Exercise at home can be a tiresome ordeal, not due to the physical endurance endured by your body during a workout, but because of the lack of innovative equipment most homes possess. Due to the high cost stainless-steel weight sets, adjustable benches, mats, disks and balls are retailed at, many of us give in to appealing monthly gym memberships instead of creating our own calorie crunching caverns in basements, garages and back rooms. But there ARE products out there, it's just knowing where to look...
If it's a way to naturally tone your core and abdominal muscles in a calm and quiet way you're after, then the Fitness Mad Stability Cushion is the product for you. In contrast to many heavier items which work on strength, this product is a cheap, light weight, quiet way to build muscle tone leisurely at home. Back when I had a gym membership I didn't use or even see one of these, it was only when my mum bought me one as a present that I gave it a go in front of the TV and decided I enjoyed the sensation of safely balancing whilst working out (with little effort applied!).
Essentially, what this product does is exaggerate the process of instinctive muscle response which exists to help us stand, kneel, or sit in any given space. Think about when you stand, your toes (especially the end two of each foot) are making constant tiny alterations to their position and applied pressure, even shuffling on occasion, all to maintain a sturdy balance to stop you from falling. When you're stood / knelt / sat on the cushion you are forever sinking several centimetres in different places, causing those corrections your body makes to be increased, hence increasing the effort you put in and the calories you burn. You'll never get tired (like in running or jumping), the only danger is boredom and the realisation that progress is slow and gruelling (at times). Perhaps the greatest thing though, is the fact the cushion can be used whilst you are doing other things - watching, listening, typing, writing, etc - taking your mind away from the process of exercise and upping the practicality of the product.
The product arrives in a box labelled 'studio fitness equipment' and there are minimal instructions (because of its simplicity), mainly about health and safety. When removed you pump the cushion up using a pinned pump (similar to a football pump), and in no time the product is ready for use. The cushion is made from a thick rubber which is very resistant to strong impacts and will support your weight (the increasing air-pressure within) effortlessly. The top half is textured with small mounds evenly spaced in a circle pattern to help increase grip - if you try to stand on it upside down you soon realise the effectiveness of this. But besides this innovation, the cushion is as plain and boring as a any old cushion.
When first standing on it, the feeling is very odd. You feel completely off-balance, most will need a few attempts before they can stand or kneel on it long-term. Once you get used to the sensation however, it becomes easy. And it becomes easy for anyone - I believe the elderly could benefit a lot from one of these, though they may need assistance to begin with.
I have taken to using the cushion for 30 minutes a day and in 3 weeks I have seen some improvement. I do have a slight feeling of tension in my stomach after each use and I believe that if used alongside a regular bout of sit-ups, the results could be very encouraging. THIS PRODUCT WON'T GIVE YOU A SIX-PACK, but it will help you along the way in a seemingly easy, natural way.
All in all I don't think this product is particularly original, and Fitness Mad are certainly not the only company to manufacture and sell it, but it is useful, it does work... rather slowly I admit. Yes, you have to be patient, but the results will follow if you set yourself a daily target and stick to it. The thing its self is well made, very durable and just the right size and shape for performing the exercises it suggests. I would recommend this cushion, but the price I paid (shown below) may put off some buyers.
PRICE: £16.00 (£2 delivery)
AVAILABILITY: newitts.com (and many more retailers).
RECOMMENDATION: For everyone!
Thanks for reading!
I used to go to the gym a lot. Mainly to do classes like Body Attack (there's a review here somewhere). I stopped to going to train for my 2nd 10k run. Since I ran (which was October 2010) my BA routine was never quite at the standard it was. I would go back for classes maybe twice a week if lucky, 5 times a month if that. It was a slippery slope to the world of no decent exercise. Work got super busy, so all exercise took a back burner (you'll get this pun a bit late on) for a while. Last August, I managed to get to some classes once a week, until I started getting painful twinges in my right hip. Followed by a long weekend to Paris, where I spent the trip without the ability to walk! After visiting the doctors and physio, I was told I had Sciatica. If you have it, you will now how incredibly painful it is. Not fun. Its like hitting your funny bone repeatedly up and down your leg. After a long process (mainly involving strong pain killers), I'm getting better - I've got plenty of stretches and exercises to do. My job is quite sedentary, so my physio suggested I get a stability disc to sit on at work.
