Using an Exercise Ball If You Are Overweight

Overweight women on an exercise ball

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An exercise ball is one of the best pieces of equipment you can use for all kinds of activities—core strength, balance, stability, weight training, and even cardio. Though it originally started out as a physical therapy tool, exercisers have found that adding a ball to your routine is a great way to shake things up and add intensity and/or support, depending on the exercise.

Some exercisers may wonder, however, about exercise ball weight limits. People of all body sizes can use an exercise ball—including those who are overweight or obese. To stay safe, however, it is important to do some research before you buy an exercise ball to make sure you get the right size.

Exercise Ball Weight Limits

Most standard exercise balls have a weight limit of 250 pounds, but some may go up to 300 pounds. If your weight exceeds a ball's weight limit, using it can pose safety risks, including the possibility of the ball bursting while in use. To avoid injury, you should only use a ball that can support your weight.

Typical exercise balls available at places like Walmart or Target aren't always the best quality and some of them only hold up to 250 pounds. If you're only using it for light activities like sitting, this may be a decent choice.

Choose the Right Exercise Ball

You can find exercise balls sold everywhere from discount stores to sporting goods stores. Quality and characteristics can vary widely. Some balls are made out of vinyl, while others are made out of plastic.

Some exercise balls offer a little give, making them a bit squishier, while others offer a very firm surface. Squishier balls are often a good choice for beginners because they offer a little more stability than balls with a firm surface.

However, if you're using an exercise ball for a variety of exercises, it's always best to go for more expensive, higher-quality exercise balls. These types of exercise balls hold more weight, and they usually last longer.

What to Look For

When shopping for an exercise ball, finding the right one can be tough, especially because you often can't tell what the ball is going to be like until it's inflated.

However, there are some characteristics you can look for before you buy that can help keep you safe during exercise:

  • Burst resistance: If you're going to be using your ball for weight training and other exercises, you'll want a ball that, if accidentally punctured, won't burst. Instead, the air will slowly leak out, so you're not in danger of hurting yourself.
  • Durable: The thicker the ball material is, the more durable it will be. For example, a DynaPro Anti-Burst Exercise Ball is rated "gym quality" and has a very high anti-burst weight of 2000 pounds.
  • Size: Getting the right size for your height is important for safe and effective workouts. See the size chart below to find the right size for you.

Get the Right Size

When choosing an exercise ball, make sure you get the right size for your height. Your knees should be level or slightly lower than your hips when you sit on it (though you might need a larger ball if you're going to use it while sitting at the computer).

Size Chart

You can use the following chart to choose the right ball for you but, keep in mind that all exercise balls are made with different materials and different levels of firmness, so sizes may differ between brands.

  • 45cm ball: 4'6" to 5'0" height
  • 55cm: 5'1" to 5'8"
  • 65cm: 5'9" to 6'2"
  • 75cm: 6'3" to 6'7"

If you're worried about getting the right size, it's best to go larger rather than smaller. You can usually return the ball if it turns out to be the wrong size.

Where to Buy Exercise Balls

  • Huge variety of burst resistance balls to choose from, and the reviews can help you decide which one might be right for you
  • DuraBall Pro: More expensive, durable, firm, burst-resistant exercise balls that hold up to 2,000 pounds and last for years
  • Fitter First: Offers various stability balls are listed according to the level of firmness. A plus if you want something squishier (which is often easier to use)

Using an Exercise Ball Safely

Check your exercise ball regularly for any holes or tears. If the ball gets too squishy, you may need to add air to it. It's normal for the ball's size to change as the temperature changes, so keep a pump handy whenever you need to fill it up.

Also keep in mind that the ball is an unstable surface, which is why it's so great for building core strength. But, if you're a beginner, that instability may feel strange and dangerous. To start, you might want to stay near a wall for more balance until you get used to using it.

Using a ball that is too tall for your height can increase your risk of falls. Check the height recommendations and choose a ball that suits you best.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know the weight limit on an exercise ball?

Exercise balls should have a label on the packaging or directly printed on the ball stating the upper weight limit of the ball. Most balls are rated up to 250 pounds. If you are heavier than this and do not see the weight listed, it is best to avoid using the ball.

What size exercise ball do I need to support my weight?

Choose an exercise ball that is rated at least the weight of your heaviest potential scale weight. Since weight fluctuates, it's best to err on the side of caution and choose a ball that can support you at the heavier end of your normal weight fluctuation. It's also important to choose a ball that works for your height.

A Word From Verywell

Less expensive exercise balls tend to support lower weights. More costly options are generally better at supporting heavier weights. It's worth making sure that your exercise ball will support your weight to prevent potential injuries or bursts that destroy the ball. Once you get your exercise ball, look for beginner workouts that help you use it for balance, strength, and stability.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."