Product test

Seating balls: a review of Vluv’s answer to the traditional office chair

Pia Seidel
29.08.2022
Translation: Katherine Martin

This Vluv exercise ball has more to do with work than sport – at least at my place. While working from home, I tested «Bol» as an alternative to an office chair.

Good things are really supposed to come in threes. It took three attempts before I could do a proper dive into the pool this summer, and three attempts before I could make an enjoyable cold brew. It’s only in my search for a suitable office chair that three tests haven’t been enough. Every time, I found there was something missing, be it adjustment settings or affordability. With this in mind, I’m entering into a fourth round of tests with yet another model. Commenting on my previous reviews, you recommended I use a seating ball and mentioned a particular model: «Bol», designed by the brand Vluv.

«Bol» is an exercise ball that looks anything but sporty. It hides its sticky plastic with a fabric cover, meaning it looks good as a piece of furniture and goes well with the surrounding decor.

To find out whether the seating ball would be a good fit for me too, I order the standard «Sova» model in the colour of «pesto» for my home office. This way, I can try it out and see how it fares against its three predecessors. That said, I’ll be tackling the review as more of an aesthete than a scientist.

Set-up and first impressions

According to Vluv, anyone using the ball as a seat should pay close attention to their body size. As I’m 174 cm tall, I chose a ball with a diameter of 65 cm, which is suitable for people who’re between about 155 cm and 180 cm tall. Anyone taller or shorter than that has two other sizes of ball available to them – 55 cm or 75 cm. A height-adjustable desk is recommended for these options so that you can set up your seating area to be ergonomically friendly. At 74 cm, my desk is perfect for my height.

When «Bol» arrives, I’m chuffed that it’s compact. The burst-proof ball, its cover, instructions, a hand pump and accessories fit into a single cotton bag.

Everything you need is included on delivery
Everything you need is included on delivery
You get a spare valve as well, just in case.
You get a spare valve as well, just in case.

I would’ve had the ball inflated in all of 5 minutes if there hadn't been a mini step between opening it and pumping it up. The instructions say that after unpacking the ball, it should be laid out flat for around two hours at room temperature before it’s filled with air. So, I wait patiently, popping the ball into its cover once the two hours are up. Thanks to a simple explanation, I manage that without issue and am able to get the hand pump into position and start inflating the ball. Although I do need a break every now and again, the amount of strength needed for this is still within reason.

After a two-hour timeout, the ball is good to go
After a two-hour timeout, the ball is good to go
When inflating the ball, it’s important that the valve is positioned midway along the zipper.
When inflating the ball, it’s important that the valve is positioned midway along the zipper.

The ball immediately takes the correct shape, but doesn’t fill the case completely. Vluv says that’s because the PVC ball is always produced to be smaller than the fabric case. However, I’m not brave enough to pump any more air into «Bol». What if it bursts? If, like me, you’re unsure, Vluv recommends leaving «Bol» with the valve closed for two to three hours before continuing to inflate it. I’m the one responsible for the delay this time, but it’s worth it. Later, I grab the pump again, and the ball is full of air in less than a minute.

Although the ball already felt bouncy here ...
Although the ball already felt bouncy here ...
...it didn’t have enough air until my second attempt at inflating it.
...it didn’t have enough air until my second attempt at inflating it.

My hesitation proved to be a good thing, because now I know that reopening and closing the valve isn’t an issue. If «Bol» ever starts to deflate, I’ll be able to top it up with air no problem.

Functionality: the first day

«Bol» looks like a piece of furniture, but it’ll definitely do more to keep me fit than my sofa. When I first try it out, I bob up and down, amazed that I’m not rolling away. Only when I stand up especially quickly does the ball move a few centimetres. Thanks to a ring stitched to the underside, it mostly stays in place. If that little bit of movement bothers you, you can add a floor weight, guaranteeing that it always rolls back into place like a roly-poly toy.

A plastic ring stitched to the cover prevents «Bol» from rolling.
A plastic ring stitched to the cover prevents «Bol» from rolling.
The strap allows you to quickly get control of the ball.
The strap allows you to quickly get control of the ball.

