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Family Sports & Fitness

Stay Stable

Stability balls, also known as fitness balls, are the big rubber orbs you’ve seen in many gyms. They are a heavy-duty workout “machine” disguised as fun. The balls may look like balloons, but they are actually designed to support up to 600 pounds. That means nearly anyone can use one to its fullest abilities. Stability balls are great for beginners as a first piece of home equipment, yet equally as effective for advanced “gym rats.”

Structurally, it’s simply an elastic, air-filled ball between 2 and 4 feet in diameter. Functionally, when you work with a fitness ball, you’re training your body to work as a single entity, using nearly every muscle group to maintain stability during each exercise. In turn, that trains your body to remain aligned, ultimately improving your posture (through improved core strength), and rebalancing your stance and stride.

Choosing the Right Ball
Exercise balls are commonly measured in centimeters: 45, 55, 65, 75 and 85 cm. Choose according to your height and weight: The right ball for you will allow you to sit up straight, keeping your feet flat on the floor, with at least 90-degree angles at your hips and knees. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor or your hips slightly higher than your knees. If you are above average weight, you may need a larger exercise ball so it doesn’t flatten too far when you sit on it.

The low-cost equipment typically ranges between $12 and $30 and is usually packaged with a pump so you can keep it properly inflated. The light-weight, durable balls can be deflated for storage (or to be packed in a suitcase) or can double as a chair when you’re not in exercise mode. Stability ball exercises can be performed by nearly anyone at any fitness level.

• Improve Abs and Lower Back Strength
The key to the exercise ball is that it’s unstable, causing you to constantly adjust to remain balanced. By simply sitting on a stability ball instead of an office or leisure chair, you will see improvements in your core strength. Unlike a solid seat, the stability ball providesan ever-moving surface that forces your muscles to counteract your subtle shifts of weight. As you attempt to remain steady, you strengthen your stabilizing muscles, improving balance and strength over time. Perform other activities on the ball and you’ll improve your functional strength, balance and flexibility. Add free weights and the ball become a bench workout for your stabilizer muscles

• Stretch.
The ball is a great stretching companion, allowing you to move easily into and out of a variety of positions.

• Reduce Injuries
When you sit on the ball and do sit-ups, you’ll remove pressure from your lower back and tailbone. And when you stretch on the ball, you can exert the steadier, even force you need to ease stiffness and tightness.

Stability Ball Workout

1. Thigh Rolls:Lie on your back on the floor, arms by your side, with your feet on top of the stability ball. Press into the ball with your feet and slowly pull the ball toward your buttocks, exhaling as you move. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat 12 times.

2. Ab Crunches:Sit on top of the ball, then slowly walk your feet out and lean back until your lower back is resting on the ball and your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle. Put your hands behind your head and exhale as you crunch forward, squeezing your abs. Be sure to keep space between your chin and chest. Inhale on your return to your starting position. Repeat 12 times or more.

3. Chest Flys: Hold weights in each hand. Lie with your upper back on the stability ball, keeping your legs wide and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your arms over your chest, palms inward and elbows slightly bent. Inhale as you lower the weights wide to the side; exhale as you bring them back up to the raised starting position. Repeat 12 times.

4. Lunge Backs:Stand with the ball behind you, gently touching calves. Place one leg back, resting your shin on the top of the ball. Roll the ball back and lunge forward, extending your back leg while keeping your front leg at a near-90-degree angle. Return to beginning position and repeat 12 times. Switch legs and do 12 more.

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