The Exercise Ball, while often referred to as a Swiss ball, is also known by a number of different names, including Balance Ball, Birth Ball, Body Ball, Fitness Ball, Gym Ball, Pilates Ball, Pezzi Ball, Stability Ball, Swedish Ball, Therapy Ball or Yoga Ball amongst others. Generally speaking it is made of a soft elastic shell and filled with air using the valve to control the air pressure inside the ball.
The first “Exercise Ball” was developed in 1963 and was then known as a Pezzi Ball for use in treatment programs for newborns and infants. It later became introduced for physical therapy at the Physical Therapy School in Basel, Switzerland from where it later became known as the “Swiss Ball” once American physical therapists began to use the same techniques after witnessing their benefits in Switzerland. These same exercises are now used in athletic training as well as general fitness routines, Yoga and Pilates.
A major benefit of exercising with an exercise ball as opposed to directly on a hard flat surface or mat is that the body responds to the instability of the ball to remain balanced which uses many more muscles which then become stronger over time to keep balance. The most usual muscle groups targeted by the use of an exercise ball are the core body muscles, the abdominal muscles and back muscles.
To help improve posture and relieve potential back pain, some people recommend sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair if you are going to be seated for long periods. This is based on the theory that the abdominal and back muscles are constantly engaged and active in order to maintain proper posture and balance on the ball.
Sitting in an upright position will also aid foetal positioning and is more comfortable for the woman. Sitting on the ball with arms placed on a bed, table or otherwise sturdy object for support and then gently rocking the hips may help the woman during contractions and aid the natural physiological process of birth.
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