The Best Exercise Balls of 2020
The Theraband Pro Series CSP Exercise Ball reigns supreme as the best overall option in our test. If you want a strong, long-lasting, and high-quality ball like what you'd find at your gym or physiotherapist's office, this is the one to purchase. We love its taut, supportive feel whether using it for stretching, doing core workouts, or simply sitting at the computer. It also blends the perfect balance of sticky grip with easy sliding slipperiness that simply isn't found on many competitors. Perhaps most of all, we appreciate the thicker walls and superior durability (provided you treat it correctly, of course), something that seems to be lacking these days among many other competitors.
While we think this model has the highest quality overall and provides fantastic value, we do have a few complaints, mostly revolving around the inflation time. According to the instructions, you must lay the ball out a few hours, then inflate it 50% and leave it for 24 hours, before finally inflating it to its full diameter. Impatient folks need not apply. It also doesn't come with an included pump as most others do, and the bike pump attachment didn't fit our pump well and kept falling off. Finally, you don't have your choice of colors, as each respective size has a fixed color associated with it.
If you want a great ball for working out that is supportive and durable, the GoFit Pro Grade Stability Ball is our top choice. It has a surface texture unlike any other, without the ubiquitous ribbed design, but still provides a patterned grip. It also has a series of exercises printed in a circle around the center of the ball for quick reference, and comes with an exercise manual and included DVD in case you need coaching or extra motivation. As one of the thicker, heavier balls in this review, you can expect it to stand up to actual workouts for much longer than the less supportive ones.
On the downside, if you want this ball for use as a desk chair, especially at the office, you may not be thrilled with the look of the exercise cartoons printed on the sides. You also don't get a selection of colors, as one specific color is associated with each size. And similar to most of the higher quality choices, proper inflation takes more than one day. GoFit recommends you leave it partially inflated overnight before commencing to full inflation. If working out is your primary intention, the GoFit Pro Grade makes a great choice in addition to our Editors' Choice Award Winner.
Not everyone will use a ball specifically for working out, and they may be even more popular as an alternative to sitting in a chair for desk work. For sitting, the Vivora Luna is by far our favorite option. It comes with a felt cover (or a more expensive faux leather option) that looks much nicer for professional settings and has a handle sewn on for more convenient portability. A big advantage of the cover is that it provides insulation that comes in handy when sitting stationary for longer periods. As we tested these balls sitting at the computer day after day, we noticed that cold air was easily conducted into our lower bodies to the point where we often felt chilled. We experienced no such problem with the Luna and immediately noticed a big difference when switching between different models.
The seams on the case live on the outside of the ball, which is necessary to protect the integrity and lifespan of the ball inside. We found these seams fairly abrasive if we worked out in shorts. With pants on, this presented no problem at all. These seams also prohibit our enjoyment while using the ball to work out or stretch, so there is limited cross-over applicability. You can also expect to pay quite a bit more for the added comfort and style, but for regular use as an office chair, especially when looks matter, the Vivora Luna is absolutely the way to go.
In our experience, when it comes to performance and durability of these balls, there are the Professional Grade options (see above), and then there are the rest. While not made to the same high quality as the higher-grade models, the Waccess Fitness and Exercise Ball is certainly a standout and can save you some money while still offering solid performance. Despite being a bit less expensive, this ball is firm and supportive and also has a texture that offers excellent grip without being overly slick. It's relatively quick and easy to inflate, and also comes in a wide variety of colors to match your personal preference.
While this is a higher-quality product than many of the other options described below, the materials aren't as durable as the more expensive Professional Grade options above. This ball is made of a similar type of PVC material as other non-pro grade balls, all of which have durability concerns, and also doesn't smell very nice straight out of the packaging. But for those on a tight budget, the Waccess Fitness is one of your best options.
This ball is far more affordable than most comparable products. We think this is noteworthy because there is little to differentiate the performance between many of the most popular balls, so a lower price point means higher value. We appreciate that the ball is quick and easy to inflate, and comes with a size-guide tape measure (although no instructions). Our extensive research revealed a far lower quantity of sudden bursting complaints than many of the competitors, which gives us a bit more faith we won't accidentally get hurt while using it.
