In an ideal world, everyone who works in an office would stop every hour and take a 10-minute walk. That's standard advice from ergonomic specialists to offset the negative effects of sitting all day. It's also the advice that two startup cofounders—a doctor and a professional trainer—used to give clients, until they realized that nobody was following it.
Instead, they tried to come up with something more practical—something that could make people move at their desks, and burn calories, without noticing. The result is a funny-looking gadget called Hovr that floats your feet above the ground, so you naturally start to swing your legs and fidget more as you sit.
"Because it's suspended, and the feet are essentially dangling like you would be sitting on the edge of a dock on a bay, it kind of facilitates the body to want to move," says cofounder and trainer John Godoy. "It provides the freedom to allow the legs to move as much as they want to."
Unlike other under-desk gadgets like mini-ellipticals or pedals, it doesn't require any conscious effort. "An issue with those products is that they're distracting," says Godoy. "A lot of them, because they're repetitive and focus on a single movement, it just requires you to lose focus on whatever type of work you're doing and kind of concentrate on that movement."
And, unlike standing desks, it barely requires any effort—so, in theory, you're more likely to keep doing it. "Sitting has a bad rap, and deserves a bad rap, if you're not doing an activity, but it is more comfortable," says cofounder Ron Mochizuki, a rehabilitation specialist. "Hovr was invented to sort of address that, allowing you to be in that position and yet still be physically active and burn calories and address some of the detrimental effects of inactivity."
It's unclear how many people would want this sitting under their desk; on the version that hangs from the desktop, the strap is fairly awkwardly placed. But in a standard cubicle, it's possible no one would notice it's there at all.
Two studies, by the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois's department of kinesiology, found that Hovr seems to work: It burns 17% more calories than just sitting at a desk, and 30% to 40% more than when you're watching TV. Though it's designed to be used passively, it's also possible to focus on using it actively, and get a little bit more exercise. [Update: Originally this paragraph stated that it burned 40% to 50% more calories compared to watching TV]
It can also be paired with a standing desk. "Some data's starting to come out that when you have a sit-stand desk, most of your time is really not standing, it's still more sitting. So while you're sitting, this allows you to still be active."
Hovr is crowdfunding on Indiegogo.