Disclosure: I was given a Fluidstance Balance Board by the Fluidstance company and asked to do a review. This is my objective review.
I love ergonomics. I have a lot of reasons to need it as a computer person, and I’ve got all the fixins. Also, I have pathologically flat feet. I don’t have an arch at all, in fact I have the opposite. The weight of my body basically rests where the arch should be, causes me constant pain in my feet and ankles, and has been a lifelong bane of my existence. I can only walk around a mall or amusement park for 20 minutes before needing to sit down, and standing at a concert is not possible. I’ve tried every form of relief, to cheap shoe inserts, to expensive shoe inserts, to $1000 custom made shoes.
The fact is, the arch is the perfect shape to support weight. I don’t have one, and essentially stand on my ankle bones. It really sucks, can’t be fixed (trust me), and causes not-insignificant pain every day.
Having said that! To date, my desk has the following ergonomic accessories
- Both monitors high enough that 1/3rd of the way down the screen is eye level – about a 6″ rise
- Standing desk, at home and work
- A yoga ball
- A mono-stool Mogo Portable Seat
- A mousepad that is about as big as my desk
Combine that with lots of practice with posture, I really have to try and keep ergonomics in check.
But there’s a new apparatus now that occupies the desk space – a balance board.
The Fluidstance Level
A few weeks ago, I was asked by Fluidstance to try out and review their balance board, the Level. I had never used a balance board, so I wanted to see what it was all about.
I’ve had a lot of people come try it and look at it. Most people have said they’ve used or tried a balance board that tilts on one axis side to side, but many were not familiar with one that was on a rounded base like the Fluidstance. Being new to them, the rounded base just makes sense to me.
The board keeps my sort of moving in an addition sense that I go from a wide stance like the picture, but sometimes a real narrow stance with my feet touching in the center. Doing that shortens the fulcrums, and makes it less wobbly but still I am able to move my ankles around.
Also, sometimes I stand on it like a slalom ski (not that anyone waterskis anymore). But that means feet in front of each other with the board going long-ways.
People come look at it and are sort of impressed by the wood and metal design. It does look very cool. They stand on it, and invariably try to do a 360.
On the topic of spinning, doing the 180 or 380 is surprisingly satisfying. Just to bust one out randomly while working is like this little mental break.
Adaptation of Exercises
I studied exercise science in school, and had an ACE Personal Training certification as a result of the courses. So here’s something that people need to understand – once you reach the plateau of an activity and it’s muscular-skeletal benefits, you don’t keep improving.
What this means is that if you do something like 10 pushups a day, at first it will be hard, then a little easier, then you’ll become the master. But if you stick to 10 pushups, you’ll eventually max out your body’s growth potential, and even if you did 10 pushups every day for a year, 20 pushups would still be hard. If you wanted continuing benefits to increase, you’d need to add 10 pushups every month. 120 pushups at the end of a year of training is not unrealistic.
The point of this is – any muscular benefit you get from the balance boards will plateau and stop increasing after a short period. This means you’ll probably be sore at first, but after 3 months on the balance board, your body is adapted and you’ll stop getting increased benefits. It won’t turn your calf muscles into rock hard baseballs. You’ll get 3 months worth of improvement, and that is it. You’ll adapt to 8 hours of balance board a day, and that’s it.
There might be ongoing long term benefits as outlined on their science page, but you’ll noticed they don’t mention anything about muscular adaptation, I suspect for the reasons above.
Muscular conditioning is about progression and overload. A balance board might do this for 3 months or so, then you’re adapted and basically it’s the new normal, and you won’t increase muscle benefits past that. I have no faith that a balance board will have any visible effect on my calves, not that that was an expectation. Just know that.
At home, I used it for a few days since I got it on a Friday. I have hardwood floors.
If you use it on hardwood floors, you will fall. It will slide out from under you. I once leaned forward to grab a cord at the back of my standing desk, and the board slipped out behind me and I almost pulled the desk down on top of me.
My kids loved it, but we had to use it on a rug, as once they got on it on the hardwood, they would slide and fall like crazy.
Also – you can’t really do it with socks. You slide off the top if you’re wearing socks. Socks and hardwood floors are even worse. Maybe you could practice and do it on hard-mode with slick floors and socks, but really I don’t think it is meant to be used that way.
I have thought about getting some skateboard grip tape for the top, as a gimmick and to harken back to my days as a hooligan. It’s not needed if you’re wearing shoes, but it might look cool to put some on there and maybe cut out a skull and crossbones design.
I will address directly what you might be thinking: The cost. Presently, the prices are $429, $339, and $289. The only difference between the models appears to be the wood. Bamboo, maple with walnut finish, and maple. I was given the bamboo.
Every single person asks what it cost, and I tell them what I just wrote – $429, $339, or $289. Everyone is shocked and tells me how they can’t afford it. I am sure Fluidstance knows this is a marketing challenge for the individual purchaser. And I guess I should add, the people who said they have had one never still have it. Maybe it’s a personality thing that they just quit standing. Sitting is the new smoking. I believe in standing now, so for me, a balance board makes sense as an addition.
I am wondering if this is meant to be a corporate purchase and that’s their strategy, especially considering they sell a 5 board rack. With motorized standing desks from Ikea being down to $500, the price of fancy ergonomics has come down a lot. My first standing desk was $1800. This is a $3000 picture:
Final Word: Would I buy it?
The shortest way I can phrase my review is: I don’t see a reason to stop using it. It’s a little fun, keeps me moving. Does it help my flat as hell feet? No idea. It might help my ankles move around a bit, but I am convinced that since when you really get down to what the foot arch is supposed to do, the Fluidstance won’t really help or hurt it.
I don’t have any real objective way to measure any tangible health benefits. I think there are experience benefits to using it while standing at a desk for extended periods, but those might mostly be due to alleviating boredom, acute stiffness or posture stagnation, or satisfying a need to fidget and move. In that sense, I find it very beneficial.
Well, would I buy it? If it was a corporate request, I would definitely ask for one, just like I do with the electric standing desks. But, would I buy it with my own money? That’s harder to say. The maple model is $289, and I’d see no reason to get the more expensive models. But I have a feeling that after getting used to it at work, I would want it at home. So I am going to say yes, $300 is something I would spend for the maple version AFTER I had tried it.
It’s very cool, looks great, and I have no problem standing on it most of the day. I will probably keep it with me forever; I see no reason to stop using it. I like it, and that’s the bottom line.
I give it a thumbs up and a recommendation. Find the Fluidstance here.