Title:
Step/balance apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A Step/Balance Apparatus, typically used for exercise and aerobic training, is characterized by the structure including a pillow disposed on the top surface, whereby the user not only obtains the benefit of step exercise but also additionally strengthens the muscles of the calves and inner thighs because the pillow causes the user's weight and center of gravity to shift as steps are made. The pillow top may be constructed from a variety of materials such as, for example, a flexible covering filled with foam, fluid, or a granular material.



Inventors:
Holloway, Jennifer J. (Clearwater, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/923993
Publication Date:
02/23/2006
Filing Date:
08/23/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B22/04
View Patent Images:
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20070197345Motivational displays and methods for exercise machineAugust, 2007Wallace et al.



Primary Examiner:
HWANG, VICTOR KENNY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TILLMAN WRIGHT, PLLC (CHARLOTTE, NC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A step/balance apparatus of the type primarily used for exercise and aerobic training, said apparatus comprising: a top, a bottom opposite said top, opposed front and back sides interconnecting said top and said bottom, and opposed left and right sides interconnecting said top and said bottom; said top further comprising a pillow disposed thereon, said pillow being formed from a non-rigid material.

2. An apparatus as in claim 1 wherein said pillow is attached to said top.

3. An apparatus as in claim 1 wherein said pillow is removably attached to said top.

4. An apparatus as in claim 1 wherein said top, said bottom, said front and back sides and said left and right sides are formed from a substantially rigid material, and said top comprises a relieved portion dimensioned and configured to receive said pillow therein.

5. An apparatus as in claim 4 wherein said pillow is attached to said top within said relieved portion.

6. An apparatus as in claim 4 wherein said pillow is removably attached to said top within said relieved portion.

7. An apparatus as in claim 1 wherein said pillow comprises an exposed non-skid surface.

8. An apparatus as in claim 7 wherein said non-rigid material comprises a flexible covering containing a foam.

9. An apparatus as in claim 7 wherein said non-rigid material comprises a flexible covering containing a fluid.

10. An apparatus as in claim 7 wherein said non-rigid material comprises a flexible covering containing a granular material.

11. An apparatus as in claim 1 further comprising a plurality of risers, each one of said risers being removably attachable to said bottom, whereby the distance of said top from a support surface on which said apparatus is placed may be varied.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a step/balance apparatus typically used by individuals at home and in training centers as an exercise device. A user, alternating his or her feet, steps onto and off the apparatus for the purpose of strengthening the leg muscles and providing aerobic exercise. The apparatus of this invention is unique in that the top surface of the step comprises a “pillow.” Use of the term “pillow” to describe the present invention is intended to define a soft, flexible, cushion-like material that will flex, give, and deflect when the weight of a user is placed thereon. Thus, the present invention not only provides step exercise, but also more thoroughly exercises the muscles of the calves and thighs of the user because the user's center of gravity will shift as the pillow deforms with each step. In fact, the user's sense of balance and ability to maintain his or her balance will also be improved by use of this invention.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Patent literature, non-patent literature, and commercially available step exercisers are quite well known in the prior art. One type of step exerciser might be more correctly referred to as a stair step machine, for such devices actually provide two, separate and moveable platforms for each foot of the user so that, in use, one basically feels as if he or she is climbing a set of stairs. These devices typically include means for adjusting the resistance provided by each step.

A second form of step exerciser, more closely related to the structure of this invention, basically comprises a raised platform onto which the user steps with alternating feet. These static step devices typically include means for adjusting the height of the step by the provision of removably attachable elements for the purpose of increasing or decreasing the distance from the top of the step surface to the supporting surface on which the user stands. Some prior art devices of the static type have even included spring-type supports for the step top surface.

However, there remains a need in the art for a static step apparatus that not only provides general exercise and aerobic training, but also simple, efficient means whereby the user's center of gravity may shift and change with each step for the purpose of enhancing not only the user's sense of balance, but also for enhancing the muscular exercise experienced when using such an apparatus.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The step/balance apparatus of this invention comprises a substantially standard static step exercise device and is characterized by the provision of a relatively soft and deformable pillow disposed on the top of the apparatus, the pillow actually being engaged by the user's feet. While the structure of the pillow of this invention is more particularly set forth hereinafter, it basically comprises a flexible covering containing a deformable material such that, with each step of the user, the user's center of gravity shifts.

The invention accordingly comprises an article of manufacture possessing the features, properties, and the relation of elements which will be exemplified in the articles hereinafter described, and the scope of the invention will be indicated in the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the nature and objects of the invention, reference should be had to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a front elevation view of a first embodiment of the step/balance apparatus of this invention.

FIG. 2 is a left side elevation of the apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a sectional view of the apparatus of FIG. 1 depicting a user's foot contacting the pillow.

