(Editor’s note: This product was sent to me at no cost for the purpose of a review.)
I should start this by saying that I have never been a skateboarder and in general I am not the best at things which require good balance. So it is with that in mind that I met The Level, a product for standing desk users made by FluidStance, with a bit of fear. I was fairly certain that I was going to end up on my ass after standing on the Level for just a day — maybe with a broken hip, or ankle to show for it.
But the truth is far better represented in this picture:
The hell of it is that she is 3, and my 18 month old — yeah she stands on it all the time too. The Level is incredibly stable for something that has been designed to, well, not be stable. When you stand on it you constantly feel movement, but you never once feel like you might fall off of it. Even when you are caught off guard and rock back, it never feels unsafe.
Which is perfect, because it immediately took my biggest fears about the product away.
We Now Need to Pause and Talk About Price
You see the Level starts at $289, but the model shown in these pictures, and that I tested, is priced at $429. Which is, well, a hell of a lot of money no matter how you swing it. For some people this is more money than the chair they are sitting in — perhaps more than the desk they are working at. For me it is 10 times the price of my standing desk.
Which is why we need to talk about the price a bit right up front. Because the first question anyone would rightfully ask is: is it worth it?
Worth and value are very hard to determine, and I can’t answer it for everyone. What I can do is tell you some facts and feelings after using the Level.
Design & Quality
The Level is gorgeous to look at, it is solid to stand on and hold. There is absolutely no give in the materials when you step on to it (I am 215lbs for the record) and no creaking sounds as you move about. Despite the fact that it is hollow on the back, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was a solid piece of steel you are standing on.
The design: top notch. The quality: top notch. There are just four visible fasteners on the Level, but more than that the finish of the wood is perfect. I can’t speak to what the other models look or feel like, but the bamboo model is outstanding.
From a design and quality perspective, the Level is certainly worth the price.
Does it Help?
Honestly, I don’t know. I am not sure what to check, or how to measure if it helps with anything or not. What I will say is that my legs are certainly more tired standing on the Level for a day when compared to just standing without it. Specifically, my calves are more tired as I find that I tend to rock a lot by using my ankles.
Here’s the honest truth about whether this helps or not: it helps my wiggles a lot. I used to lean on the desk, and constantly be shifting my weight, and each time I did that it meant I was shifting my focus. With the Level I found that I move around more, but am distracted by that movement while I work far less.
In other words I can move around without my head really having to move around, thus I can stay focused on my screen more easily.
But Is it Healthy?
Editor’s note: I’m not one to delve into the science of health, so I reached out to my friend Conor McClure and asked him to write up his thoughts on such a device. Here’s what Conor has to say.
The deleterious effects of prolonged sitting have been well-documented, and at this point, pretty much everyone has heard the bold yet fairly-accurate proclamation that “sitting is the new smoking.” So we all switched to standing desks (right?) and carried on with our newfound active lifestyles. Except, maybe this isn’t quite the case. The term “sedentary” is often defined as excessive sitting, but a more accurate definition might be “inactive,” or “not moving.”
Your joints need to go through a full range of motion every day to stay healthy. Sitting doesn’t lend itself to this at all—I call it “death by ninety-degrees.” This is one reason why standing is a healthful bonus: it’s easier to move around when you’re standing up. But many of us who switch to standing workstations are still leading sedentary lifestyles; simply standing there for eight hours a day isn’t going to get blood flowing, and your hips, knees, and ankles are still remaining in static positions for hours on end. Remember, your best position is your next position.
This is why I think something like the Fluidstance Level deserves a place in the deskbound warrior’s life. It encourages constant and varied motion in all three dimensions, forcing the user into positions that they would likely never achieve in casual day-to-day activity. For the profoundly unconditioned, it might even serve as a subtle form of workout, developing the muscles and motor patterns associated with good positions and postures that we are all severely lacking these days. On the most basic level, it’s important because it forces us to move when we otherwise wouldn’t. You still need to stand in a good position—feet straight at hip-width, flat shoes or barefoot, abs and glutes turned on, shoulders back and down—but the Level might be integral to injecting some extra movement into every minute we’re at our desks, getting stuff done.
If you’re still withering away at a sitting desk, there’s an easy, free fix for that. However, if you’ve made the switch and are looking to really up the ante (and can spare the cash,) the Level looks to be a beautiful and practical addition to a health-centric workstation.
Would I Buy One?
Ok so it is well made, designed well, works well, and healthy. Right, so would I buy one?
I’ve had to go back and forth on this question quite a lot. This is an expensive product, but I do believe it is worth the price.
So, here’s my direct answer to the question of whether I would buy one: yes, but not in the necessity category. I would put it high up on the list of things to buy, but it is certainly not something I believe that I must have to work. I would buy one before I bought a fancy chair, or anything of that ilk. I’d buy one before I bought a new desk too, but not likely in conjunction with a new desk.
So: yes, but not right away. (Or: funds permitting.) And I would buy the bamboo model without a doubt.1
When I first heard about the Level I was fairly skeptical of the device and the price. And when I was sent the Level, I was still skeptical. After a day of using it that skepticism went away, and I am surprised to say that I actually quite like standing on, and working while, standing on the Level.
You can find them here and they are well worth it.
Note that I am basing that off of pictures only. But BAMBOO. ↩