There are many pieces of fitness equipment that can serve multiple uses.The fitness ball is a great choice and known for helping with core and balance. On the average you can find a fitness ball for around $20 or less. If you’re taller than 5’10” opt for a 65cm ball otherwise the 55cm ball will work. If you have a ball, opt to inflate it to a firmness that allows your knees to be lower than your hips when sitting on it if you haven’t inflated it the height recommended. Using the ball daily by sitting on it at your desk can help improve balance and core strength. But there are many ways to use a fitness ball.

Here are 5 great exercises to do with that big ball each morning

Stand up and stretch

Grab the ball at the sides and lift the ball up and down with a full body reach and bend the knees to lower. Then, keeping the ball outstretched in front of you, reach side to side making sure to turn through the hips. Lastly, move the ball around in a circle making sure to go both directions. These stretches help open the spine and warm up the body. This helps improve circulation and strengthen the upper body and core.

Bridge on Ball

Reduce low back pain with a bridge and lift balance. Sit on the ball and slowly roll down until your head and shoulders are supported and your knees are directly over your feet. You will be in a table top position. Reach down to the ground with your fingertips to help with balance. Slowly lower and raise your hips by squeezing the back of your thighs and butt. Perform 12-20 or as many as you can the first few times until you are strong enough to hold the position for one minute. Then roll back up to seated position. This strengthens the back of the thighs which can help alleviate low back pain.

Balance kick

Standing with both feet on the ground and holding onto a chair or wall for balance if needed, place one foot on the top apex of the ball. Slowly roll the ball out forward and hold for 10-15 seconds, then roll it back in repeat 8-12 times. Don’t forget to repeat on the other side. If you are very comfortable with this move, try to reach forward and stretch the hamstring then roll the ball back to the starting position. This helps strengthen the smaller muscles in the hips for stability and stretches the hamstrings. It helps release low back tension, strengthen the core muscles and improve balance.

Add weights to add intensity to this bridge on a ball stretch.

Side body stretch

Start with the ball placed under your arm and pressed into the side body. Hold firmly and then gently reach over leaning your hip into the ball and exhaling deeply. Perform 8-12 stretches to the side. Feel the body open all the way down to your knees and make sure to repeat on the other side. For an added challenge, cross the foot behind the other to deepen the stretch into the it band. This helps release tension in the IT band which can pull on the hips and lower back.

Forward body roll out

This one can be done standing or performed while on your knees depending on the size of your ball and your own flexibility level and comfort. Place finger tips on the ball and slow hinge from the hips to bend forwards (with a slight bend in the knee if you’re standing.) Roll out to feel the stretch in your shoulders, under your arms, and the upper back. As you reach the end point of the roll out, slowly rock the ball side to side. Then roll the ball back into the body. Perform 8-12 repetitions breathing thought the stretch.

There are many other movements that the ball can be used. Check out these additional Stability Ball Exercises.

-Andrea Metcalf

Andrea Metcalf is a health and wellness expert, best-selling author, certified Personal Trainer and trusted television personality with appearances on the NBC TodayShow, Steve Harvey, and Oprah.com. She is the co-founder of ONYX Interactive, an at-home Pilates Reformer and Pilates inspired content provider. Some of her other Smart Lifebites stories include: What stretching can do for you,  Maximize your walking workout and How to build a workout routine into your workday.

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