Having a 'Ball' With Exercise

Trendy exercise balls target muscles that are often forgotten

By Heather Hatfield
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Though the muscles that can be displayed at the beach seem most important, like bulging biceps or killer quads, the frequently ignored muscles in your back and mid-section need attention, too, and exercise balls are just the way to give them a good workout.

"The muscles of the 'core' are the true workhorses of the body, as they are essential to posture, spinal alignment and support, balance, and all movement -- both everyday movements as well as exercise," says Jude Sullivan, a clinical exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin Health Sports Medicine Center. "The muscles of the core are located deep in your pelvis, abdomen, trunk, and back, and they can be targeted directly through the use of exercise balls."

Exercise balls, which are large, vinyl balls with varying degrees of inflation, are also known as Swiss balls, physioballs, spine balls, or theraballs. They are inexpensive, easy to use and, unlike other forms of exercise and stretching, they can be fun.

On the Ball

"Exercise balls are used mostly as a support for strength and stretching exercises," says Richard Cotton, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise. The kicker, he says, is that "the instability of the support activates muscles that would normally not be stimulated by traditional, well-supported exercise positions."