Gear Up: Our New Favorite Fitness Toy is Just $14.99

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm a big believer that you don't have to belong to a gym or buy a bunch of fancy equipment to get a great workout or lose weight. But some small fitness gadgets and tools can be fun! These affordable pieces of equipment can help you freshen up your fitness routine (to stay motivated and prevent boredom) and take your workouts to new levels.

Some of the most versatile and effective pieces of home fitness equipment—resistance bands, stability balls and pedometers, to name a few—are also the least expensive. My new favorite toy is no exception.

SparkPeople's inflatable balance board (I am standing on it in the photo to the left) costs just $14.99, yet is more useful than most pieces of equipment that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, if you ask me. Now that is money well spent. When I use this thing, my muscles quiver and my abs shake in a way that I haven't felt since I tried the Bender Ball . Not even a $100 BOSU trainer gives me a workout like this little board does! I test many fitness products, but of the various items hanging around the office, this balance board gets the most use.

Paul, whom we previously profiled on dailySpark, uses the balance board regularly when working out at the office. "I was trying out some unusual and new core exercises and that asked for a BOSU. We didn't have one handy, so I swapped in the balance board," he said. "Wow! I was honestly amazed at the challenge of the unstable surface. Exercises that were easy now required a lot of stabilization and I was exhausted by the end of the workout. Afterward, I thought how much more convenient that balance board is, being smaller and easier to store. I'd recommend it as a hassle-free way to add another dimension to your workouts."

"I found that working out with the balance board added a great challenge to many exercises that I normally do," said Tim, a SparkPeople employee who works in marketing (and can be seen demonstrating some of our balance board exercises). "Beyond just making the exercises more difficult, it provides the added benefit of strengthening your core and improving your balance, which of can lead to improved results in many other areas of your fitness routine. I’ve used several balance boards over the years and found this inflatable one to be as good as many of the more expensive boards I have used."

Now don't let all these claims about the challenge of using a balance board scare you! The great thing about this balance board like this is that people of all fitness levels can use it. Because it is inflatable, you control how easy or difficult it is to use. When it's completely full of air, it's harder to balance on—just like a stability ball would be. But when you take a little bit of air out (which is easy to do), you decrease the challenge so you can perform exercises at an easier intensity level. Over time, as you get stronger, you can add more air to the board so that it continues to challenge you. Plus, beginners and advanced exercisers alike can use a balance board in a variety of ways: Stand, sit or lie on it. Use it for pushups, squats, planks and crunches. To see some examples of these moves, check out these 26 exercises I created to help people learn how to use the board safely and effectively.

When you try these various full-body strengthening exercises on the board, your body will reap the benefits in no time:
  • Better balance for improved athletic performance and reduced injury risk
  • A stronger core, which can improve posture, prevent falls, and help reduce back pain
  • Increased muscle fiber recruitment during exercises, which means you're burning more calories and getting a more effective workout
  • Improved functional fitness to help reduce the risk of injury and falls and make daily tasks easier
  • Multitasking workouts that help you get more done in less time since your abs and core will be working during every move
It should be noted that SparkPeople's inflatable balance board has a 300-pound weight limit (similar to most stability balls). If you are looking to reward yourself or add a little more "oomph" to your workouts, this could be the best $14.99 you ever spent! Here's the link to purchase it from the SparkPeople Store, as well as our collection of balance board resources and workouts to help you use it!

Have you ever used a balance board? How about an inflatable one? Will you try SparkPeople's new balance board?