My choice of office chair is heavily influenced by appearance. It’s an area where this ball proves to be a slam dunk. Spheres are timeless and break up a room’s right angles. Not only that, but the matt green fabric cover also blends seamlessly with my home decor. It has a nice feel to it, and its stitching gives it a delicate, decorative pattern. What tarnishes the look slightly is the white logo on the strap. This interrupts the flow of the spherical shape and emphasises the strap, which would otherwise go unnoticed.

Two weeks into the test

Let’s have a recap of the three seats I’ve tested already. There was the saddle-style Håg Capisco 8106 which had a back support. Then there was the Håg Futu Mesh, which had a back rest but no «saddle». Lastly, there was the To-swift rocking stool, which had neither of these features. That last one has already prepared me for sitting for long periods without a backrest. The saddle-style seat, on the other hand, got me to stop crossing my legs. «Bol» also disciplines me into sitting upright, legs apart. Though I can actually cross my legs, it’s twice as difficult to do so in this position whilst keeping your balance or bobbing up and down.

Like the rocking stool before it, constantly balancing the ball is good for my concentration, but it’s also a test of endurance. Some days, I’m left pining for a back rest. I sit on the sofa or on a dining chair for a while to recoup my strength. After that, I’m good to continue working from my seat on top of the ball. It’s at the end of the work day that I really start to notice how strong all this «Bol» endurance training is making my back. While my friends grumble about the lack of back rests at the bar during after-work drinks, I bob about happily on the stool, effortlessly able to sit up straight.

The advantage of not having a back- or arm rest is that «Bol» can be pushed away under the desk and out of sight when the work is done. Given that it’s super lightweight, I can take it into the living room in the evenings and use it as a footrest or as extra seating when I have visitors. The downside is that I can’t adjust its height in order to work at another desk. And during meetings, I can never, ever lean backwards.

Material, care and production

Vluv was founded in 2009 by Kristof Hock, who wanted to make more out of unsightly gym balls. Today, the development, design and sales departments are based near Cologne, while manufacturing is located is in Asia. The company allows you to order individual replacement parts, such as the hand pump. It also offers additional service on its website. My version of «Bol» has a wool-soft fabric cover named «Sova». Available in four colours, it’s also said to be particularly abrasion resistant. It can be machine washed at 30 degrees, should there be any spillages. For furniture, fabrics with a Martindale rub count of 40,000 are considered top quality. «Sova» has a score of 60,000. That makes it a good choice for both homes and open-plan offices.

The cover is made of a water-repellent material.
The cover is made of a water-repellent material.

The only thing I spill during the two-week test is water, which rolls off the non-slip polyester surface. All that gets stuck to the seating ball is the odd bit of lint. However, giving the ball a good once over with a brush is enough to take care of that. The ball cover also comes in other fabrics, which are both easy on the eye and less likely to attract lint. There’s fake leather, linen, tufted pile fabric, velvet and wool felt.

Verdict: despite all the practice, something’s still off balance

I still believe that good things can come in threes. CediMoustache, marcroth and dr3izehn are the three Community members who commented on my previous reviews to tell me how happy they were using a seating ball – and I’m glad I listened to them. Testing «Bol» showed me how brilliant active seating can be for your concentration and your muscles. It also taught me that exercise balls need not give off a gym vibe. With a pretty fabric cover, they look good in both home offices and living rooms. Thanks to its compact size and light weight, you can easily move the seating ball to another room. And there’s much to be said for «Bol’s» price. At just under 120 francs, it’s priced at the lower end of our office chair range. In comparison, the Capisco costs up to 1,400 francs.

But although «Bol» is a pretty alternative to a traditional chair or piece of sports kit, it’s unable to give me the same variety of seating options as its predecessors did. With the Capisco, I could keep or remove the back rest, or sit with it in front of my chest. «Bol», however, only gives me one choice: get by without one. What’s more, I’m missing a height-adjustment feature, which would allow me to sit higher up while working. Maybe the possibility of exercising with «Bol» is what lends it versatility – but I want to use it as an ergonomically friendly alternative to an office chair. As far as sport goes, moving around on the ball at work is enough for me to stay active while sitting down. That’s why I’ll be passing it on to a friend for now, and testing a fifth model, complete with back rest.

Bol cuts a fine figure in any room, and helps you keep your own figure through active seating.
Bol cuts a fine figure in any room, and helps you keep your own figure through active seating.

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«There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. I believe in the latter.»
– Albert Einstein


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