Ever hear, “if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it?” Sometimes, they probably would be if only they knew about it.
Strengthening your body’s core muscles helps increase your body’s stability and balance. Strong core muscles and stability help you avoid lower back pain. So, strengthen your core muscles.
Wait. That sounds suspiciously like a lot of work.
Sure it is. And if you want those rock hard, magazine cover abs you’re going to need to spend a certain amount of time focusing on exercise. And watching what you eat. And getting enough sleep. And so on.
But you’re not interested in me selling you a pipe dream fantasy world of appearing on the cover of some health magazine, are you? I’ll bet you’d rather have a simple solution for improving your core muscles and stability to avoid lower back pain. Wouldn’t it be nice if a simple, elegant solution was already in hand?
Maybe it already is. Like that big blue exercise ball gathering dust in the corner of your living room. Or readily available in the Pilates room at your local health club.
Physical therapists have used exercise balls (they call them stability balls) for over four decades to help their patients increase stability and strengthen core muscles. There are many, many terrific exercises which take advantage of the unique features of an inflated exercise ball to help you build abs of steel. Or at least strengthen your core muscles enough so you can perform dangerous activities like rolling out of bed in the morning without throwing your back out.
Simple. But today I promised you easy. Here it is, in just two steps:
Step 1: Go get one of those inflated blue exercise balls (blue is optional, inflated isn’t)
Step 2: Sit down on top of the exercise ball
No, I’m not kidding. Truth is you’re not going to build rock hard abs just by sitting on an exercise ball. But you can make incremental improvements in your core strength and stability every day.
Still don’t believe me? Here’s how it works.
When you sit in a normal chair, like the one you’re sitting in right now, your body doesn’t have to do anything. It just sits there.
Sit on an exercise ball and you introduce a measure of instability. Suddenly your body has to use your back and abdominal muscles to make very small adjustments in order to maintain stability. It’s called “active sitting” because your muscles actually work to keep you sitting instead of just flattening out.
When you first sit on the exercise ball you might find it uncomfortable because your body isn’t used to working just to remain seated. If you can only stay on 30 seconds the first time, then stay on 30 seconds. Try for 45 seconds or a minute the next time.
As your core muscles grow stronger and you gain better stability and balance from daily sitting on the exercise ball, you’ll be able to comfortably increase the amount of time spent sitting on one. By the time you can comfortably sit on the ball for 20 minutes or longer, you’ll find it fun to actually roll your hips around on top of the ball while sitting. It feels great and gives your core muscles an even better workout — plus it doesn’t even feel like a workout!
Best yet, you don’t even have to make time for exercise. Just roll your desk chair back and use your exercise ball instead. How’s that for easy?
There are a couple of considerations when choosing an exercise ball.
First, choose one with the right height for you. Your hips and knees should form a 90 degree angle when your feet are flat on the floor. In other words, your thighs should be parallel to the floor or slightly pointing downwards while sitting on the exercise ball.
Secondly, please spend the $30-$40 for a durable exercise ball that won’t explode on you, dumping you unceremoniously onto the floor and possibly injuring you. If you use a ball that you inflate yourself with an air pump, follow the instructions on fill level.
Finally, avoid wearing sharp items that might puncture the ball while you sit on it. Common sense, but you’ll thank yourself later for heeding it.
Panjabi MM. Clinical spinal instability and low back pain. Journal of electromyography and kinesiology. 2003 Aug;13(4):371-9.
Posner-Mayer J. Ball Dynamics International. 1995. Swiss Ball Applications For Orthopedic And Sports Medicine; pp. 2—3.
Written By: Updated: March 2,2010