Fitness Balls for Rheumatoid Arthritis-Friendly Workouts: What to Know

You might know it as an exercise or fitness ball, a balance ball, a physio ball, or a Swiss ball. Whatever you call it, this simple, air-filled object makes a great addition to a home workout, especially for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Stability balls actually got their start among physical therapists (PTs) in Europe (hence the “Swiss ball” nickname), and when they first found use in the United States in the 1980s, they were typically located in physical therapy centers. Only later did the balls find a place in gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, and people’s homes. Stability balls range in size, but they typically measure two to three feet across and are filled with air.

RELATED: How to Exercise With Rheumatoid Arthritis

What Makes a Fitness Ball Helpful for People With RA?

Because they’re like very strong balloons, the balls create a slightly unstable surface, which causes you to engage more muscles when you work out. “One of the reasons the ball is especially good for people with RA is you strengthen the small muscles that help stabilize the joints just by trying to keep yourself balanced,” says Scott Haak, DPT, a physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

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