The exercise ball is light, portable, durable and inexpensive. Unlike any other piece of equipment, the ball is an unstable base of support. Pitting your gravity-bound body against a mobile ball requires balance and balance recruits many of the bodies deep, stabilizing muscles. Most of these muscles are underused, resulting in the most common injuries of the back, shoulder, knee or ankle.
Exercise machines support the back and buttocks, which often means that these areas relax during a workout and are not recruited. On the ball, muscles must keep working.
At the same time it is strengthening the body, the exercise ball heightens proprioception - your awareness of how your body moves in space. The ball helps focus your attention on how you perceive and interpret stimuli and sensations from the world around you. This is how the ball is used to rehabilitate motor skills and increase sensory perception. By increasing the speed of the workout or narrowing the base of support, more challenge is added.
The postural muscles, which are close to the vertebral column, maintain an erect spine. Sitting on the ball is highly advantageous for back health because it is active work: the body continually adjusts to maintain balance. Over time, ball sitting retrains postural muscles and brings the body back into balance.
Another significant advantage of the ball is the addition of resistance and weight bearing: my favourite type of movement. Lifting the ball in the air with the arms or legs, adds resistance. Taking weight on your hands or your feet while your body partially rests on the ball adds weight-bearing. Terrific for body toning and bone density.
For flexibility and muscle elongation, in my 35 years of experience, there is absolutely no better modality of exercise! Results are achieved quickly gently and with minimal effort. The ball can comparably support a stretch, reducing the load, allowing for deeper elongation and activation of joint and muscle tissue.