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I've actually had one of these Fitness-Mad Swiss Balls for years now, I bought mine under the advice of a Physiotherapist who thought it would be good for my joint condition to do core stability exercises and over the years this ball has been hit and miss until recently. When I bought mine I think they were possibly cheaper than they are now, they seem to be an item that increases in popularity more as the years go by but this ball is now available for between £18 and £22. My ball has the old style pump so not the turbo one it comes with now but I still don't find pumping it up a bit more every so often to be much of a problem and the plastic stopper in the top is easy to remove and pop back in quickly once the ball is fully inflated.
As I'm only 5 foot 4 I have the 55cm ball but there are plenty of charts online to help you choose the right one for your height. The 55cm ball is still quite large to store though and I have no intention of deflating in between use so mine goes into the spare room. The ball has anti-burst technology which means should you puncture it rather than just going flat in seconds with you on it it should slowly deflate so you have time to remove yourself first. It is thick rubber though and even after all the years I've had mine I've never burst it plus the texture makes it excellent to use on either carpets or tiled or wooden floors and it won't slip out from under you which is always good to know!
When I first got mine and inflated it I wasn't really sure how it was supposed to work, I knew it was a big ball and I was supposed to be using it for exercises but I didn't know how this could possibly happen because every time I so much as looked at the ball it would roll away and during exercise I was finding it extremely difficult to balance on the ball and in some instances totally impossible. In the beginning I sometimes used it to sit on at the computer so my abdominals and back had to work to balance me on the ball but I couldn't do much else with it. By the way, anyone tempted to buy one of those swiss ball seats don't bother, as they've encased the ball in a chair frame with a back you don't actually benefit from them at all because they're just as static as an ordinary chair, if you want to balance while doing things just use a bog standard swiss ball!
Over the last 7-8 years the ball has remained inflated and never totally deflated even when I didn't use it for months at a time. It does need a top up of air every so often but you can judge this for yourself by how soft it's getting, the softer the ball the easier it is to use it so for more advanced people you would want the ball fully inflated and fairly solid. A few times I resolved to get the hang of the ball and I now knew if the exercise was done in one place on the floor the ball should stay still, however knowing that and doing that were two different things! I used to cheat and use whatever I had touchng the floor, hands or feet, to stop the ball rolling away but you're actually supposed to use the muscles in your trunk (the core) to keep the ball steady, however if you're about to fall off the ball and have lost control feel free to use hands and feet to catch yourself! If the exercise involves moving the ball it should be executed in a controlled manner and not as fast as you can to try not to fall off.
My joint problem means I'm stuck at rehab level so all basic exercises but never let a basic exercise on the ball fool you, it's much more difficult to perform them on an unstable surface such as this. Some of the things I do on a daily basis are Supermans (opposite arm and leg) which are actually pretty difficult to master correctly on a ball, Hip Extensions for the glutes, back extensions for the back, mini squats against the ball on the wall to keep the back in neutral, sitting on the ball with my feet close together and eyes closed for periods of time to improve balance, draping myself sideways over the ball to stretch out one side that clamps up, lifting the legs alternately whilst sitting on the ball which is easier said than done again and has lots of potential for cheating! If you aren't injured in any way though there's a vast amount of exercises to be done with the ball and a quick search online will throw up hundreds for you to try.
I've noticed in the last few years some companies are calling swiss balls "Birthing Balls" and I have no idea how one of these is of use to anyone giving birth and nor do I want to! Swiss balls are not just for women either, I have a male friend who's heavily into martial arts and he uses one to train his core on a regular basis. This particular ball will hold up to 500kg in weight which is not a weight I'm ever likely to be and anyone who does weigh that frankly has bigger problems than whether a swiss ball will hold them! My ball has some scuffs on it now but these are mostly from me cramming it into a corner to store it rather than excessive use. I'm getting better at the exercises these days and tend to get the ball out in the morning and leave it out all day so each time I pass it I can do a set or two of some of my exercises which is really helping me to improve.
I really recommend this ball and it's very hard wearing and you'll definitely get plenty of use out of it (if you actually get it out that is!). For increasing the difficulty of exercises and making you use your core they are second to none but only if you don't cheat so if you think it's very easy using one of these but know you have a weak core you might want to demonstrate your exercises for someone who knows how to use one such as a physio or pilates teacher. I can't fault this ball and expect to get many more years use out of it so it's been a very cheap piece of equipment. The only problem you may have is storage but it's worth having a huge ball rolling around to get a strong core to support your pelvis and spine. A full 5 stars from me.
