If you’ve ever set foot in a gym, yoga studio, or birth center, chances are you’ve seen an exercise ball in your travels. Originally intended as a gymnastics aid, exercise balls have been on the fitness scene since the 1960s, so nothing new. But have you ever used one to aid your workout and do you know the real benefits of these clever inflatable balls?
Also known as stability balls or Swiss balls, it’s a little-known fact that the humble exercise ball is a home fitness powerhouse and can support everything from balance to core strength to spinal health. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about exercise balls, including the ideal size, how to get the most out of them in your workout, and the best buy.
What is an exercise ball?
Commonly made from PVC, an exercise ball looks like an oversized soccer ball and comes in a variety of sizes to suit your height and specific needs.
“An exercise ball is used primarily for physical therapy, athletic training, and sports,” says Tim Kayode, performance physiotherapist and founder of Myoset.
They can be used to support your bodyweight training, improve posture, and even help with labor.
What are the benefits of using an exercise ball?
Exercise balls offer a number of benefits. “It can be used for a plethora of things like exercise, rehab, and stretching,” explains Tim. But the benefits don’t just extend to fitness.
- gym at home: Don’t have room for a gym in your basement? Exercise balls are portable, lightweight and easy to inflate, allowing you to turn your living room into a gym at a fraction of the cost.
- core strength: Using an exercise ball activates and engages your stabilizer muscles, which “can challenge stability and core strength,” says Tim.
- budget: Gym membership can get expensive. Exercise balls are an inexpensive way to spice up your at-home fitness routine.
- Travel: Globetrotters will be pleased to know that exercise balls are super easy to inflate and deflate, making them ideal for vacations or fitness on the go.
- recovery from injuries: When used correctly, under the supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist, exercise balls can help you recover from injury faster.
- mix it up: A well-chosen exercise ball can be incorporated into a range of fitness routines, including yoga, Pilates, resistance training, and fitness training.
- pregnancy and childbirth: Using an exercise ball during trimesters can help reduce pregnancy discomfort and pain, and can even relieve discomfort during labor.
What Type of Exercise Ball is Best?
Exercise balls vary in size, weight, and density, so do your research before you start shopping to make sure you choose the right type. They usually come in a variety of sizes including 45cm, 55cm, 65cm and 75cm in diameter.
“First, make sure the ball is the right size,” says Tim. “I would recommend relating it to your height.” The following guidelines should help you choose the right ball size:
- 4″8 – small ball (45cm)
- 4″8 – 5’3 – medium ball (55cm)
- 5″4 – 5″10 – Large Ball (65cm)
- 5″11 – 6″4 – extra large ball (75cm)
How to use an exercise ball
How you use it will depend on the type of activity you choose, but if you’re new to exercise balls, there are a few things to keep in mind. “The firmer the ball, the more challenging the exercises become, so it’s advisable for beginners to deflate the ball slightly,” says Tim.
Alignment is also important. “Always make sure when you first sit on the ball that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent at 90 degrees,” explains Tim. “Also, if you’re using your Swiss ball, make sure it’s done in an open area to avoid hitting or damaging anything.”
Buy 9 best exercise balls now
From peanut-shaped to semi-symmetrical and classic swiss balls, we’ve put together our picks of the best practice balls available right now.
BEST CELEB RECOMMENDED EXERCISE BALL
Exercise Ball & Pump
Our favorite Super Fit TV host, Davina McCall, swears by using an exercise ball to work her core muscles and she’s even launched her own series! We have serious envy. This classic ball is shatterproof so it lasts and is signed by Davina. And best of all, we love the bright colors that will surely make you sweat.
extras: 65 cm, a pump is included in the purchase.
BEST NON-SLIP EXERCISE BALL
Core Balance Anti-Burst Exercise Ball
This classic exercise ball comes in a variety of sizes (and funky colors) to suit your height and taste. Also, it comes with a pump and measuring tape so you can inflate it to the right capacity. And best of all, this one comes with anti-slip lines to keep you stable during your workout. It doubles as a makeshift office chair so you can work on your core stability throughout the day.
extras: Choose from sizes 55 – 85 cm, also available in black, grey, pink or green.
BEST CLASSIC PRACTICE BALL
Fitness Durable Swiss Ball Size 2
Another great budget option for home fitness, this 65cm classic exercise ball is made from 100% polyvinyl chloride, which is a little thicker and more durable than some materials. It also comes with non-slip lines to keep you steady, and we love the muted blue or pink tones.
extras: Also available in 55 cm and 75 cm. You need to buy a pump separately.
BEST DUAL TEXTURED EXERCISE BALL
Exercise ball 55 cm
This no-nonsense PVC exercise ball from adidas features a dual-texture surface, so half of it is extra grippy to keep you stable on certain movements, while the other half has a smooth texture for balancing. Plus, it’s made with anti-burst technology, so there won’t be any nasty surprises if your cat attacks it.
extras: 55 cm, a hand pump is included in the purchase.
BEST PEANUT SHAPED EXERCISE BALL
Peanut ball with pump
Peanut balls differ from classic exercise balls because they are easier to slide between your legs. They are therefore excellent for physical therapy and certain core stability exercises, and women who give birth swear by their help during labour.
extras: Available in size 95 cm x 45 cm, pump included.
BEST HALF BALANCE EXERCISE BALL
Half balance ball
When space is tight and you’re hoping to get more out of your home gym equipment, this half balance ball holds the secret to a total body workout. It comes with non-slip bottom pads and a textured base for stability and core work, while bonus resistance bands work your entire body including your arms, shoulders, abs and back.
extras: Size 60 x 60 x 11 cm, includes a pump and free training instructions.
BEST BUDGET EXERCISE BALL
Purple exercise ball
New to using an exercise ball or looking for a pregnancy aid? This simple but effective 65cm purple option is great for beginners hoping to improve balance and coordination, and at £10 it’s an absolute bargain too.
extras: Also available in 55cm in Silver and 75cm in Blue, and purchase includes a pump.
BEST MINI EXERCISE BALL
9 inch core ball
When you just don’t have the floor space for a giant exercise ball, or want to focus on key areas, this 22cm PVC ball may be small, but it still packs quite a punch. Use between your legs to aid alignment or as part of a Pilates class to increase flexibility and improve balance. Plus it’s super cheap.
extras: Also available in blue, purple, gray or turquoise.
BEST EXERCISE BALL FOR AESTHETICS
Yes, this exercise ball is insanely expensive, but isn’t it beautiful? It is designed to support your home workouts and as a seat to help improve your posture. But really, if you have the floor space then it’s also pretty nice just to look at.
extras: Available in 55cm or 65cm. We are also fans of the Desert Edition.
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