Joel Heath was once the stereotypical ultra-active Colorado executive. He ran an ad agency out of Vail, where the company had a six-inch rule: if it snowed six inches, the day was given over to skiing or snowboarding. Then in 2008, Heath sold his company and took on a job at Teva footwear, where he eventually became brand president. He soon grew tired of sitting for eight hours every day, so Heath did what so many office workers have done in recent years: he got a standing desk.
But that didn't quite work out, either. "I started experiencing pain in different places," he says. "I just felt like there had to be a better way. I started to play with the idea that if you put a subtle rocker under the foot, you could move out of a sedentary state."
Twenty-seven prototypes later, Heath emerged with The Level, a surfboard-like platform that requires the user to constantly make small movements with their feet to stay upright. "It’s the first 10 minutes that I can tell someone has never been on it. From behind, you can see their fine twitch muscles working, and as they relax into it, you see their body already knows how to move," says Heath.
FluidStance, the new company behind the Level, has done plenty of testing for the product at Heeluxe Lab, the same lab used by Teva for footwear testing. The startup has found that the Level escalates user heart rate by 15% on average compared to a sitting environment, while their range of motion increases over 20 times, emulating the same range that you might see in the lower legs while walking (a natural stop built into the Level ensures that range of motion is steady). Most importantly, testers didn't make any more errors while typing than they did sitting down.
There is clearly a desire in the market for the product, which is available for pre-order at the not-so-cheap price of $289. At the time of writing, 10 days after FluidStance's crowdfunding campaign launched on Indiegogo, the Level has raised over $101,000—more than double the original goal. Next, the company plans to go all out on customization, with interchangeable design elements (an astroturf-covered Level, perhaps) and plans to turn the Level into a classroom solution.
For people who are on the fence about just getting a standing desk, standing on a moving platform might prove to be a bit too much. Heath acknowledges that most people won't be able to stand on the Level all day. "If people do cold-turkey standing, it hurts. I want to get you to a place where sitting feels good again," he says.