The Medicine Ball

Written by Della Vorshuk

A brief history
Developed in 1963 by Aquilino Cosani, an Italian plastics manufacturer, the exercise tool known as the “Stability Ball” is a favourite of many personal trainers and exercise enthusiasts worldwide. Originally called the “Pezzi Ball”, by its inventor, it is also called the Stability Ball, Body Ball, Physio Ball, Flex-Ball and Swiss Ball. Originally used by Mary Quinton, a British physiotherapist working in Switzerland to stimulate the nervous system of newborns and infants, it soon gained great popularity with other physical therapists when Susanne Klein-Vogelbach, the director at the Physical Therapy School in Basel, Switzerland, integrated the use of ball exercise as physical therapy for neuro-developmental treatment for all ages.
Based on the concept of “functional kinetics” (Observing, Analyzing, and Teaching Human Movement), exercise , Klein-Vogelbach promoted the use of specifically designed exercises and techniques to treat adults with orthopedic injury, neurological and other medical conditions. The term “Swiss Ball” was created when American physical therapists visited Switzerland to learn about the use of ball and its associated treatment applications. It has taken over three decades for the stability ball to make its transition from the clinical setting into the gyms and homes of fitness professionals and exercise enthusiasts worldwide.
The main benefit of the stability ball stems from its inherent instability. When sitting, laying or kneeling on the ball, the body is thrown off balance and must reflexively respond to “right itself”. This instinctive “action, reaction” counterbalancing effect stimulates one’s nervous system and many more of its muscles in a manner often not used with conventional exercise. When used appropriately, one’s balance, coordination, reaction time and muscles improve quickly. Most frequently, the spinal support musculature known as the “core” muscles (the abdominal, pelvic floor and back muscles are a key focus of many stability ball sports and fitness conditioning programs. Weak core muscles often lead to poor spinal support, lower back pain, and injury.

The stability ball is constructed of a specialized soft elastic rubber compound and comes in many sizes. Selecting the correct ball size can be done in several ways:
a.       Sitting on it
·         Sit on a fully inflated ball; your hips and knees should be bent to approximately 90◦
b.      By height
Ball Size Diameter (height from floor to top of ball)
55 cm
65 cm
75 cm

Safety Considerations
Do not leave the ball in direct sunlight or near heat sources (kaboom!)
Get some initial instruction on the proper use of the ball ( for “The Great Body Ball Handbook” and Body Ball Exercise DVD)
Pay slightly more for the “anti-burst” ball
Start slowly with introductory exercises and work your way up to more advanced techniques

Happy training!

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About the author

Della Vorshuk

Della is the General Manager of INFOFIT Educators, North America’s Health and Fitness Training Solution for over 20 years.