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Can I use an exercise ball if I'm overweight or obese?

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Updated July 14, 2014

Question: Can I use an exercise ball if I'm overweight or obese?

Answer: Yes, you can absolutely use an exercise ball if you're overweight or obese, if you choose the right kind of exercise ball. 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.

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 activites like sitting, this may be a decent choice. But, I always recommend higher quality exercise balls because they typically hold more weight and last longer. You also want to look for a burst-resistant ball. That means, if the ball is damaged or punctured, the air will leak out slowly rather than in an explosive (and sometimes painful) pop. That's always a good thing no matter what you weigh and burst-resistant balls are also a must if you're using it for strength training or other strenuous activities.

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 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 level of firmness...a plus if you want something squishier (which is often easier to use).
  • DuraBall Pro is probably my all-time favorite exercise ball. It's very firm, it's burst-resistant and it holds up to 2,000 lbs. I've had mine for going on seven years and it's still going strong. It's more expensive, but well worth it.

More Exercise Ball Resources

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:

 

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