Most of us have those moments when tension gets the best of us. In fact, nearly one in five Americans suffers from anxiety, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA). That’s why stress balls are a useful accessory to keep on your desk. Stress balls take your mind off your anxiety by shifting your focus to squeezing the ball instead. Experts say squeezing a stress ball repeatedly can lower your blood pressure and your heart rate.
The best stress ball can also increase focus, strengthen hand muscles, and ease arthritis and carpal tunnel symptoms.
While choosing a stress ball might seem like a simple decision, there are actually a number of considerations to weigh. Read on to learn the features to look for as well as the top picks for some of the best stress balls in a range of categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Teacher Peach Motivational Stress Ball Assortment
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Peradix Hand Grip Strength Trainer
- BEST FOR SMALLER HANDS: Dimples Excel Stress Ball for Adults and Kids
- BEST WEARABLE: StringyBall Secure Stress Balls on a String
- BEST THERAPEUTIC: Serenilite 3X Hand Therapy Stress Ball Bundle
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Stress Ball
While it’s easy to assume all stress balls are the same, a number of factors affect their functionality. Here’s what to keep in mind when shopping for a stress ball.
Stress balls can be used for a number of different purposes.
- Anxiety: Stress balls can be part of a stress management plan because they relieve tension and provide a distraction by redirecting focus to a simple physical task.
- Muscle strengthening: Stress balls increase grip strength. A stress ball that’s designed to strengthen muscles should provide a specific weight resistance and should ideally come with instructions for exercises.
- Carpal tunnel: Stress ball exercises can lessen the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Stroke recovery: Stress balls can improve fine motor skills after a stroke or other accident.
- Arthritis management: Certain exercises done with a stress ball can ease arthritis pain.
- Improve circulation: Squeezing a stress ball can increase blood flow to the hands.
- Foot massage: Roll a stress ball on the bottom of your feet for a therapeutic effect.
A high-quality stress ball should not be too soft, and it must provide plenty of resistance. Durability is a key consideration, because the best stress ball will maintain its shape even after you compress it repeatedly. It should be made of materials that can stand up to the friction from squeezing and that won’t deteriorate from use.
Density is another factor to consider. A dense stress ball with approximately 40 pounds of resistance is good for hand strengthening exercises, while a stress ball with 20 pounds of resistance will work better for stress relief.
Stress balls can be made from a variety of different materials.
- Polyurethane, or foam-filled stress balls, tend to be softer and won’t make a mess if they tear or rupture.
- Thermoplastic rubber makes gel stress balls, durable models that are designed to have a range of resistance levels.
- Clay-filled stress balls provide higher resistance and tend to be heavier. They’re often used as therapeutic stress balls to improve muscle strength.
Stress balls come in a variety of sizes, though they generally have a maximum diameter of 4 inches.
- Standard stress balls for anxiety relief are around 2.5 inches in diameter.
- Promotional stress balls and those marketed for children have diameters of approximately 2 inches.
- Stress balls for occupational and physical therapy can be larger: up to 4 inches in diameter.
While the average stress ball is spherical, they also come in a variety of other shapes. Egg-shaped stress balls are easier to grip for those with smaller hands. They can also be designed to look like food, animals, or cartoon characters, all of which appeal to children and the young at heart.
Some stress balls are infused with essential oils such as lavender, jasmine or eucalyptus to give them the added relaxation benefit of aromatherapy. Squeezing the stress ball while breathing in the fragrance of the essential oils can reduce anxiety.
Many stress balls come in bright shades for the additional benefit of color therapy, also known as chromotherapy. A type of alternative medicine, chromotherapy aims to create balance in the mind and the body by using colors to promote positive psychological and physiological reactions. According to proponents of color therapy, green promotes inner peace, blue increases energy, yellow boosts happiness, orange is revitalizing, and purple promotes serenity.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve learned more about stress ball features, it’s time to start shopping. Here are some top picks for stress balls in a range of categories.
This set of three stress balls is designed to be used by children or adults. Measuring 2.5 inches in diameter and made of polyurethane foam, each ball is printed with a motivational phrase to provide a mantra while users squeeze their way to calm: “Focus. Listen. Breathe” “Yes! I can do this!” and “Be quiet. Be calm. Be kind.”
They’re filled with foam, meaning they provide minimal resistance and are designed for stress relief rather than strength training. The set comes in six colors: green, blue, teal, pink, red, and purple.
This trio of stress balls works well for anxiety relief as well as strength training. The egg-shaped design is ergonomic, making these stress balls easier to grasp than standard spherical models. They measure 2.4 inches by 2 inches, making them suitable for relief of stress and joint pain.
The balls in the set have three levels of resistance: soft, medium, and firm (ranging from 20 to 40 pounds of resistance,) providing options for users with varying hand strengths. They’re made from thermoplastic rubber, which quickly springs back into shape after being squeezed. The material can be washed with water and won’t feel sticky, even after frequent use.
The round shape of a standard stress ball makes them difficult to use for those with smaller hands. These egg-shaped stress relievers are 2.3 inches long and only 1.7 inches wide, making them a great alternative. Each ball has a different firmness and resistance level. The orange ball is soft with 20-pound resistance, the green ball is medium with 30-pound resistance, and the black ball is firm with 40-pound resistance. They’re all made of thermoplastic rubber and are designed with a textured surface, making them easier to grip. The material can be cleaned and dried with a cloth and will keep its shape even with repeated use.
Each of the stress balls in this set is attached to a string, increasing the range of exercises that can be done with them. The set comes with a 16-page exercise guide as well as 12 exercise demos on video. The adjustable clasp allows for the ball to be worn on the wrist in a number of different ways. Each 2-inch-diameter ball is made of thermoplastic rubber that’s BPA-free and free of latex and phthalates. Both the balls and the string are washable. The three-ball set comes with a soft, medium, and firm option. The strings also make the balls easy to attach to a handbag, a backpack, or a wheelchair so they won’t get lost.
Serenilite’s set of stress balls are crafted to give therapeutic benefits, not just stress relief. Each of the three balls has a different density—soft, medium, and firm—that can be used to relieve muscle tension and ease symptoms of carpal tunnel and arthritis. They’re intended for use in rehabilitation and post-surgery recovery.
Each ergonomically designed ball has a 2.4-inch diameter and is designed with a tear-resistant gel core that helps the balls retain their shape. They’re coated with a soft, nonstick fabric and come in three colors so it’s easy to differentiate between their firmness levels.
FAQs About Stress Balls
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about stress balls.
Q. What is inside a stress ball?
Stress balls are most often filled with polyurethane, gel, or clay.
Q. Do stress balls work for anxiety?
Stress balls help to ease anxiety because the squeezing motion releases tension in the body and focuses the mind.
Q. Can stress balls build muscle?
Stress balls with the right amount of resistance can be used to build or rehabilitate hand muscles. Look for a stress ball that provides between 20 and 40 pounds of resistance.
Q. Will a stress ball help loosen up my hands after typing?
Jobs that require heavy typing can cause tension in the hands, and a stress ball is an effective tool for relieving this tension.