It's not very supportive, however, and may actually be the most squishy of all the options that we've tried, making it a poor choice for prolonged sitting. We also noticed that by inflating it to the correct 65cm mark on the included tape, it is noticeably smaller than all other 65cm balls that we compared it against. For such a low price, the risk of getting burned by a potentially lower quality may just be worth it.
The Live Infinitely Exercise Ball is more robust than most other models that we tested, with thicker than average walls and evidence that the ball can be punctured without inducing it to suddenly burst. Compared to the very thin, lightweight alternatives, we certainly appreciated the feeling of security when using a thicker, heavier ball. It also claims to be made of eco-friendly PVC, and while we couldn't verify all of its claims, we can confirm that there is a significantly less toxic odor when this ball is removed from its packaging and first inflated, a common problem among exercise balls.
Our only real complaint with this ball is how slick it feels. To us, it has a smoother and less sticky grip than we preferred for certain types of workouts. And despite its more robust construction, there are still some online complaints of sudden bursting, so it's always worth being careful how you treat it. If you want a firm, supportive ball made from less toxic materials, this one is worth checking out.
Check out customer reviews online and it is obvious that the URBNFit Exercise Ball is immensely popular, with the vast majority of people expressing happiness with their purchase. We liked this ball because it was among the easiest to inflate. It comes with a hand pump that takes a bit of effort but inflates quickly compared to the foot pumps. We also appreciated the included workout instructions, which are easy to follow and also available for your phone. This ball also comes in perhaps the widest selection of different colors to match your preference.
There is no doubt that this ball is not as strong or durable as the professional-grade balls listed above, with its thinner, lighter PVC material, and a preponderance of customer reviews detailing explosions or its inability to hold air. It's also a bit squishy and bouncy, not firm and supportive like we prefer for both working out and sitting. It also has one of the most slippery textures of any ball that we tested. Finally, we can't help but point out that you can buy products with very similar performance and attributes for less money, so the value may not be the highest either. If you are easily swayed by crowd-sourcing, however, then check out the URBNFit, which is possibly the most popular choice out there.
Our extensive research and testing have revealed that a firmer, tighter ball is more supportive not only for sitting use but also for any type of exercise where the majority of your body weight will be resting on the ball. There are several exercises, however, where most of your weight is on the floor instead, and we found some of these tend to be easier with a softer, squishier ball. The fitness nerd in us might be screaming, "easier isn't the point," but we also acknowledge that some level of personal preference comes into play. If you are someone who desires a softer, squishier ball, then the DynaPro Exercise Ball may be perfect for you.
We found it to be the squishiest and least supportive of all choices that we tested. Durability and quality control is also a major concern, with plenty of reports of bursting or not holding air, and we can't help but notice if we are going to play the lower quality/lower price roulette, this one is nowhere near the cheapest, offering little in the way of potential payback. It's also quite slippery, and wouldn't be our first recommendation, regardless of intended use.
Why You Should Trust Us
The point man for this review is Andy Wellman, a senior reviewer for GearLab for nearly a decade. As a passionate ultrarunner, climber, backcountry skier, and certified yoga teacher, Andy has been using exercise balls as part of his maintenance program for the past 15 years. Exercise ball routines have played a large roll in helping his rehabilitation from knee surgery after a climbing injury and fighting off persistent IT band issues and calf strains incurred while running. He also uses them as part of his regular core workout, critical for both performance and injury prevention in all the sports he plays. As a former book publisher and current freelance writer, he has been working from home since long before telecommuting became "mandatory," and prefers a ball as his desk seat. Helping him is Elizabeth Riley, an avid runner, skier, climber, and yogi.
What sets GearLab apart is that we purchase every single product we review, so we are not beholden to publishing fluffy reviews as favors for handouts. Our expert testers actually buy and personally use all of the best products side-by-side, compare them intensely to each other, and then provide our unbiased feedback. For this review, we carefully researched 40 different exercise balls before purchasing and testing the top eight.
Analysis and Test Results
To offer the most accurate comparisons between all of the different exercise and stability, we evaluated and scored them based upon five different rating metrics: workouts, sitting supportiveness, durability, ease of inflation, and texture, each of which are described in greater detail below.
