Chinese Baoding Balls: Facts and Health Benefits

While their glossy look and hand-painted designs may prompt many to collect them, proponents of Chinese Baoding balls firmly believe that these exercise balls offer numerous health benefits. As such, this HolisticZine write-up provides information on the history and health benefits of Baoding balls.
Named after their place of origin, Baoding balls are believed to have been created during the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) in Baoding, a small town in the Hebei province of China.
Chinese Baoding balls are known by several names, such as Chinese stress balls, Chinese therapy balls, Chinese harmony balls, Chinese exercise balls, etc. It is believed that rotating these therapy balls in the hand can help improve manual dexterity.
Usually, the diameter of these stress balls ranges from 35 mm to 55 mm. While the ones with the diameter of 35 mm are suitable for children or adults who are less than 5' 2" tall, the ones with the diameter of 55 mm can be used by individuals who are taller than 6' 2", or those who have mastered this skill. Besides improving dexterity, several health benefits have been associated with the use of these stress-relieving Baoding balls.
Facts About Baoding Balls
● These therapy balls were originally made from iron, which is why they were referred to as iron balls.
● Over the years, iron has been replaced by hollow, chrome-plated steel. While the chrome-plated version is the most popular, you can also find Baoding balls that are made of solid steel, solid stone, solid jade, and cloisonne. The ones used for meditation or therapeutic purposes might have a chime in the core.
Blue Baoding balls
Baoding balls in a box
● More often than not, metal balls are used for therapeutic purposes due to their durability.
● The balls with inbuilt chimes are often referred to as chime balls or harmony balls. Out of the set of two, one of the balls has a high note, while the other has a low note. The sound of chimes also has a very calming effect.
Baoding balls with yin and yang symbol
Baoding balls with Chinese symbols
● Many people collect these therapy balls due to their aesthetic value. They are available in an ivory, marble, or stone finish. The cloisonne Chinese balls look quite pretty.
● Since chime balls are used for meditation, positive symbols such as yin and yang, or other symbols related to love, balance, harmony, health, etc, are painted on them.
How Do These Therapy Balls Work?
According to the Chinese, 'Qi' or the vital life energy passes through channels or pathways called 'Jung Luo' meridians. Several acupuncture points are distributed along these meridians. These points correspond to different organs of the body. Applying pressure on these points can help unblock the channels, thereby allowing the life energy to circulate within the body. Chinese believe that the fingers are connected with the human cranial nerve and various vital organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, kidney, spleen, gallbladder, stomach, and the intestines. Thus, manipulating or rotating these exercise or dexterity balls helps stimulate these meridians, thereby enhancing the circulation of life energy.
Those who are in the favor of using Baoding balls believe that their use offers the following health benefits:
● Improved blood flow
● Improved manual dexterity
● Improved muscle strength in the hand, forearm, and the shoulder
● Reduced stress levels
There's no denying the fact that those who have a sedentary lifestyle need to include some form of exercise to promote good health. Thus, rotating the Chinese exercise balls can certainly help by keeping the fingers limber. Besides working the muscles of the hand, forearm, and the shoulder, the improved blood flow will also prove beneficial. These therapy balls come in a case. So, when you are not using them, keep them in that case. A light application of oil on the chrome-plated therapy balls can help prevent the formation of rust.
How to Use
If you are a first-timer, start with a pair of Chinese therapy balls. Also, make sure that you look for a size that is easy for you to handle.
Later, you could graduate to larger ones. Here are the instructions for using these stress balls:

● Hold the therapy balls in your hand. Place one of them between the proximal phalange of your index finger and middle finger. Place the other stress ball between the proximal phalange of your ring finger and the little finger.
● If your right hand is your dominant hand, rotate the balls clockwise. Basically, you need to push one of the stress balls towards the palm with your index finger and thumb, and push the other one towards the middle finger with your little finger and ring finger..
● Also, spread your little finger and the ring finger, so that the stress ball can slide between these two fingers. At the same time, spread or move the index finger, thereby allowing the Baoding ball to slide between the middle finger and the index finger.
● Follow the aforementioned steps, without dropping the stress balls.
Once you have mastered this technique, you should try to rotate the Baoding balls in a way that they don't touch each other. You can also increase the difficulty level in the following ways:

● Rotate the balls smoothly and quickly in a clockwise direction, and then move them in an anticlockwise direction. Make sure that the stress balls don't touch each other.
● You can also repeat the steps with the other hand. You can also use two pairs of stress balls and rotate them with both hands.
● To increase the difficulty level, you could rotate three Chinese therapy balls at a time.
You can also keep one stress ball in the center. While the ball at the center can be still, other two stress balls can be rotated around it.
The aforementioned exercises can also be performed with the palm facing down. Whether you believe in the meridian theory or not, you can't deny the fact that rotating Baoding balls will be a good exercise for your hands. So, do give it a try!