Some people use stability (or balance) discs as part of an exercise or rehabilitation programme for damaged muscles. They can be used in a variety of ways - for instance, to do press ups on to, which exercise and support the shoulder and upper body muscles. They can also be used to stand and balance on (usually 2 are used for this), strengthening your core muscles. But what I really like to do with it it is to sit on it. It was recommended that I place the disc on my chair at work. Some people also use them to sit on for floor exercises, such as sit ups - using it in this way, the disc really takes your exercises to the next level!
As the air shifts inside the disc, when you sit on it, the disc can be wobbly and therefore difficult to sit on - but it's this wobble that naturally activates your stomach muscles, to prevent yourself from falling, so you get a little abdominal workout from sitting down. When I first started using this, my glutes and upper hamstrings got sore, but the more I used it, the more my body got used to it. I also started to feel an ache in my lower abdominals, this small disc was really doing significant effects on my body. I bought this for just under £20, so I feel that I'm getting a lot of value.
The disc itself is made from a thick, durable and flexible plastic. It came with a pump that allows you to inflate or deflate to suit your needs - I didn't want mine too firm, as I was using it sit on, so it needed to have enough give so that it kept me supported, but not so much that it was like sitting on a very hard cushion! I also couldn't have it too firm, as i was also using it to take pressure off my sciatic nerve from too much sitting. One side of the disc is bobbly, just enough to give you a grip to sit or lean on, with the other side covered in small flexible cone shaped bobbles, that create plenty of grip to cling on to whichever surface the disc is resting on.
If anyone wants a piece of equipment which will make they're muscles work hard whilst exercising, I would recommend this. The very nature of it being able to engage your core muscles to help you balance, prove that this simple apparatus will help everyone, from the novice to the seasoned pro fitness buff. The disc complements my other weekly physio routines well, and I'm definitely starting to notice a significant difference in my back pain and movement.
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2012
A couple of years ago I had a knee injury and as part of my rehabilitation I had to go for physio and a lot of the sessions were aimed at improving my core muscle strength and not just the damage around my knee and one of the pieces of kit I used with my pgysio was a balance board and to help my recovery I also went out and bought one as well and that is how I came to own a Fitness Mad Stability Cushion and following the birth of my first child last year I have found myself using it again as part of my fitness regime as it was very useful the first time around.
Often referred to as wobble cushions this particular board is 14inch in diameter and cost me about £12 just over two years ago. It is made from a strong flexible rubber compound, on the top it has a dimpled texture to aid grip and the other side is smooth and the disc shape means that it has movement to it as you either stand or sit on it, or as the description says, wobble. If sitting then the dimpled side will normally go underneath and you sit on the smooth side but when standing up I usually have it the other way around.
The whole idea of exercising with this wobble board is that you are strengthening your core stomach and leg muscles by maintaining your balance, I was amazed the first time I used this rather inocuous piece of kit just how much I found my stomach muscles having to work when I popped it under my bum while sitting down and then used them to keep my balance. In the standing position while working both your legs and stomach you can shift your weight around to then force you to work to maintain your balance and you can move your weight to all four different co=ordinates in order to work both front and back leg muscles in different ways.
It is easy to inflate or deflate the board, this can help make it easier to store however it does not really take up a great deal of space when inflated however I can understand how that would be useful if space is limited.
I have been pleased with the results, both originally while completing my physio and again more recently as I return to fitness and continue to tone up, something that was important after losing the baby weight quickly I wanted to ensure I was tioned again and not flabby and loose skinned.
What will they think of next? There is an abundance of fitness equipment out there ready to be used and abused, owners adapting their newly bought products to help them get fit in any way they can. The best thing about any purchase is to make sure you get the best possible value for money no matter what you buy and how much it costs.
Your core muscles can often determine how fit you are and how well you can do various exercises. This stability cushion is designed to slowly but surely strengthen these muscles so that they build up without you having to really exert yourself and do specific exercises to improve them. It's a circular cushion that's about 35cm in diameter, with one smooth side and one rough one. It's a rubber cushion, and soft and squidgy, meaning that it's very supple and malleable. This is essential, really, as otherwise it'd just be like sitting, or kneeling or exercising on a flat surface, which wouldn't harbour any real benefit.
The whole point is to not have to make any changes to what you do other than incorporate this into it. For example, if you're just sitting at the table, pop this cushion onto the chair, and it'll improve your posture and mean that your core muscles are working to maintain your balance as you sit on the chair, even though you probably won't really realise it.
