- 360 degree freedom of movement
- Environmentally friendly materials and production process
- The very first balance board with NEAT certification
- The wooden deck can be slippery and tough
- The metal base can be easily scratched
- Expensive (especially with rugs)
Working from home over the past two years has brought to light the bad habits and postures we develop in the office. Standing desks have long been a fad among more health-conscious knowledge workers, but it’s really only half the equation. Constant or steady movement is the other part, but this was more difficult to observe if you’re the type who is glued to the computer for hours on end. Balance boards, while not entirely new, have been gaining popularity lately, and we’ve put FluidStance’s balance board under our feet to see if its promises are worth its price.
People would be forgiven for thinking that you are skating dangerously near an insane level of obsession with fitness when they apparently see you hovering on a skateboard while standing next to your desk. The FluidStance level is indeed designed to resemble the familiar shape of a skateboard precisely because it is a familiar and well tested design. And like a skateboard, you might feel proud of yourself after learning the ropes, perhaps forgetting how odd it can seem.
Thankfully, the level is actually a thing of beauty, which might seem odd for something that’s supposed to always be at your feet. At least you won’t be embarrassed seeing the premium maple wood that forms the top deck of the board. Available in Natural (light) and Walnut (dark) finishes, it is almost a shame to spoil its surface with dirt from your shoes. In practice, you might not always see this natural wood stain if you still prefer to use the plank with foam.
Even the metal bottom of the Level is nothing to be ashamed of. Crafted from military-grade die-cast aluminum, the concave shape of this base provides the freedom of movement that many balance boards lack. The webbed structure, on the other hand, provides the flexibility and strength to support people weighing 300 lbs or less. It also allows for an interesting visual design when you place the board against the wall when not in use.
Overall, the Level weighs just 7 pounds, which FluidStance playfully compares to a little cat. You won’t be carrying it around a lot, of course, and most likely will place it near your desk most of the time. Still, it’s a good thing to note, in case you’ve set up standing desks at home and in your private office.
The choice of materials and manufacturing processes of FluidStance, however, have consequences for the longevity of the product. Wood, of course, ages and scratches over time, which can both be a source of distinctive marks and damage. More concerning, perhaps, is the powder coating on the aluminum base which could wear out or scratch more easily, depending on the surface of the floor. Fortunately, FluidStance has solutions for both problems.
As a balance board, the Level solves two problems that ordinary standing desks don’t solve enough. Just standing at your desk all day, while improving from sitting all the time, doesn’t exactly improve the benefits of being active. The famous Mayo Clinic has developed a new activity thermogenesis without exercise or NEAT certification to indicate products or activities that keep the body active without entering a formal state of exercise. The Level is one of the first of its kind to receive this new marketing metric, promising to help you burn calories while standing.
Standing all day at your desk can also be unhealthy for your legs and feet, and other options like treadmills or even exercise bikes can be overkill. A balance board helps provide the natural movement our body needs without straining our lower limbs. The advantage of the Level over other boards is that its design allows users to rotate 360 degrees rather than being limited to rolling movements in one direction. His range of motion or ROM was measured to be equivalent to normal walking movements.
With these benefits comes a certain learning curve, especially if you’re not used to standing while working. The constant movement feels anything but natural, but also becomes familiar and almost second nature after a few days of continuous use. Even being constantly on the move, it is still advisable to take breaks in between to give your legs and feet a much-needed rest.
There are also side effects to the usability of the materials in the level. The wooden plank makes using it with just socks or bare feet a big no-no for safety reasons. At the same time, the hard flat surface can still wear out your heels even when you are wearing shoes. FluidStance sells an UPmat made from 100% recyclable “PLUSfoam” to provide some cushion, but this is an additional purchase.
There will also be concerns about the contact between the metal base and the floor material. Unsurprisingly, the company also sells a separate base mat to protect both the floor and the base of the board.
Although its primary focus is health and fitness, FluidStance is proud to be part of the new generation of designers and companies who ensure they have the least possible impact on the environment. However, the company does not stop only with the choice of materials but also with the processes used to manufacture them. The powder coating process for the aluminum base, for example, has a considerably smaller footprint, almost no emissions, compared to typical painting and anodizing processes.
It’s also more easily repairable, too, to some extent. The wooden bridge can be unscrewed if it needs to be replaced, although you may need to find ways to buy a new one. If there is one flaw with FluidStance’s sustained efforts in sustainability, it is that it does not make the purchase of replacement wood decking a big deal. You will definitely want the UPmat to keep the top in usable shape for as long as possible.
Fortunately, FluidStance’s accessories are just as environmentally friendly as the Level itself, or at least the company promises. This base mat may be made from 100% virgin polycarbonate to make it as tough as bulletproof glass, but it is also advertised as being fully recyclable.
The Level already sets itself apart from other balance boards with its design and commitment to sustainability. Unfortunately, it also stands out for its price, and not in a good way. At $ 249, it’s easily one of the more expensive balance boards out there, and that’s just for the board itself.
The UPmat provides comfort and support to your feet and legs while protecting the surface of the wooden top. The base mat ensures that the level is usable on any floor surface or material you own, while minimizing the wear and tear of the powder coated die-cast aluminum. At $ 69 and $ 99, respectively, these items look like props, but they could actually be necessities, bringing the total to $ 417.
The big question, however, is whether it’s really worth that much. Luckily for FluidStance, there isn’t much competition in the market yet, at least with its combination of design, ergonomics, and environmental focus. There are certainly other alternatives out there, but few manage to check all of these brands equally. Best of all, FluidStance actually offers a more affordable “The Airplane” option, although it ditches wood and metal materials and is designed for people weighing 250 lbs and under.
When health experts preached the good news of standing desks, they seemed to have forgotten the impact it would have on our feet and legs. They also didn’t dwell on the fact that you don’t really burn calories by just standing and actually need more movement to reap the benefits of a non-sedentary work lifestyle. Balance boards were becoming the next and most viable trend after treadmills and desk bikes, and, naturally, not all were created equal.
The FluidStance level brings balance in more than one way. Unlike other balance boards, it does not immediately appear to be an exercise product and is designed to be environmentally friendly from the start of the production process. The price tag can be a bit of a shock, especially considering that you might actually want to get hold of the two rugs the company sells. Fortunately, it’s also built to last, making it an investment that will keep you on the move even when you’re standing in front of your computer.