Fundamentally, what Swiss balls are is failed Spacehoppers. And, well, that's the kind of negative juxtaposition that any piece of sports equipment struggles to recover from. Just think: Spacehoppers are orange, bouncy, have horns to hold on to and a face drawn on the front. Granted, said face does have the unfortunate distinction of looking like a lot like a perverse, sex-mad kangaroo - sort of an anthropomorphic Hugh Hefner - but this can easily be overlooked when you consider the fun that's to be had by bouncing on it (which is, incidentally, what I bet Hugh wishes his latest fiancée was saying about him. She's probably too busy totting up his money and life expectancy to have much to say on the matter).
~*~ Appearance ~*~
Make no mistake; this is a mighty big ball. In fact, it'd be just the job should your idea of the perfect evening in be recreating scenes from The Prisoner. If, however, you're one of those terribly literal people who insists on using exercise equipment for its intended purpose it's also pretty good for press ups, sit ups and the like (much more fun, I feel, to wait until one of your friends is standing looking at a snowdrift and then lob it at the back of their head. I fear the manufacturers wouldn't recommend this, though. Which is a pity, really, as Swiss balls are the perfect size and weight to be the ideal tool in a 'You've Been Framed' pratfall moment.)
I got the one for people over 5'6" which is dark purple and absolutely massive. The colour isn't particularly pleasing unless you happen to have purple-themed decor and it makes it feel like a very big presence in the room. Silver would have been better as this one feels like it's always there, lurking, reminding you that you've opted for the armchair over exercise...again. The height range is about right and I wouldn't recommend it for someone under 5'6" as it would just be too big and awkward. And, not to put too fine a point on it, if you're under a certain height your feet won't touch the floor making your exercise routine not so much life-enhancing as life-threatening.
The material that it's made from is very thick and sturdy, and it purports to take a load of 500 kg, which is more than anyone will ever need. This strength and load-bearing capacity has the added advantage that it resists kitty claws very well, especially if you have two who are daft enough to think that a perfectly spherical, freestanding object is the perfect thing to balance on when peering out of the window and chuntering at the birds. If the aforementioned eejity kitties do manage to puncture the Swiss ball, the manufacturers claim that it will deflate slowly, rather than delivering you back to Earth arse-first at speed.
~*~ Storage ~*~
The size of this Swiss ball makes it a very tricky object to store. Deflating and re-inflating it takes far too long to be a realistic proposition and it doesn't easily fit in most cupboards. Mine hides behind the exercise bike when not in use (and I'm sure both of them bitch to each other about how shamefully underused they are) and occasionally I use it as extra seating or as a computer chair. Anyone who lives in a bedsit or one bedroom flat may find that this is just too awkward and cumbersome. Mind you, my mum took one look at it and asked was it a toy for the dog or the baby (the dog could only play with it if he had jaws the size of, um, Jaws and I've never owned a baby. Or even borrowed one, for that matter. So, this ball is only to be regarded as a reasonable, handy sized object for people as mad as my mother).
~*~ Exercise ~*~
In theory this can be used for press-ups against the floor; in actuality it could only be used for this if you had Go-Go-Gadget arms at your disposal. It is good for doing press ups against the wall, though, where you use the ball between yourself and the wall. People with good stability can use it for sit ups; I balance about as well as a long-term labyrinthitis sufferer who's just had a go in a gyroscope and I can generally manage it, although with occasional falling over. The manufacturers claim it's also suitable for Pilates, although I've never done it so can't comment. It's great for sitting on and doing weights as it makes your tummy and back muscles work whilst the weights work your arms (that sentence makes me sound like a properly fit person. I'm really not. I ate an astonishing amount of chocolate cake today).
For all exercise activities this feels very secure and doesn't slip against the ground, even laminate flooring or tiles. However, as with any spherical object it is eminently possible to fall off it in a most undignified way, so it's wise to clear enough floor space before you want to use it. Otherwise, if you attempt to bounce on it like a Spacehopper, you'll fall off and crack your head on the hearth, which is what I did.
Inflating it is a workout in itself, as it takes ages and your arms will get pretty sore. It comes with a turbo pump but even with that advantage the sheer size of it means it'll take around half an hour to inflate it three quarters of its capacity and you'll probably want to stop for a tea break halfway through. After that it needs to be left overnight and then pumped up to full pressure the next day. A piece of plastic ribbon is also supplied so you can check you've inflated it to the right pressure, although it's awkward to get the ribbon fully around the ball. I gave up on it quite quickly and just did it by eye, which seemed to work pretty well. The bung and valve which stop it from deflating at speed are quite basic so it will need topped up every so often if you're using it daily or doing a lot of weights on it.
Overall, for £18 (on Amazon) this is a very good Swiss ball as long as you don't mind the overbearing colour, size and storage problems. And you can get past the fact that it's just not as much fun as a Spacehopper.