Proper pressure for exercise ball

Written by anne hirsh
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Proper pressure for exercise ball
Exercise balls have leeway in air pressure. (woman leaning on exercise ball image by Ken Hurst from

An exercise ball can be a useful part of your routine for firming and toning muscle, and increasing support and stability within your body. Proper inflation helps ensure a safe exercise routine. You may need to check your ball's air pressure regularly to ensure it is properly inflated and has no leaks.


Exercise, or stability, balls are used by physical therapists as part of rehabilitation therapy as well as by exercise coaches, trainers and individuals. The balls may be used against other surfaces to create resistance or freestanding on the floor to encourage balance and the engagement of inner core muscles to develop internal musculature support.


Your exercise ball should include instructions on proper air pressure and inflation. Different manufacturers have different pressure recommendations, based on how the balls are made. Inflate your ball as instructed -- either with a pump or by mouth -- until it reaches the size noted on the packaging. Measure the size by placing a metre stick or tape measure next to the ball, perpendicular to the floor, then place a level on top of the ball at its highest point. With the level parallel to the floor, your ball is properly inflated when the level meets the metre stick at the size noted on the ball's packaging. If you do not have packaging available, try filling the ball until it is firm, but pressure on the ball can indent it approximately 5 cm.


Exercise balls range from approximately 30 to 85 cm in height. The smallest balls are best if you are less than 1.5 m in height or if you are larger but using the ball only for crunch exercises. If you are 1.5 to 1.65 m tall, use a 45 cm ball. For those 1.65 to 1.83 m tall, a 55 cm ball is best, while 1.83 to 2 m tall people may find 65 cm balls most useful. The ball will be very firm when at its full inflation to the proper diameter. You should be able to sit on the ball with your lower legs perpendicular to the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree or slightly higher angle. Your hips should not be below your knees.


Over-inflation will weaken the walls of your exercise ball, leading to an increased potential for bursting. If you need to modify the ball's height to fit you better, choose the larger of the two sizes you fit between and under-inflate it slightly. The ball should still be firm, but not as firm as when inflated to full height. Under-inflation isn't dangerous to the ball, but having a ball that is too soft may affect your ability to perform exercises properly.


Inflate your exercise ball when it is at room temperature. A ball that is too hot or too cold may not stretch as well to accommodate the air. Also, heat and cold will slightly affect the size of your ball. Hot air expands and cold air contracts, so filling your ball in a room the temperature of your exercise room will give you the most accurate pressure when you measure the ball or sit on it to test the proper fit. Although the changes to your ball size from varying temperature will be slight, they may be particularly noticeable on balls that are inflated to maximum pressure.

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