The stability ball, also known as the Swiss or balance ball, is rather popular among older people who exercise at gyms.
When I was a personal trainer my clients of all ages uses a stability or “Swiss” ball sooner or later. I modified the difficulty level to the client’s individual level of fitness.
If you’re an older person, those big, bouncy balls you see at gyms, health clubs and physical rehab centers can benefit you. There are beneficial exercises, using the Swiss ball, for people of all ages and fitness levels.
I had my most fit clients using the Swiss ball, assigning them routines that the average person could not possibly do.
Meanwhile, I had frail or older clients also doing exercises with a ball, but of course, these were matched to their fitness level.
I recommend that people over age 60 include the balance ball in their exercise routines. This includes sitting on the ball while pressing dumbbells overhead.
However, I absolutely urge against doing the majority of your routines with the ball. This is because this tool does not mimic real-life movement in space. It’s great for a small portion of exercises, but not for most of them.
Pros of a Big Fitness Ball for Older People
• They aren’t intimidating.
• They add variety to exercise.
• Many routines can be “cool” and funky, a creative change from more traditional routines that can get dull after awhile.
• Many routines are quite effective, such as lying on the ball and pressing dumbbells overhead.
• Can be used by all levels of fitness in older people.
• Highly portable.
Disadvantages of a Fitness or “Balance” Ball for the Older Person
• Does not substitute for basic strength training routines.
• It’s actually possible for people to slide or “fall off” a Swiss ball.
• Provides only limited strength training for the upper body, since balance gets involved and thus makes it more difficult to focus on strength output.
Some people end up spending too much of their exercise sessions with this tool, when instead, this device should be more of an adjunct to a comprehensive fitness regimen that’s based on traditional cardiovascular and strength training routines.
Balance ball exercises are too numerous to list here, but these devices, when purchased, come with illustrated routines.
You can also create routines, plus have a personal trainer demonstrate some that align with your fitness goals.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.