Chances are you probably have a stress ball or two hidden somewhere in your house or office -- these items are popular giveaways at health fairs and other community events. Even if you don't feel stressed (is that possible?) there are several exercises you can do with the stress ball to strengthen your hand and fingers. Not only will stronger hands improve daily tasks such as opening jars and carrying things -- your sports performance will improve as well.
Firm up your handshake with grip strengthening exercises. Hold the stress ball in the middle of your palm. Wrap your fingers around the ball and squeeze -- hold for two to three seconds, then relax. Repeat for one minute, then rest for one minute. Repeat three times then switch hands. As your endurance increases, squeeze the ball for 90 seconds and rest for 30 seconds.
Strengthen your pinch to improve your ability to hold things -- like your favorite magazine -- between your thumb and index finger. Place the ball between the tip of your thumb and the tip of your index finger. Squeeze them toward each other and hold for two to three seconds, then relax. Repeat for one minute, then rest for one minute. Repeat three times then switch hands. Increase your pinching time and decrease the rest time to make this exercise more difficult.
Thumb opposition -- the thing that separates us from other mammals -- allows you to touch the tip of your thumb to each of your fingers. This is important because it allows you to hold objects of different sizes and manipulate tools -- like your curling iron -- with one hand while you text on your smartphone with the other hand. Hold the ball between your thumb and middle finger and squeeze for two to three seconds, then relax. Squeeze 10 times, then repeat between your thumb and ring finger and thumb and pinky finger.
Improve your ability to twist the top off your drink with this stress ball exercise -- hold the ball loosely in the palm of your right hand. Place your left palm on top of the ball and wrap your fingers around the ball. Hold the base of the ball secure with your right hand. Twist your left hand against the resistance of the ball and hold for two to three seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times, then switch hand positions and repeat.
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.