieves stress.

    Some balls have udders to prevent them from rolling around, like udders on a cow. This can be handy for storing it in a corner of your family room as the udders can be used to prop up the ball. Other balls come with plastic circular stands — preventing your ball from rolling.

    Make sure that you don’t store any exercise balls near a heat source, because it can cause the ball to expand or soften and weaken the ball’s surface.

  • Cleaning: Clean your ball with a soft cloth or sponge and clean hot water or mild soapy water if needed. Chemical cleaners may break down and damage the ball’s surface. Always use your ball on a clean dry floor. This precaution goes a long way toward keeping your ball clean and avoiding punctures.

  • Pumps: Many balls sold today come with manual pumps — usually hand or foot pumps. If you’re maintaining one ball and only inflating it occasionally, a manual pump should work well for you. However, if you’re frequently going to inflate and deflate your ball, purchase an electric pump. If you want, you can even take yours to the gas station and use the air pump for tires — just be careful not to overinflate it.

  • Practice space: Make sure that your practice space is large enough to work with a ball. The exercise area should be longer and wider than your height. Make sure that furniture with sharp edges has been cleared from the space. Remember that your balance is challenged when you work with the ball, so you may not control your movements perfectly. Keep your workout space free and clear.