Ergonomics has long been an industry unto itself catering to offices and those who sit in front of computers all day. In the past, this mostly consisted of desks and chairs, but in the last few years has really seen a push into standing desks and other options. Fluidstance is one such company with a product that complements today’s standing desks nicely. Before I get too far into the review, I just wanted to quote how the company came to be.
We weren’t meant to sit all day. In fact, our bodies were designed to move, and chances are your workspace doesn’t let you do that.
We know that a sedentary lifestyle has negative effects on our overall health. But how do we add that healthy motion to our day? FluidStance founder Joel Heath came up with the idea for The Level, our beautifully designed motion platform that brings movement into any common workspace, after personally noticing the effects of a sedentary workday. Joel launched the company with the introduction of the Level® and the Original on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. Today, we have an expanded product line and a full team whose focus is on movement as the ultimate solution—in which the combination of sitting, standing, and “flowing” are the keys to a happy workday.
With that, our The Level by Fluidstance review takes a look at a premium “motion platform” — commonly called balance boards — and sees just how it adds motion to your work day.
The Level by Fluidstance has the following features and specifications:
- ½” wooden top deck
- Aluminum base
- 26.5″ long x 12.2″ wide x 2.5″ tall
- Approximate weight: 7lbs, 12oz
- Designed for use under 250 pounds
- Made in the USA
What’s in the box
- The Level
- Cloth carrying bag
Upon opening the box, you’re greeted with the Fluidstance logo on the outside of a cloth bag. Inside the bag is The Level motion platform. Picking up the bag, you definitely feel the weight of The Level. Once you pull it out of the bag, the design and build quality is instantly apparent.
The surface of The Level features a half-inch wooden top deck protected with a low-emitting finish for hardwood floors. The wooden deck is flat and angled downward around the edges. The deck itself is inset into a die-cast military grade aluminum base with walls that are 0.190″ thick. A thin groove separates the wooden deck and the base.
Flipping The Level over, you’ll see that the aluminum base is a criss-cross of aluminum strips and it almost looks like a spider web. The strips meet in the middle in a circular balance point. If you look at the base from the side, you’ll notice that the aluminum curves down towards this center point. At the edges, The Level is roughly one inch thick including the corner bumpers and about 2 ½” thick at the center point.
The corner bumpers are a nice rubber material and there is one in each corner. The wooden top deck is screwed to the aluminum base just on the inside of each of these corner bumpers. The Fluidstance logo and wordmark are burned into the underside of the wood deck at one end. On the other, you’ll find a warning label stating that you are indeed using The Level at your own risk and that it may cause injury or death. While I had a chuckle at the label, it’s obviously there to cover the company from any injuries that may result from misuse of the board.
The wood surface is definitely hard, so you’ll want a decent pair of shoes. Fluidstance also offers another option which is constructed from recycled plastics and tires and that one may be a bit more soft to stand on depending on how hard the plastic construction is. Still, should you wish I don’t see why you couldn’t put some sort of padding on the top for some extra cushion but then you’d be detracting from the quality design and finish. That being said, there’s a reason Fluidstance didn’t put extra padding on the surface so you may be altering the stability of the board by doing so.
Our review sample came with the Bamboo finish which looks quite nice. The build quality and design quality really is top notch. The Level is also available in maple with a Natural Finish (light) and Walnut Finish (dark) for those who prefer a different look.
Ease of Use
The Level by Fluidstance is very easy to use. Sure, it’s a balance board but it is very easy to balance on it. Fluidstance recommends holding onto a solid surface before stepping onto the board, but once you’re on with both feet and balanced, you’re good to go and can resume typing or whatever other computer activities fill your day. Given the thickness of The Level, you might need to adjust your standing desk height if used with one.
You’ll want to use it on a carpeted surface or some sort of a plastic mat like those used under office chairs. Fluidstance also offers a few different mats as well for use with their motion platforms. One thing you’ll want to be wary of is sand or small rocks on the mat while using The Level. While they don’t affect the performance, they will scratch the balance point on the bottom of the board and I just made sure to quickly brush the office chair mat I was using off before placing The Level in position.
While standing desks are a great addition to your work environment, The Level adds just that little bit extra. I’ve been using a standing desk for a few months now and find I sit and stand about half my work day most days. The one issue I do have with standing though is that after awhile your feet tend to get a bit sore unless you have a good standing mat. While The Level has a hard wooden surface as well, the fact that you are moving around on it makes it much more enjoyable.
Fluidstance put their deck through independent testing during the development process and found that on average they saw an average range of motion (ROM) of 23.98° by those standing on the board as opposed to standing in place. This additional ROM is similar to walking (which has an average ROM of 21.5°). The company also saw a 15% increase in heart rate on average which resulted in an average heart rate increase of 12.2 beats per minute while using a Fluidstance deck.
Almost as soon as I stepped onto The Level for the first time, I did indeed find myself rocking slightly back and forth and side to side. I wasn’t going to the extreme so that the bumpers touched down, but I found even the slight motion to be somewhat invigorating. While using The Level hasn’t increased the amount of time I stand during the day, it certainly made standing even more enjoyable and the odd time I’ve found myself doing half spins to answer the phone or get something off the printer. If you’ve never used a standing desk or aren’t used to standing while working, Fluidstance recommends the 70:20:10 rule — 70% sitting, 20% standing, and 10% of walking around — to start with. Gradually over time, they recommend balancing between sitting and standing.
As far as heart rate, I had to test out Fluidstance’s claims and took random heart rate samples while sitting, standing, and I did find a slight increase in my bpm. Of course, the more you move around on The Level, the higher your heart rate will go — just like any other exercise.
One thing you might wonder, as I did, is how it might actually affect performing your regular computer and office tasks like typing. I found no difference at all and found that I was able to perform typing, graphic design, and other tasks the same as I can while sitting or standing.
With pricing from $289USD, The Level isn’t cheap. Spending that will get you the Natural Finish while $339 will get you the Walnut Finish and the Bamboo deck will set you back $389. Sure you can get a balance board for much cheaper, but the quality and design on these will likely last much longer than a cheaper product.
Another thing to note about the price. The aluminum base is produced in a solar-powered facility in California, while all the scrap aluminum from the base is recycled back into the supply chain.
There are also two other models of the decks from Fluidstance — The Original which is constructed of Bamboo and hand cast aluminum for $489, and The Plane which is constructed from recycled plastic and rubber tires for $189.
If you are using a standing desk while using a computer or are looking to introduce more activity into your daily routine, The Level is a great addition to help put a little more movement in your otherwise mostly stationary work day.