In March of 2020, the school district where I teach, as well as most districts throughout the state, closed the doors of their classrooms and turned to distance learning as California began a stay-at-home order. I found myself sitting at a table in front of a computer for hours upon hours. I was either in a Zoom with my students or creating all new content as I made digital versions of assignments, instruction, tests, and more so that my students could access it from their Chromebooks at home. During a normal school day, I am only at a desk a few hours a day. The rest of the time I am on my feet working with students, presenting information, collaborating with other teachers, and walking to the office which is on the opposite side of the campus from my classroom. As my life turned much more sedentary, I noticed the effects. I did not have as much energy. It was more difficult for me to focus. I experienced aches and pains. I gained weight. By the time summer break came, I vowed that I would make some changes and not be tied to a desk all day long.
When school began in the fall, I decided to work from my classroom rather than home. There I had some café height tables where I could stand on occasion while holding Zoom classes or working on the computer. I also used a portable webcam so I could teach students in front of the white board rather than from my desk. These all helped. However, a real game changer was when I recently started using The Level balance board by Fluidstance.
The Level Balance Board
Fluidstance’s standard balance board is The Level. The base is made from die-cast, military-grade aluminum with a powder-coat finish. The wood deck is a half inch of maple or bamboo depending on which option you choose. These balance boards are also manufactured in the USA. The Level is designed for working at a standing desk. While standing is better than sitting, using a balance board while working from a standing position helps increase focus, improves posture, increases core strength, and even helps you burn more calories. Since The Level is omnidirectional, it tilts side to side as well as forward and back. This provides just enough wobble that it works your muscles without being distracting.
Some users will stand on The Level for several hours at a time during the day. However, it can take time to build up to this. Fluidstance recommends a 70:20:10 lifestyle for new users. Spend 70% of your workday sitting as normal. Then spend 20% of your day on the balance board at a standing desk. Finally, spend the last 10% in a high energy activity like running or biking. For an eight-hour workday, that calculates out to about 96 minutes on the balance board. Start off in 20-30 minute increments and work your way up. Fluidstance has published a white paper on the benefits of their balance boards, featuring research by the Mayo Clinic, which can be found here. Unlike standard balance boards which take a lot of effort to stay balanced, The Level instead elicits subtle movements that increase heart rate and change of motion, while not being distracting. In addition, the angle of motion on the ankles, heels, and toes are comparable to walking. The Level also includes a challenge cap that easily snaps onto the base. This increases the balance point of The Level, requiring your body to work harder and give you more of a workout. It is designed for short bursts of usage of 30 minutes or less.
The Level starts at $249 for the natural light finish, $289 for a dark walnut finish, or $339 for a bamboo dark finish. You can purchase these balance boards directly from the company at the Fluidstance website. A plastic and rubber model of the balance board, called The Plane, is available from Amazon for $159 as well as directly from Fluidstance.
Fillup Water Tower
In addition to adding activity to the work day, it is also important to stay hydrated. The Fillup is a water tower made up of double-walled steel that can keep drinks cold for 24 hours. It can hold 70 ounces of liquid which is about the same as four plastic bottles of water. This water tower is designed to fit on your desk and only takes up 5.5 inches of space. The water tower fits into a stand from which liquid can be dispensed using the built in lever. The mouth of the tower is extra-wide making it easy to fill with ice cubes. Most people will drink regularly if water is right in front of them. However, if they have to leave their desk to get it, they are less likely to do so. Fillup looks professional sitting on a desk, unlike a steel water flask that looks like you just got back from the gym. Fillup includes a ceramic cup. The Fillup Water Tower can be purchased directly from Fluidstance’s website and sells for $139. Additional ceramic cups can be purchased in a 4-pack for $30.
I will admit I was a bit skeptical when I first received The Level balance board for two reasons. I was not sure that it would really make a difference as compared to standing and also that it I would be distracted by trying to stay balanced when working. When I first put it to test, I found it did not take long to get the feel for keeping my balance. I also found that once I was comfortable on it, I didn’t really have to think about it but could concentrate on my work. After about 20 minutes, I started to feel like my legs and core were getting a bit of a workout. I really am impressed with The Level. I feel like I have more energy throughout the day and do not find myself with stiff joint and muscles at the end of the day from sitting all the time. The board comes with a cloth carrying bag which makes it convenient to take home with me. While watching a movie or television show, I will stand on my balance board for part of the time rather than sitting. In fact, I found practicing using The Level at home or while watching a video or during a Zoom meeting at work to be a great way to get used to it. Fluidstance also sells their balance boards in 2-and 5 packs as well as offers storage racks which are great for the office where co-workers can share them.
I also really like the Fillup water tower. I like my water ice cold. I am more likely to drink water when it is cold and right in front of me. At work, I don’t have access to an ice machine, so I usually bring my ice water in a large metal flask. However, I don’t like the look of it sitting on my desk and taking a drink out of a large metal bottle does not look great during a Zoom meeting. Instead, I can set the Fillup water tower out of the way on my desk. When I want a drink, I just fill the ceramic cup with the amount of water I want and then drink it. I can even leave the cup out in front of me to encourage me to drink more without it getting in the way or distracting me. The Fillup is a wonderful idea and works great in practice.
Finally, I want to mention how impressed I was by the quality of both The Level balance board and the Fillup water tower. Both are well made. The Level balance board is very sturdy and does not give during use. In addition, both look professional and not like toys or gadgets. If you are considering how to be more healthy at work, even if you work from home, I recommend Fluidstance’s The Level balance board and Fillup water tower. You will not be disappointed.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample of The Level balance board and Fillup from Fluidstance for review purposes.