Review: Fluidstance Level

Decades ago, I was recovering from a sprained ankle, the second one sustained in as many years on the squash court. A colleague at the software development company where I worked as a technical writer at the time lent me his “wobble board” to speed up my rehabilitation.

This two-foot-long by one-foot-wide plank of wood stood off the ground thanks to two “half-moon” pieces of wood attached lengthwise under the board. The effect was to let somebody standing on it wobble from side to side, or work to stay still. In either case, the board worked a variety of muscles, including the ones in my ankles.

Fast forward to 2015, and an ex-colleague sent me this Indigogo link, telling me it reminded him of the board I used when we shared the same bullpen.

After much hesitation (due to the price), I finally ordered my Level.

My rationale: I’d rather spend money on stuff that helps me avoid medical care rather than the medical care itself. This is the same logic behind expenditures for hockey, squash, running, walking and so forth. Ongoing fitness is always cheaper than acute health care.

Appearance

The beautiful crafted, polished piece of wood on top would not look out of place on the finest wood floors.

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The metal “exoskeleton” design underneath that cradles the wood platform and tapers down to a thick “point” at the geometric centre of the Level balances perfectly when set on the ground all by itself.

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Four bolts at the corners attach the metal base to the wood platform. This suggests owners can swap out the platform if they choose. Four rubber bumpers (one near each bolt) keep the edges of the metal from scratching the floor underneath.

First impressions

The Level is easy to step onto and balance on. I started by placing my feet at the ends of the board, but after a while I started moving them towards the centre. I placed them at different distances from the centre. I pivoted on one foot on the centre of the board. And I still experiment.

It dawned on me that my stance was now fluid, not rigid, as it all too often is when standing at my desk without the Level.

Tangent: oddly, I was in the middle of the book The Wave when the Level arrived. The book describes massive waves and the people who study them, deal with them and surf them. I have no delusions about being ready to ride a hundred-foot-high rogue wave, but I’m probably progressing, however slowly, to the kind of physical condition required to do so.

Moving on the Level

Time spent standing on the Level amounts to great exercise for muscles people use to balance every day but that most people take for granted.

I can rotate the Level by gripping my desk and moving my feet to get a real twist in my lower back. I can also rotate the Level without holding on to anything, using manouevres Chubby Checker taught us all – forearms level with the ground, knees and hips bent, and shake the behind. I suspect it looks as funny as it sounds.

I also deliberately move the Level out of level by moving my feet, putting one side up a little and the opposite side down.

I can also slowly move the Level by “wiggling” it while leaning against the direction I want to move it.

Something tells me I’ll come up with new “Level moves” well after I publish this review.

Working on the Level

The first time I journaled using a fountain pen while standing on the Level was a little rough, but I got used to it quickly. Besides, my handwriting is so messy I doubt it made a difference.

Typing is no problem. I put two thick, letter-sized workbooks under my keyboard to bring it up to a more comfortable height. I’ve since removed one of those books. The workbook cover makes for a comfortable palm rest.

My trackpad stays on the desk. No issues there.

The soles of my feet got sore during the first week or two. I work in 50-minute “shifts” with 20 minutes off, standing in sock feet or bare feet. Moving my feet around on the Level, from the edges to the middle, mitigated this soreness. After a week or two, the soles of my feet no longer got sore.

Fatigue

Thanks to very slight movement of the Level, I still need to keep my balance. It feels like isometric exercise, and Fluidstance’s website science page explains this further.

Price

The Indiegogo campaign pricing wasn’t cheap. That said, it’s certainly less expensive than a treadmill, provides about the same benefit as a walking desk, and takes up much less space in my already cramped office. I believe I got value for my money.

Conclusions

As I’ve already said:

  • this IndieGoGo purchase was pricey
  • I’d rather pay for a device that’s likely to help me stay healthy than the healthcare I’d need if I didn’t make such efforts

Would I buy it again knowing what I know now? The Level has become welcome a part of my working life, so yes, I’d get another one. I’d recommend it for anybody who has to work at a desk and can at least take standing breaks. You don’t need to stand on it every working moment the way I do, but working up to that might not be as difficult as it seems.

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