A Brief History of Stability Balls
In 1963, Italian manufacturer, Aquilino Cosani developed a special technique for manufacturing large toy balls made of durable, burst resistant vinyl to replace rubber. These large colourful balls were sold throughout Europe under the brand names Gymnastik or Gymnic.
Shortly thereafter, English physiotherapist Mary Quinton discovered these Gymnastik balls while in Bern, Switzerland and began using them in her intervention treatment programs for newborns and infants with Cerebral Palsy.
During the late 1960’s, Dr. Susan Klein-Vogelbach, the founding director of the physiotherapy school in Basel, Switzerland, was the first individual to use the balls with adults—particularly those having orthopaedic problems.
Despite the Italian origin, it was American Physical Therapists who coined the term “Swiss balls” after witnessing the use of the balls while visiting several Swiss clinics. In 1989 physical therapist Joanne Posner-Mayer began instructing US therapists on the neurological, orthopaedic and fitness applications of stability balls. Today athletic trainers, strength coaches, personal trainers and physical therapists around the world use stability balls in fitness and rehab programs.
Over the past 10 years there has been a significant increase in the use of stability ball workouts in mainstream community gyms and fitness programs. Unlike many fitness tools on the market, a stability ball is a multi-use piece of fitness equipment that’s affordable and accessible to a wide range of users. This makes it easier to commit to an exercise program especially for those unable to get to a gym because of time or budget constraints, or who lack sufficient space for equipment in their homes.
Current trends in exercise and fitness focus on "core strength" which refers to the muscles of the abs and back and their ability to support the spine and keep the body stable and balanced.
The power of stability ball training and its importance to core strength cannot be underestimated. Various muscles contract to help produce movement, balance the body, stabilize the spine and hold the body in a safe, neutral position. All of these muscles working together reduce the compression that contributes to disc degeneration.
Sitting on stability balls both within and outside a fitness environment has been found to be highly effective in engaging the core muscles. And since most of the body’s movements are initiated and supported with the core muscles, good back health is ensured.