What are Hand Exercise Balls?

Patrick Lynch

Hand exercise balls come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are designed to exercise the hand muscles, keeping them healthy and fit. The two most common hand exercise balls are stress balls and Baoding balls. Stress balls are not always spherical in shape and can be used by those concerned about carpel tunnel syndrome and similar hand issues. Baoding balls are believed to have been created during the Chinese Ming Dynasty, and at least two of them are required to provide an effective exercise technique.

Stress balls are small hand exercise balls generally made from foam rubber.
Stress balls are small hand exercise balls generally made from foam rubber.

Stress balls are small hand exercise balls generally made from foam rubber. They should be squeezed by the hands and fingers. As well as exercising the muscles of the hand, stress balls relieve tension and are extremely popular in corporate environments.

The use of a hand exercise ball may help prevent carpel tunnel syndrome.
The use of a hand exercise ball may help prevent carpel tunnel syndrome.

The foam rubber version of stress balls are created by injecting the foam’s liquid components into a mold. This results in a chemical reaction which creates carbon dioxide bubbles that then become foam. Other types of hand exercise balls used in physical therapy have different density gels inside a skin made from cloth or rubber. It is also possible to create a simple hand exercise ball by filling a balloon with baking soda.

The actual shape of stress balls differ. Various corporations emblazon their company logo on unusually shaped hand exercise balls and distribute them to their employees as gifts. Stress balls are particularly popular in working environments where repetitive stress injuries are common.

Chinese hand exercise balls, otherwise known as Baoding balls, originated in the town of the same name in China. They were originally manufactured from iron. Two or more of them are utilized by rotating them repeatedly around the hand. They are designed to improve the strength of the hand as well as increasing manual dexterity.

Modern Baoding balls consist of hollow spheres with a small ball inside a larger one. There is also a chime between the inner and outer ball which rings when the inner ball hits it. There are Baoding balls which have decorations like brass wire on the surface but these are not recommended for practical use. This is because damage may occur if two Baoding balls come into contact with each other which is inevitable when beginners use them for exercise. The best Chinese hand exercise balls are hollow but made from iron because they require more effort to rotate.

During exercise, the balls must be continually rotated and come into constant contact with one another. Once this is mastered, it is then necessary to rotate them quickly so the balls never touch one another. The 45 millimeter balls should be used by beginners who should then slowly work their way up to the 60 millimeter variety.

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Discussion Comments


@raynbow- Using hand exercise ball workouts is a great way to help ward off the stiffness of arthritis in the hands. One of the keys to dealing with any type of arthritis is staying active, and using hand exercise balls helps keep hands moving and strengthens muscles.

You should tell your grandmother to start out slowly, using small, soft exercise balls at first. Show her how to do several repetitions of squeezing them with each hand, then letting go. As her hands begin to feel better, she may want to consider trying larger exercise balls that have firmer tension to build more strength.


I was wondering if anyone has experience using hand exercise balls for arthritis in the hands? My grandmother has this problem, and I am always looking for ways to help her feel better.

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