Sitting in front of a computer all day at work might make you fat or even kill you—but just standing up might not be the answer either. Studies say the biggest problems come from not moving, and standing in place all day can lead to problems of its own, like back or leg pain.
So when one small company bought standing desks for its office and soon heard complaints, the company decided to design a solution of its own. They happen to make trampolines, and the result—a soft, inflatable surfboard-like platform that goes under a desk and keeps someone moving as they stand—is similarly bouncy.
"My goal was to create a trampoline-like platform that was fun," says Mark Publicover, CEO of JumpSport, the company that designed the new Wurf Board. "We purposely shaped the boards and made them springy to inspire play and movement."
When the company first tried out simple anti-fatigue mats as padding under desks, they realized that the mats were originally designed for people who would move back and forth during the day, a chef behind the stove, for instance. But someone staring at a computer screen, stuck in one place, would sink into the mat and quickly get stiff and sore—like they would without the mat.
"It’s all about movement," says Publicover. "Without the Wurf Board’s reactive, air-spring surface to give feedback and encourage movement, we tend to stagnate, become motionless, and begin to slump. Then our knees lock, circulation slows, and we start feeling stiff because we’re not moving."
I tried using the platform for a day, alternating between sitting and standing. I didn't expect much—it looks a little like a pool toy. But it was both comfortable and surprisingly fun; it felt stable, but my legs and feet kept shifting, not unlike standing on a surfboard. In the past when I tried standing while working, using a stack of books as a makeshift desk, I quickly got distracted and reached for a chair. That didn't happen as I stood on the springy board.
Publicover believes the design helps people make standing at work a habit. "For our early adopters it’s made a big difference—most are standing twice as long now," he says.
The board isn't cheap, with prices that range from $190 to $280; it's also expensive to make, with materials that cost more than a high-end running shoe. "The Wurf Board’s material composition and drop-stitch construction are radically different from your typical inflatable toys or even high-priced air mattresses," says Publicover. The cost comes from making something that's intended to last for several years of use.
For every 10 boards sold, the company will donate one to a school, where standing has been shown to boost test scores and help kids work better, gaining some of the same benefits as adults. "A comfortable standing surface that encourages play and movement should naturally reduce stress, which boosts creativity and focus," says Publicover. "Movement is thought liberated."
Of course, jiggling a little on a platform isn't quite enough exercise if you're behind a computer 8 or 10 hours a day, so the designers also recommend using the platform to take breaks and stretch. Experts recommend that those of us stuck at desk jobs also take breaks to actually walk—and maybe that's more likely to happen if you're already standing up.
The Wurf Board is crowdfunding on Kickstarter.