Using one of these balls as an exercise and flexibility tool is the most common reason folks decide to purchase one. For exercise, we prefer a ball that is firm and supportive when inflated to its intended size. This is especially true for workouts where you are sitting or lying on the ball with most of your body weight. A soft, squishy, and unsupportive ball can easily lead to improper form and less control. In some cases, such as when your feet are on the ball, or you are grabbing the ball, a softer ball can make an exercise easier or more comfortable. A higher-quality ball that is perfectly round is undoubtedly preferred, as is one with a texture that helps keep it stationary and makes it easier to grab it.
Our favorite ball for working out is the Theraband Professional Series SCP, closely followed up by the GoFit Professional Grade Stability Ball. Not only are these the best choices for working out, but they are also the highest quality, and are both available at a reasonable price.
Choosing the correct size for you is key for working out with a stability ball. Consult a sizing chart to pick the correct size for you. Oddly enough, most balls offer slightly different sizing advice, so one chart cannot be considered universal. A smaller ball will often make exercises more difficult, while a larger one can make it difficult to maintain contact with the floor.
Exercise and stability balls have become a popular alternative to the traditional desk chair because they can promote better posture as well as help build core stability while sitting all day. However, it is also very easy to slouch in a way that strains your back while sitting on a ball for long hours, so only sit on a ball at your desk if you can maintain proper posture. For this reason, we recommend also keeping a chair handy, so you can swap out periodically. A very tight, firm ball is ideal for use as a seat, and you will want to avoid soft and squishy balls, which are almost impossible to maintain a proper upright posture with your lower back straight. Err on the smaller side for a sitting ball, as you want to sit at the correct height for your desk or table without being too high off the ground.
Only one product in this review, the Vivora Luna, is made specifically for use as a desk chair, and it was our favorite one for this purpose. It comes with a sewn felt cover that looks nice, offers a more comfortable texture, and most importantly, insulates you from the cold air inside the ball. We found that sitting on regular, uncovered balls led us to feel colder due to much easier heat transfer.
Your exercise ball is only good so long as it lasts, and many balls are unfortunately cheaply made and can burst, tear, or simply leak air surprisingly quickly. To increase longevity, be sure to inflate following the instructions, and keep your ball indoors, out of the sun, away from pets, and don't play rough on the balls. We assessed each model for durability by comparing overall weights (heavier means more material and, in theory, increased durability), wall thicknesses when we could find that information, and by conducting a thorough survey of online customer reviews, paying special attention to reports of balls bursting or leaking air.
When you search for exercise balls online, you will find most of them prominently list a "static lb. strength rating" such as 2,000 lbs., and also frequently claim to be anti-burst. After thorough research and testing, we can only conclude that these ratings and claims do not correlate with our testing experience, and we recommend that you completely ignore them when considering your purchase. We found that the products with the highest ratings and most prominent anti-bursting claims were invariably the cheapest, with the thinnest walls, and had the most user complaints of bursting. Conversely, the balls made of the thickest materials and having the fewest complaints of bursting issues, often had the lowest reported strength ratings, which were usually not prominently advertised.
The Theraband Professional Series SCP was once again the highest scorer when it came to durability, and is the ball you should choose if you want one as strong as you will find in a gym. The Vivora Luna is another top scorer for this metric.
Ease of Inflation
We strongly recommend closely following the inflation instructions provided with your ball. Beware than many of these balls require letting them sit overnight, or 24 hours, before you can actually use them. Each ball comes with either a hand pump, foot pump, or adapter for use with a bike pump or air compressor. Hand pumps take a fair amount of effort but inflate a ball much faster, while foot pumps are slightly easier but take considerably longer to fill the ball. Be warned that all included pumps, and adapters, are very cheap and can easily break or not work well.
If you want a ball that you can be crunching on within minutes of it arriving on your doorstep, check out the URBNFit Exercise Ball, which uses an included hand pump, and offers no warnings about waiting times or slow inflation.
Most, but not all, exercise balls come with the familiar ribbed pattern, but the actual texture of the PVC used is surprisingly variable from one ball to the next. An ideal blend of sticky and slick is what you want, without one being over-emphasized. Most of the balls tested tend toward the slick slide. Once again, the Theraband Pro Series offered our favorite texture with a comfortable balance of smoothness and grip.
While there are a lot of exercise and stability balls on the market to choose from, they are absolutely not all created equal. Different options are more firm and supportive, while others are soft and squishy. Some have a grippy texture while some are smooth and slicker. We hope that we have made your decision-making process easier and that our advice helps you find the ideal ball for your needs.
— Andy Wellman