When I worked as a Physical Therapist Assistant for Home Health agencies, I usually had elderly patients who were chronicaly ill or disabled. In some cases, they did not have use of one or more extremities. The first exercise tool that I was told to issue to the patient–and instruct them in its use–was a wide elastic band which could be used for resistance in range-of-motion exercises to strengthem the muscles. While I could get pretty creative in finding different ways to use the elastic band, there were still muscle groups that could not be addressed, especially by one person working alone.
Then I found a simple toy ball 7″ in diameter, formed of a synthetic rubber foam, and not hardened on the outside. It was made by Poof-Slinky™, and meant to be harmless when thrown or squeezed by children. After handling one of these for a few minutes, I realized that it could be used by extremely weak individuals, even those confined to bed. And, of course, it could be thrown between 2 or 3 people to improve coordination. I began to use these in my therapy, and was soon ordering them from the company in case lots, and selling them to the families I visited for what I paid for them. Below are some of the ways to use the Poof™ ball:
Pushing down on the ball in seated or semi-reclining position, using only the arms, is amazingly effective in activating the abdominal muscles. If they are very weak, the abdomen will push outward at first. After some strength is gained, the abdomen will move inward with the exercise.
The ball is also useful in loosening and strengthening stiff neck muscles: sitting in a high-back chair, the person places the ball behind the head and pushes back against it with his head. There are more ways to use the ball–I have found at least 25 different muscle groups that can be helped in this gentle way.
I found my first Poof™ ball at Wal-Mart, but it is not always easy to find one. I had to use a Poof™ football, which is much firmer, when I restarted my exercises recently. Online you may be able to purchase one or more from Poof-Slinky™ at retail cost ($5 plus shipping the last time I checked.) They run about $3 at Wal-Mart if you can find them.