Does Bouncing on a Balance Ball Do Anything for You?
You can find balance balls in gyms, fitness centers and school classrooms. Fitness instructors use them as exercise tools and props. Teachers use them to keep students alert and focused in the classroom. Some adults use them instead of or in addition to chairs in the workplace. Not every claim you may hear about the benefits of bouncing on the balls is supported by research.
Posture and Balance
Fitness instructor Pam Dyer says that gentle bouncing on a balance ball helps align the spine and increases the strength and endurance of the muscles that control your posture. Her claims are echoed by Pilates instructor Robin Selzer, who says that the ball user must engage and maintain strong core muscles to remain on the ball. A study published in the Spring 2006 issue of “Human Factors” doesn’t support this notion, however. The study noted that sitting on the ball was more uncomfortable than sitting on a chair without significantly improving the posture and function of the postural muscles.
Warming Your Core
Individuals who sit and bounce on the balls, an activity known as “active sitting,” may benefit from keeping the core muscles warm and burning some extra calories. The gentle bouncing on the ball does require more energy than sitting still and expends calories in the process. No study has revealed how many calories are burned by the activity.
Balance balls help students expend energy that could otherwise cause them to lose focus, according to a March 7, 2009, Associated Press article. Teachers who exchanged regular classroom chairs for the balls report that active sitting gives students a way to wiggle without disrupting the class or losing focus. Students say they like using the balls and believe it helps them focus and improve their posture. Professor John Kilbourne from the Department of Movement Science at Grand Valley State University says the students in his college class noted an improvement in concentration, note-taking ability, focus and classroom participation. His research on the subject was published in the February 2009 "Chronicle of Kinesiology and Physical Education in Higher Education."
Fitness ball class participants may bounce on the balls as a part of the warm-up. During the more active phase of the cardio workout, class participants may bounce on the balls with more intensity while using weights, ribbons and other props. Balance ball cardio workouts can also include bouncing on the ball as you lie across it. These exercises burn calories, improve balance and offer an enjoyable way to workout.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.