Have a Ball Doing the Little Things
by Stephanie Nickel
While looking down the hall to my kitchen, I again realized that it’s the little things that count.
- Instead of walking from one end of your house to the other, why not lunge walk?
- While climbing the stairs, take time to do some calf raises.
- Keep dumbbells next to your desk for bicep curls, triceps extensions, shoulder presses, etc.
- And don’t forget to take a break every now and then and move around; march, do squats, dance.
- Sit on a stability ball at your desk or while watching TV. From here, you can work on various muscle groups including your core.
Here are a few exercises to do using the ball.
1. Sit on the ball. Hold one leg out in front of you for 30 seconds and then the other.
2. Do hip circles in one direction then the other while sitting on the ball.
3. One-Legged Squats. (Stand on one foot in front of the ball. Lower yourself just until you feel the ball under you. Stand. And repeat. Caution: Make sure the ball doesn’t roll away.)
4. Stand facing away from the wall, the ball between your waist and the wall. Lower your glutes toward the floor. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle, your shoulders pressed into the ball. Hold for 30 seconds. Gently return to standing. Repeat. (If 30 seconds is too long, work up to it. If you don’t begin to feel your thighs tightening, make sure your legs are at 90 degrees and hold longer.)
5. Crunches (Make sure to tighten your abdominals before sitting up. Resist the temptation to bounce up off the ball. It may be fun, but it won’t strengthen your abs.)
6. Reverse Crunches (Begin by sitting toward the front of the ball. Bring your arms up by your head, fingertips just grazing your ears. Inhale. Tighten your abs. As you exhale, lean back slowly as far as you can. Inhale and return to a seated position.) (I call these Walmart crunches or “Rollbacks.” Not to worry. I won’t try to make a living writing pun.)
7. Reverse Crunches 2 (Lie on your back on the floor. Hold the ball between your knees and draw your knees toward your chest.) (Option: Hold the ball between your legs just below the knees. Raise and lower straight legs. Caution: If you do it this way, be especially aware of tightening your abdominals and pressing your lower back into the floor. If it arches, don’t lift your legs as high or do this exercise with bent legs.)
8. Plank (Lie facedown on the ball. Prop your feet against the wall. Rest on your forearms and lift yourself off the ball. Hold steady for as long as possible, aiming for 90 seconds.) (Option: Do the plank with your forearms on the ball and your toes and the balls of your feet on a piece of sturdy furniture. Caution: You will be much more unstable in this position, but it has been said to be twice as effective as a regular plank. Be extremely careful.)
9. Back Extensions (Lie facedown on the ball. Anchor your feet against the wall. Tighten your glutes. Gently come up off the ball, using the muscles of your lower back, not your arms. You should feel this in your lower back, but it shouldn’t hurt.)
10. Side Crunches (Lie on your side on the ball. Prop your feet against the wall, one in front of the other. Tighten your oblique muscles. Draw yourself up. Repeat several times on one side then the other.)
Don’t forget the benefit of stretching throughout the day.
And yes, it’s always best to check with your doctor before changing your exercise routine or level of physical activity.
Steph Beth Nickel is an author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer.