Lots of practitioners in a number of fields often ask this question, and we thought we would explore the area a bit to see what we could find out about these simple stress relievers. Do stress balls actually work? Can they relieve stress like the promise? Its good to have a bit of background understanding on the subject, so lets get into it and go over some of the main things that people should know.
What Is A Stress Ball?
A stress ball or simply hand exercise ball is basically a malleable rubber toy, typically not more than 9 cm in diameter, that is squeezed firmly by the hands and manipulated by the fingers to alleviate stress and muscle strain or simply to improve the strength of the whole hand. Stretching the hands tends to work the larger muscles of the hands as well as the neck and back, while squeezing works the smaller stabilizers in the wrists and forearms. Hand exercise balls also serve as an alternative to conventional dumbbells and barbells for the same kind of work-out, with the additional advantage of providing safety.
In addition, stress balls have been found very effective in increasing the energy level of even the most inactive individuals. One study involving preschool kids, who were asked to carry around a stress ball during their studies showed that there was a marked improvement in their ability to concentrate better and learn more efficiently compared to those who did not carry the ball. The ability of the children to focus and learn improved because the children were less stressed, and their blood pressure levels were lower. Even though children had high blood pressure before the tests, they only fell into the normal range after they were exposed to the stress balls.
Stress Ball Studies
In contrast, studies have shown that the repeated squeezing of foam balls actually reduces the amount of cortisol or stress hormone in the blood. This is because it forces the body to release adrenaline, the stress hormone, into the bloodstream. There are also investigations that have found that high levels of cortisol are linked to the development of high blood pressure. High blood pressure has been found to be associated with a higher incidence of heart attacks and stroke.
As well as the stress balls facilitating relaxation and pain relief, they also serve to strengthen muscles and tendons by stimulating contractions and reducing muscle stiffness. The increased blood flow to the muscles enhances the flexibility. While squeezing the foam ball may seem like a simple task, research has shown that individuals have stronger muscles and tendons after they have squeezed for 30 seconds. It is believed that the amount of stretching felt when you squeeze the stress ball has a direct correlation to strength improvements. Indeed it can be said that the act of squeezing provides the contractions necessary to increase strength and reduce the symptoms of sore muscles.
One of the most common uses of stress balls is as a form of relaxation. For example, many individuals will place one in their office chair or bedside table before going to bed for the night. When the stress ball is positioned at the end of the bed, the individual will find it much easier to drift off to sleep. Stress balls are also commonly used as a way of easing anxiety during the day. Because the stress ball helps to dampen the feelings of anxiety, individuals may find that they are able to stay calm and relaxed longer.
Stress balls make excellent gifts and practical everyday items. In fact they are so useful that they are often considered as more helpful than the ubiquitous cell phone. While cell phones allow an individual to receive and send text messages, they also provide a level of stress relief. People who use stress balls on a regular basis find that they can eliminate much of the worry that they experience each day and significantly reduce their level of general anxiety.