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Fitness Q&A

How to Pick the Right Stability Ball

September 09, 2002|STEPHANIE OAKES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: I'd like to purchase a stability ball, but I'm confused about the different sizes. Could you offer advice on which one I should use?

Answer: It largely depends on your size and your reason for using the ball. These large balls (often known as Swiss balls or stability balls) were first used in rehabilitation exercises and are now popular for strength training, balance training and stretching. Choosing the right size will ensure the most effective and safest workout for you.

Most exercises, such as lower back exercises, balance workouts, stretches and weight work should be done with the recommended size/height stability ball. If you're 5 feet to 5 feet, 8 inches, for example, try a 55-centimeter ball. If you're 5 feet, 9 inches to 6 feet, 3 inches, then a 65-centimeter ball; 6 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 9 inches, 75-centimeter; and 6 feet, 10 inches or taller, the 85-centimeter ball.

To increase the intensity of certain exercises, you can use a smaller ball, such as when doing ab crunches or holding a plank pose.

These exercises are more difficult on smaller and harder balls because secondary balance muscles are recruited into these exercises.

If you plan to use a ball for cardio exercises or for strength exercises that require additional weight, such as dumbbells or barbells, select a ball that is especially designed for these purposes.

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Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions by e-mail to stephoakes@aol.com. She cannot respond to every query.

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