Presence Point: Get On The Ball

Literally. Grab a large stability ball. Sit on it and bounce for 15 – 20 minutes.

Many people use balls as part of their workout and gyms are stocked with them. Many people sit on them as desk chairs for improved posture, to build core strength and/or relieve back problems. This makes sense to most people.

Why would you bounce on a ball?

I have all my individual clients and Platinum Presence workshop participants bounce on balls and I have heard it all when I suggest people do this. Here’s why I recommend it: Ball bouncing with Pam Slim.

The science behind it…

As the ball bounces your central nervous system becomes highly effective in several domains including: calm and grounded state of mind/body, alertness, focused attention, more fluent speech, idea generation and creative flow; subsequently priming your nervous system for peak performance allowing you to embody a strong and powerful presence.

It’s extremely effective to do before any high stakes communication situation: a meeting, an interview, a date, a difficult conversation, a performance review or on a stage, with an audience of 1 or 1,000.

Ball bouncing is a great activity for creative idea generation, blowing off steam, calming and organizing yourself– AND your team. Many of my corporate clients use this tool while conducting meetings and brain storming sessions. An HR Director has all her clients bounce on the ball during 1-1 sessions.

Bouncing on a ball produces the following physiological results:

  • It promotes vestibular integration: the vestibular system provides information through our inner ear about gravity and space, about balance and movement, about our head and body position in relation to the surface of the earth and the physical world. It triggers our balance receptors and improves our posture. “Vestibular input seems to “prime” the entire nervous system to function effectively.” (taken from: Ayres, Jean, “Sensory Integration”)
  • It stimulates the proprioceptive sense, which provides information through our joints, muscles, and ligaments about where our body parts are in space and what they are doing. Proprioception is the great organizer of all sensations – it increases alertness and decreases anxiety. It gives us emotional security, for when we can trust our bodies, we feel safe and secure. Bouncing provides deep pressure to the joints and muscles to strengthen proprioception, which is very calming, alerting and organizing to the nervous system.
  • Bouncing stimulates the speech and language centers of the brain. You will most likely be more articulate when finished and will speak easily and fluently.
  • It stimulates the Reticular Activating System, which is involved in the neural mechanisms that produce alertness and focused attention.
  • It requires you to use both sides of the body, which improves bilateral coordination, alertness, focus and posture.
  • It requires you to use deep, belly breathing, which results in a richer, more resonant voice and calm, clear thinking.
  • Bouncing on a ball keeps you in the present: If you do not pay attention YOU WILL FALL OFF!
  • It’s FUN!!! It releases endorphins, which are associated with pleasure, control of emotions, memory and learning; and interrupts the release of cortisol and adrenaline (the stress hormones) in your body.

How do you bounce on a ball?

Buy the right ball for you:

The ball used for sitting at a desk may be a smaller size than for the “bouncing” ball. Disregard what the box says in terms of size – typically, if you are over 5′ 6″ get the 85cm, 75cm if you are shorter. For bouncing, the ball should be fully inflated, your feet flat on the floor and your knees, hips and ankles at right angles. This protects your knees and gives maximum appropriate input to your largest joints in your body. There are many varieties and prices of balls. People with latex sensitivity should purchase latex free balls.

Bounce for the right length of time with the right intensity:

Everyone’s nervous system is different. If you are a “low arousal” type, bouncing will energize and raise your level of alertness. If you are “hyper aroused”, bouncing will bring you to a level of calm energy and alertness. Typically, bouncing with the same intensity as jumping on a trampoline (essentially the same activity) for 15 – 20 minutes is enough. I have my clients bounce until they feel “like a tree” when they stand up – feet heavy and rooted in the ground, standing tall with shoulders back; brain focused, calm and alert.

A word of caution: You can bounce too long which can then disorganize you! There are also people who don’t respond well to vestibular stimulation. With a bit of practice you will know how/if it works for you.

How does bouncing work for you? What other similar things do you recommend? Please share in the comments below!

Image credit: A National Acrobat

About Cheryl Dolan

Cheryl Dolan is a specialist in Presence, Communication and Creativity. Her mission is to cultivate clients’ innate strengths to develop the powerful communication and creative skills that will enhance personal and professional performance. Her Platinum Presence® Program has been delivered in international corporations, organizations, and institutes of higher education, including Harvard University and MIT Sloan School. Contact her at [email protected] or visit

  • Erica Holthausen

    Last year, I participated in a Platinum Presence workshop with Cheryl. When she first told me about bouncing on the ball, I thought she was nuts. Not a little bit crazy, but completely out of her mind. But, I went along with it — because she played good music and bouncing is fun!

    When she had us stand up, I really could feel the difference. I felt rooted. Grounded. So solid that I was fairly confident that the strongest man in the universe wouldn’t be able to push me over. It was pretty cool!

    But the greatest test of this is at home, when I’m working on a project and start getting a little squirrelly, lose my focus and just run in circles. That’s when I take a breath. Head over to YouTube to find Florence + The Machine’s “Shake it Out!” and bounce like a crazy person! By the end of the song, I feel clearer and focused. I know what my next step is and I take it.

    I know there’s science behind the whole ball bouncing idea. But the truth is that I could care less about *why* it works and *how* it works. I just know that it does work. Every. Single. Time.

    • Megan Elizabeth Morris

      I didn’t realize until now that the grounding I feel after bouncing is something I’ve felt elsewhere, too — in extremely effective and positive sweat lodge experiences and other meditation / altered state kinds of experiences. I knew as soon as I felt the tree / root feeling, the being weighted in my feet, that there was something magical going on.

      • cheryldolan

        The best thing about this tool is that it’s quick and easy and requires very little conscious thought - just enough to stay on the ball! Most hotel gyms have them so it’s easy to do when on the road.

        • Megan Elizabeth Morris

          I agree! I think the weirdest part for me is figuring out where to store the ball when I’m not using it, but it got a lot easier when a) I got a big yellow one so it fit with the colorful decor in my office and I could just leave it out all the time, and b) I figured out how to wedge it underneath my standing desk if I needed to get it out of the way for awhile.

  • Jim

    This really works-I’ve tried it and I’m a believer!

    • Megan Elizabeth Morris

      Me too — says the giant yellow ball in my office!

  • cheryldolan

    This best thing about this tool is that it’s quick, easy and requires very little thought or strenuous effort (just enough so you don’t fall off!). Most hotel gyms have them so it’s easy to do this when on the road.