Natural Fitness Soft Weighted Balls

The Product:

Natural Fitness Soft Weighted Balls ($15.99 for 2 lb set, $17.99 for 4 lb set, $19.99 for 6 lb set)

The Promise:

Natural Fitness claims to offer non-toxic and environmentally friendly exercise and yoga products.

The company’s products include yoga equipment made from natural, renewable and eco-friendly materials like cork, bamboo and hemp.

For its soft weighted balls (available in 2 lb, 4 lb and 6 lb sizes), the company has chosen the low-tech approach of encasing sand and iron inside latex-free vinyl.

The Reality:

Can vinyl ever really be eco-friendly? An interesting article over on Lavish and Lime suggests that the answer is yes.

We’re not totally convinced, but Natural Fitness does claim at least that it has developed a non-toxic, phthalate-free plasticizer for its PVC-based products.

Since phthalates are implicated in various toxicity/reproductive issues, coming up with a phthalate alternative would seem to give Natural Fitness the right to label its products non-toxic.

But of course without more information on the new plasticizer, we’re basically stuck having to trust Natural Fitness sight unseen. (We don’t mind trusting Natural Fitness, which seems like a perfectly nice company, but we tend to prefer the Ronald Reagan catch phrase, “Trust, but Verify.”)

We didn’t cut our soft weighted balls open (which would have rendered them useless), but based on the sounds and weight shifting feeling that the ball produces when shaken, we’re inclined to believe that the balls are in fact filled with sand and iron. Since there’s an awful lot of sand and iron readily available in the world, we think Natural Fitness made a good choice in picking these materials for its soft weighted balls.

The Experience:

Natural Fitness calls the soft weighted balls a “soft and fun alternative to dumbbells”.

We have to agree. Exercising with a dumbbell seems like serious work. For some reason, swapping the dumbbell for a soft, squishy weighted ball turns makes the whole experience more playful.

The softness of the balls seems to reduce the risk of potential injury (say from dropping a weight on your foot), and grasping the ball seems more comfortable and natural than holding a rigid dumbbell.

Incidentally, the moderate squishiness of the balls also makes them a nice alternative to dedicated ‘stress balls‘. Since stress balls are supposed to help relieve arthritis and help circulation, you get those benefits plus the strength-building resistance benefits of weight training in the Natural Fitness soft weighted balls.

(Any time you can eliminate the need for one type of product by improving the design of another type of product, you win a few extra eco points in our book.)

At the bottom of the soft weighted balls box, Natural Fitness includes an exercise chart with some ideas for using the stress balls. Some of these ideas (squats, curls, triceps extension) work with just the balls, while others incorporate other Natural Fitness products.

Overall, despite some trepidation about the vinyl and the lack of information on the phthalate alternative, we really enjoyed using the Natural Fitness exercise balls and think they make a good relatively eco-friendly workout option.

The soft weighted balls are made in China. A notice on the box says that product packaging and inserts are made from recycled materials, but both the insert and the box seemed awfully glossy. We would have preferred to see something a little less bleached and perhaps the use of non-toxic, soy-based inks.

FYI, many of the other items in the Natural Fitness product line made from hemp, bamboo and cork seem even more eco-friendly than the weighted balls.

Where to buy:

Online at the Natural Fitness website or other e-tailers like Amazon.com.

Prefer to shop offline? Use the Natural Fitness Store Locator to find a health club, yoga studio or other retailer near you that carries the company’s products.

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