Using an Exercise Ball If You’re Overweight or Obese

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Overweight women on an exercise ball

An exercise ball is one of the best pieces of equipment you can use for all kinds of activities—core strength, balance, stability, weight training, and even cardio.

Though it originally started out being used in physical therapy, exercisers have found that adding a ball to your routine is a great way to shake things up and add intensity and/or support, depending on the exercise.

Some exercisers may wonder, however, if it’s safe to use an exercise ball if you’re overweight or obese. 

The great news is that yes, you can absolutely use an exercise ball if you’re overweight or obese. The key is to choose the right kind of exercise ball that fits your needs.

You may need to do some research beforehand so you know how much weight the ball can handle, but there are many choices out there.

Choosing The Right Exercise Ball

You can often find exercise balls sold everywhere from department stores like Walmart to sporting goods stores. All of these balls will offer a different level of quality as well as different characteristics. Some are made out of vinyl while others are made out of plastic.

Some exercise balls offer a little give, making them a bit squishier, while other balls offer a very firm surface. The squishier balls are often a good choice for beginners because they offer a little more stability than balls with a firm surface.

One note: The typical exercise balls available at places like Walmart or Target aren’t always the best quality and some of them only hold up to 250 lbs or more. If you’re only using it for light activities like sitting, this may be a decent choice.

However, if you’re using an exercise ball for a variety of exercises, it’s always best to go for more expensive, higher quality exercise balls.

These types of exercise balls hold more weight and they usually last longer.

What to Look For

When shopping for an exercise ball, it can be tough finding the right one, especially because you often can’t tell what the ball is going to be like until it’s inflated.

However, there are some characteristics you can look for before you buy:

  • Burst-resistance – If you’re going to be using your ball for weight training and other exercises, you’ll want a ball that, if accidentally punctured, won’t burst. Instead, the air will slowly leak out so you’re not in danger of hurting yourself.
  • Durable – The thicker the ball material is, the more durable it will be. For example, a DynaPro Anti-Burst Exercise Ball is rated at gym-quality with a very high anti-burst weight of 2000 pounds.
  • Size – Getting the right size for your height is important for safe and effective workouts. See the size chart below to find the right size for you.

Get the Right Size

When choosing an exercise ball, make sure you get the right size for your height. Your knees should be level or slightly lower than your hips when you sit on it (though you might need a larger ball if you’re going to use it while sitting at the computer).

You can use the following chart to choose the right ball for you but, keep in mind that all exercise balls are made with different materials and different levels of firmness, so sizes may differ between brands:

45 cm – 4’6″ – 5’0″
55 cm – 5’1″ – 5’7″
65 cm – 5’8″ – 6’1″
75 cm – 6’1″ – 6′ 7″

If you’re worried about getting the right size, it’s best to go larger rather than smaller. If you order it (you’ll find links below for where to buy), you can usually return it if it turns out to be the wrong size.

Where to Buy Exercise Balls

  • Ball Dynamics offers a variety of burst-resistant balls at different levels of firmness. These exercise balls will often hold over 1,000 lbs.
  • Fitter First also offers a variety of stability balls and what’s nice about this site is that they break things down according to the level of firmness…a plus if you want something squishier (which is often easier to use).
  • DuraBall Pro offers very durable, very firm burst-resistant exercise balls and it holds up to 2,000 lbs. This one is more expensive, but it will last years.
  • has a huge variety of burst resistance balls to choose from and the reviews can help you decide which one might be right for you.

More Exercise Ball Tips Resources

One thing to remember is to check your exercise ball regularly for any holes or tears. If the ball gets too squishy, you may need to add air to it. It’s normal for the ball’s size to change as the temperature changes, so keep a pump handy whenever you need to fill it up.

Also keep in mind that the ball is an unstable surface, which is why it’s so great for building core strength. But, if you’re a beginner, that instability may feel strange and dangerous. To start, you might want to stay near a wall for more balance until you get used to using it.

Once you get your exercise ball, you might wonder exactly what to do with it. The following links offer workouts and information about how to use your exercise ball for balance, strength, and stability:

  • T his beginner ball workout will help you get started and build balance, stability, and core strength.
  • Learn how to use the ball for support with these relaxing stretches.
  • You can also do yoga on the ball.

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