As pediatric therapists, lots of times we have about 100 reasons for doing an activity that may seem very simple. One of the best examples of this is using an exercise ball, also called a Swiss ball, therapy ball, or stability ball.
One of the reasons I use sitting on a ball in therapy is because it helps me look at sustained postural strength. A few months ago, I measured how long one of my clients could sit on the ball before slouching, grabbing onto the table, or bouncing off the ball. When I measured this time around, I found that he had more than doubled the amount of time he could sit properly on the ball! This tells me that he is developing those small postural muscles- not only are they getting stronger, but they are building endurance too. Hopefully that will make it a little bit easier for him to sit still during school.
Here are some other benefits of sitting on an exercise ball:
- It strengthens your abdominal, back, and leg muscles.
- It encourages proper spinal and postural alignment because it is the easiest to balance when your spine is properly aligned. Therefore it makes it hard to slouch and can help improve posture.
- It forces you to frequently change positions with small weight shifts when you need to reach for something or turn to look at something. Sitting in the same spot can make you tired and sluggish, so this can help to improve energy and focus.
- In situations where kids need to sit for a long time, such as in school or while doing homework, fidgety kids are able to “get the wiggles out” without getting up from their chair.
- Kids that seek a lot of sensory input may like the deep pressure the ball provides against the skin.
- For kids, sitting on a ball is more fun than sitting in a chair!
Another major benefit: studies have found that in kids with ADHD, sitting on an exercise ball instead of in a chair at school can help to improve behavior and legible word productivity. The study reasoned that it was because the kids were able to burn off a little extra energy doing some subtle bouncing on the ball.
The proper sized ball for your child is one that they are able to sit on with their feet flat on the floor with their knees bent at about 90 degrees, with thighs parallel to the floor. If you are thinking about getting one for home, ask your therapist which size would be the best for your child. We have lots of different sizes that we can test out here at Child and Family Development.
Try it at home during homework or TV time. It’s a great way to get in some extra therapy!