I’ve been using a standing desk since 2012, but one aspect that I’ve always struggled with is, well, the standing part. I’ve tried various mats, different shoes, and all that jazz—but the Fluidstance balance board was the answer I’ve been looking for all along.
When Fluidstance hit me up about checking out its Level balance board, I was initially incredulous. How could a balance board make my standing desk experience that much better, really? But inquiring minds want to know, and I like to approach everything with curiosity, so I agreed to give it a go.
See, standing in one spot for hours on end sucks. It puts a strain on your back, feet, and legs that just gets uncomfortable—in fact, it’s the main reason why I switch between sitting and standing all throughout the day. But with a balance board, I can shift my weight around in a way that’s simply not practical on even the spongiest of mats.
It’s honestly more impactful than I ever imagined it would be, and now I’m not sure I ever want to use my standing desk without it.
I’m sure at this point you’ve heard the research: “Sitting is bad! Sitting is making you unhealthy! You should stand more!” And, all those things are true. But there’s also research that suggests excessive standing might be worse than sitting. So, what’s the solution? To move.
And that’s exactly what a balance board allows you to do. You can move around while working at a standing desk, shifting your weight as needed. You can fidget, sway, rock, swivel, and more without disrupting the upper half of your body so you can focus on what you’re doing.
In fact, I find that I have improved focus when using the balance board compared to both sitting and just standing. There’s some science to this that I won’t bore you with here, but if you’re interested in all the details, Fluidstance has a white paper that dives into all sorts of tests and research. It’s actually worth a read if you’re considering picking up a balance board for your standing desk.
But enough about “balance boards” in the generic sense—we’re talking specifically about the Fluidstance Level here. The company has a few different balance board options—which it calls “decks,” like skateboards—including The Level (which I’m reviewing here), The Original, and The Plane Cloud. While the materials for each are slightly different, the basic concept remains the same—they’re all balance boards.
The Original is made from bamboo and “military-grade” aluminum, and at $439 is the company’s most expensive option. It’s nearly eight pounds and designed for users up to 350 pounds. The Plane Cloud is made of entirely recycled materials with a hard plastic base and soft foam top. It’s the most affordable deck at $189, weighs almost six pounds, and is designed for users up to 250 pounds.
The Level splits the difference between these two. The entry-level Level (heh) starts at $250, making it almost a couple hundred less than The Original. It keeps the aluminum base (though it’s not military-grade, which I’m honestly not sure even matters), and opts for a natural maple top. You can also sub in a walnut-finish maple top for $289, or bump to bamboo for $339. I opted to grab the $250 model for the review because it seems like the best value of the bunch (and I also love the look of light maple wood).
So, how is it? In a word, robust. It’s bigger, heavier (almost eight pounds overall), and more solid than I expected it to be. The overall footprint is 26.5-inches long, 12.2-inches wide, and 2.5-inches tall, and it’s rated for weight up to 300 pounds. It handles my 142-pound frame like nothing—there’s not a bit of flex that I can feel. The top is ultra-sturdy, and the aluminum frame is equally as tough. It feels rock solid beneath my feet.
But the top is also hard—almost like it’s, you know, made of wood. So, I wouldn’t advise standing on it barefoot, at least not for an extended period of time. It’s a socks and shoes kind of board; if you’re not into that, you should probably look into The Plane Cloud. I bet that foam top is amazing.
Otherwise, it’s great. I can wobble, fidget, spin, twist, rock, and all that other good stuff to my heart’s content, and it feels amazing. As I said earlier, I seriously questioned if this was going to make a difference at first. And, I could tell a pretty significant difference within the first day or two. Plus, given the decently sized footprint, it’s easy to stow under my desk when I’m sitting.
There’s a very (very) small acclimation period to using the Fluidstance, as some tasks feel weird at first. For example, I always eat at my desk (I know, I know), and eating while standing on a balance board is weird. I couldn’t tell you why, but it is. But after a few days, it was no longer weird. There are other little tasks like this as well.
The range of motion without the Challenge Cap. Cam
The Level’s range of motion isn’t too dramatic, but it’s enough to keep you focused on balancing and your core subconsciously engaged. You’re not going to get a six pack from using The Level or anything, but it’s a noticeable sensation nonetheless. At the same time, it’s not something you’re going to fall off of if you have less-than-perfect balance. At only 2.5-inches tall, it’ll simply flop over to one side if you don’t balance, which isn’t a big deal at all. It’s easy to use but still has a tangible impact.
And if you want to increase the range of motion, all Level decks also ship with the Fluidstance Challenge Cap. This is a plastic cap that attaches to the bottom of the deck, effectively increasing the range of motion by a pretty large margin. So much, in fact, that Fluidstance recommends against using the Challenge Cap for more than 30 minutes at a time because it causes your body to work harder.
I tried the Challenge Cap several times throughout my time with the Level, and can confirm: it’s quite a bit harder. Again, it’s not something that is going to make you feel like you just hit the gym extra hard, but on a longer timeline there’s additional discomfort from the additional muscle fatigue. I like it, but also agree with the 30-minutes-or-less policy.
So, the big question you’re probably asking yourself is “is it worth the money?” And to that, I say … yeah. I think it is. I get that even $250 is a pretty decent bit of money for something that you’re going to stand on, but it has made a bigger impact on my standing time at my desk than I ever expected. To me, that’s pretty invaluable.
And if you don’t want to shell out $250 for the most affordable Level board, I think the Plane Cloud seems like it’s probably a good option. Plus, it might be more comfortable, too.
Here’s What We Like
- It's better than any mat I've tried
- Helps improve focus (for me at least)
- Good for you overall health
And What We Don't
- Pretty pricey for what it is
- Socks and shoes are a must