This is particularly something I take notice of, as I damaged a lot of my lower back muscles a few years ago and am always looking at ways of improving and maintaining the strength of my core muscles to try and build that strength back up on a regular basis. The fact that you can use this cushion whatever you're doing (within reason) means that you don't necessarily have to make any changes in order to improve your posture and get those muscles working.
So, the smooth and rough surfaces. I suppose in a way it's down to personal preferences, although the rough bobbled side does make it more secure if you're using it on a surface that may be slippery. I tend to have the rough side down as it means I'm sitting on a smooth surface. The rough surface isn't necessarily uncomfortable straight away, but it can get annoying after time and it's nice to have the extra grip on the underneath as well as some comfort while sitting.
It's inflatable and deflatable, which I found rather interesting. I suppose this does mean you can put it away whenever you're not using it, but we do tend to just keep it blown up. If you deflate it, it just means that you'll have to inflate it again should you wish to use it, which could be a bit annoying if you just want to use it quickly or on a whim.
What gets me, though, is that although it's a great product and I can feel some improvements, it isn't cheap. One of these will cost you around the £15 mark, and you may even need two if you plan on using it for exercises to stand on or rest your hands on. Naturally, this entails stepping it up and taking on trickier exercises that may exert you a bit more and make it seem more like a fitness accessory than an extra part of your daily routine. To fork out £30 or thereabouts to do some exercise with your balance core muscles seems a bit steep, given that it's just a rubber cushion.............
That having been said, I suppose it is well designed and you do notice differences. It has that knack of maintaining the divide between doing fitness and sitting comfortably, and it seems to be working. I guess over time, if you look after it and don't damage it, then I may consider the price to be value for money. On the face of it, it's a bit steep, but ultimately, I'm sure it'll pay for itself in the good it can do.
I've actually had one of these Fitness Mad Wobble Cushions for many years now. I originally bought it to use for lunges and that kind of thing but I've tried using it to sit on, stand on and kneel on too. This wobble cushion is made of rubber, one side is smooth and the other side is knobbly. I'm not a fan of the knobbly side but some people do use it as a way to massage the area during use. Personally I find it painful!
The wobble cushion is 35cm diameter so about the right size for one foot rather than both and a good size for using as a seat too. It comes complete with a pump which is inserted into the hole on the side and then pumped up by hand. There is a plastic stopper which goes in the hole once it is pumped up but they do gradually deflate with use. I paid £16.99 for mine a few years ago and they haven't gone down in price at all since that point. I couldn't find one any cheaper than that regardless of the brand so expect to pay that upwards.
To use the wobble cushion you place it either on the floor or on a seat. The idea is the unstable surface makes your deep stabilisers work harder to keep you still so improves the effectiveness of your workout, or sit down!
I first tried this as a seat and have to say although I can sit on a stability ball quite comfortably I found this cushion too uncomfortable, it just wouldn't mold to my shape and was too hard and curved to sit on. You could remedy this by letting some air out but then if you want to use it to stand on you'd have to pump it back up again each time. I decided to stick to the ball for sitting and use this for other stuff.
So onto kneeling on the cushion. I actually really enjoy this and trying to balance on it with no part of your body touching the floor is pretty difficult, I have to really concentrate to be able to do this. I again use the smooth side to kneel on rather than the knobbly side.
For standing exercises it's best to place the cushion on a carpeted floor but it won't slip too far on any surface as it's rubber. For lunges you just pop this under the front foot and then wobble and tremble your way through the lunge, it really makes them so hard. Or you can do one leg standing on the cushion to challenge your balance, if you can do that easily try it with your eyes closed!
You can also use the cushion under your hands when you do floor exercises, to be honest I think if you plan to use these for legs and arms on a regular basis you'd be better off buying two, if you have two you can use them for squats and supermans so it would make more sense for these to be sold in pairs.
I find the wobble cushion very challenging, I have some health issues that make it harder for me to balance so it's a real struggle for me. It's a shame I don't find it comfortable for sitting but others might. This cushion tends to deflate after several sessions and can get so soft it isn't helping you much so you do need to keep an eye on that but the hand pump that comes with it (mine did but I notice it wasn't mentioned in the description from the link above so probably better ask before you buy) is easy to use.
It's a tough little piece of equipment though and you won't be able to burst it unless you take it outside and run over it with your car in a fit of rage! It doesn't seem to get scuffed or scratched and because of its size it's very easy to store. This will add a greater challenge to exercises for anyone and doesn't cost the earth so I do think it's worth investing in one, or two. Highly recommended for any core stability fans.