FIG. 5 is a sectional view similar to that of FIG. 4 depicting the user's foot deflecting the pillow.

FIG. 6 is a front elevation view of a second embodiment of the step/balance apparatus of this invention.

FIG. 7 is a left side elevation of the apparatus of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a top plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 6.

FIG. 9 is a sectional view of the apparatus of FIG. 6 depicting the user's foot contacting the pillow.

FIG. 10 is a sectional view similar to that of FIG. 9 depicting a user's foot deflecting the pillow.

Similar reference characters refer to similar parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the views of FIGS. 1-5, a first preferred embodiment of the step/balance apparatus of this invention is generally indicated as 20. As shown in FIGS. 1-3, apparatus 20 comprises a top 22, a bottom 24, a front side 26, back side 28, left side 30, and right side 32. The views of FIGS. 1 and 2 further illustrate that apparatus 20 may also comprise a plurality of risers 34, one or more of which may be disposed beneath bottom 24 for the purpose of increasing the distance between top 22 and the support surface (not shown) on which apparatus 20 is placed. While four such risers 34 are shown in the view of FIG. 1, any number, including none, of risers 34 may be used in combination with apparatus 20.

Top 22, bottom 24, front side 26, back side 28, left side 30, and right side 32 are preferably formed from a substantially rigid material such as, for example, plastic, and may be molded in a single piece. However, the scope of the present invention is not to be limited thereby. According to well known construction techniques, a variety of rigid materials may be used for these elements, and they may be formed as separate elements and appropriately attached one to another. Thus, these structural elements may be formed from, for example, not only plastics but also wood, metal, or fiberglass.

Also shown in the view of FIGS. 1-3 is the pillow, generally indicated as 36, disposed on top 22 of apparatus 20. The exposed surface of pillow 36, perhaps best seen in the view of FIG. 3, preferably comprises a non-skid surface as indicated by the crosshatching of FIG. 3.

Referring to the sectional views of FIGS. 4 and 5, additional construction details may be seen. Pillow 36 comprises a flexible covering 38, and disposed within the volume defined by flexible covering 38 is a non-rigid material. In this apparatus 20, the non-rigid material may comprise, for example, a fluid (including, without limitation, gels) or granular material 40.

The views of FIGS. 4 and 5 schematically illustrate a shoe 42 of a user (not shown) being placed onto covering 38 of pillow 36, as indicated by directional arrow A, and the deflection of material 40 contained within covering 38 of pillow 36 when the weight of the user (not shown) transfers to pillow 36, as indicated by directional arrow B.

Still referring to the sectional views of FIGS. 4 and 5, one can see that top 22 of apparatus 20 comprises a relieved portion 44, and that relieved portion 44 is dimensioned and configured to receive pillow 36 therein. Thus, pillow 36 is operatively “attached” to apparatus 20 by disposing pillow 36 within relived portion 44. Pillow 36 may be permanently affixed within relieved portion 44 using, for example, an adhesive. Alternatively, pillow 36, may simply be loosely placed within relieved portion 44. As yet another alternative, pillow 36 may be removably attached to top 22 within relieved portion 44 using known fasteners such as, for example, snaps, magnets, or even hook and loop fasteners.

While the sectional views of FIGS. 4 and 5 also illustrate the presence of a void 46 within the interior of apparatus 20, it is to be understood that this is only for purposes of illustrating this first preferred embodiment for apparatus 20. As previously discussed above, while the preferred embodiment may be molded from plastic, resulting in the formation of a void 46, this is not to be interpreted as limiting the scope of the present invention.

Turning to the views of FIGS. 6-10, a second preferred embodiment is generally indicated as 50. The individual elements of apparatus 50, where identical to those of apparatus 20, have been identified by identical reference numerals. The primary difference between apparatus 50 and apparatus 20 is that pillow 36 of apparatus 50 comprises a resilient, deformable material such as, for example, foam 52. Foam 52 may be either natural or synthetic, and the term “foam” is intended to encompass and define known like materials that exhibit physical characteristics of resilience, deformability, and memory for return to its original state.

Having thus set forth constructions for a first embodiment of apparatus 20 and a second embodiment of apparatus 50, one can appreciate the benefits obtainable through use of either apparatus 20 or 50. Not only will one obtain the rather “standard” benefit of step-exercising, but also one will obtain additional exercise of the muscles of the calf and inner thigh, resulting primarily from the shifting of the user's center of gravity occasioned by the shifts and rolls of pillow 36 as depicted in the views of FIGS. 4, 5, 9 and 10.

It will thus be seen that the objects set forth above, among those made apparent from the preceding description, are efficiently attained, and since certain changes may be made in the above article without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

It is also to be understood that the following claims are intended to cover all of the generic and specific features of the invention herein described, and all statements of the scope of the invention which, as a matter of language, might be said to fall there between.

Now that the invention has been described,