Movemate standing board review — fixing your back, legs from sedentary decline from a tech job
The Movemate standing board has been a gamechanger in helping me stand for longer periods of time at work without fatigue. I’m really excited about the product, actually. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on using Movemate, especially what’s working for me. Note: This is not a paid review. I’m just reviewing Movemate on my own.
- Why I’m standing in the first place
- Motion variety
- Lower profile
- Music helps induce natural motion
- Foot massage
- Walking the device
- Calf muscles work
- Lower back pain relief
- My standing routine
- Getting over the cost
Why I’m standing in the first place
I have a few previous posts on building balance boards for my standing desk. Just to recap a bit about the “why” here, I started standing primarily to offset the growing feeling that sitting all day was shutting off my legs and causing them to atrophy. I have a recurring calf injury that has kept me off the basketball court. I also have a somewhat herniated disc in my lower back that causes discomfort if I sit too long.
I believe most people turn to standing desks due to some physical backstory. If you’re perfectly happy sitting all day and don’t experience any adverse effects from a highly sedentary, sitting-all-day lifestyle, count yourself lucky. Or you might just be too young for the sedentary lifestyle to start taking its toll.
I’ve tried many other boards and other techniques with standing desks. I started out with an anti-fatigue mat, which did little. I tried a few different wobble boards and balance boards. I even have a desk treadmill that’s now collecting dust. Before Movemate, of my previous standing attempts, I had the most success with the balance board.
However, despite the success with the balance board, I started noticing a drop in my work productivity. After a few months, I stopped standing on my balance board and returned to sitting again. I expected more benefits from standing and became discouraged when I didn’t see it.
During this period where I was sitting again, the founder of Movemate reached out to me. He said some people discovered Movemate from a brief link in my how-to-build-a-balance-board post. He said that while balance boards were good, they wouldn’t provide the pumping motion that would help my calves and provide other physical benefits.
He recommended I try Movemate and sent me his academic research (from an industrial design program) showing the design and prototyping of Movemate (initially called Wave). The report notes that the aim of Movemate is to “Transform the lifestyle of sedentary millennials by making them move more in order to meet the minimum requirements for our generation to live longer.”
I’m not sure why they targeted millennials — it’s the older workers in tech who are feeling the physical effects of sitting for so many years.
He gave me a 20% discount on the Movemate and free shipping, so I decided to order one and try it out. I’ve now been using it for about 3 weeks, and it’s really awesome. I’ve stopped using my balance board and other devices because I’m seeing more benefits from using the Movemate wave board instead.
What sets Movemate apart from other boards is the variety of wave-like motion. (Wave is a much better product name that captures what it feels like on the board.) I’m pretty sure no other board offers as many multifaceted movements and motions.
The board looks accordion-like and consists of 14 long curved planks (or slats or rails) that move independently. As such, Movemate offers many more dynamic movement options than a static, flat board.
There are at least six different types of motion that I’m frequently switching between. I call these motions pump walking, back-and-forth rocking, seesawing, twisting, diagonal rocking, and calf stretching.
Here’s a short video showing the six different movements I use:
You can also see this video for a better demo:
Here’s the key idea: The variety of board movements translates into a variety of physical body movements. The variety of physical movement is what reduces standing fatigue. It’s an ingenious design.
To use an analogy about the benefits of multifaceted movement, consider a sport like basketball. During the game, you perform all kinds of movements — lateral cuts, running up and down the court (backwards and forwards), jumping, bending low on defense, sprinting, standing, etc. Because of this physical movement variety, basketball players can play the game for 2+ hours. However, if I try to run, it’s such a repetitive, monotonous movement that I quickly get bored and tired. I usually can’t run for more than 10 minutes, but I can play basketball all afternoon.
Using Movemate has the same effect for me. The variety of movements makes standing interesting and less fatiguing, and allows me to stand for upwards of 45 minutes or more at a time.
Unlike a balance board, Movemate isn’t trying to teach you to balance. It’s instead designed to keep you moving, adding small movements to keep in motion while you work.
Unlike standing on a balance board, the Movemate board has a low profile. There’s not a ton of curvature or height to the skinny planks. This makes it easier to work while standing on it.
For example, whereas standing on a balance board puts me 6 inches off the ground, the Movemate doesn’t add more than 2 inches. This is really nice for several reasons:
- I can more easily maintain eye level with my computer monitor. I do have a swing arm for my monitor, which makes it easier to raise or lower my monitor a few inches.
- The subtle movements are less attention-drawing in the office. People hardly notice that I’m standing on the board, whereas a balance board often gets passersby stopping and looking for a second.
- The angle of my hands to the keyboard is much more comfortable. I don’t need to resort to a negative tilt keyboard tray to get the wrist angle right.
Music helps induce natural motion
I’ve found that listening to music helps naturally encourage some physical motion. If I listen to something with a regular beat, like Lovers Rock by TV Girl, or Elephant by Tame Impala, or Lazy eye by Silversun Pickups, I find myself moving more naturally to the music. Music induces movement.
The many movement possibilities afforded by the board allow my body to more easily move with the music. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true. You might find yourself sort of quietly dancing in place without even realizing it.
Standing on the Movemate feels best in socks rather than shoes. At work, it might be easier to wear socks in relaxed environments. I work in tech, so people can be casual. I’m used to taking off my shoes anyway because my feet frequently get hot. But you really want to remove your shoes when you stand on this board.
The skinny accordion planks (like fingers) feel good on the feet, similar to a foot massage. We have many “proprioceptors” in our feet, and with all the motion in the board, the movement translates into a good feeling in the feet.
I’ve also noticed another benefit. When I would stand on a flat balance board, despite rolling back and forth, my ankles would sometimes go a bit numb from the static pressure. With Movemate, the frequent motion of the individual moving planks keeps my feet much more alive and full of feeling. As each of the planks moves, each foot moves with it (in an independent motion from the other foot), creating not just leg and body movement, but intra-foot movement. This is a benefit that flat boards can’t offer.
If you absolutely have to wear shoes in the office all the time, try getting some minimalist, zero-dop shoes. I’ve tried standing on the board with Xero shoes, and while it’s better than standing on the board with cushiony running shoes, socks are still the best experience.
Walking the device
Another great feature of Movemate is the easy ability to walk it. By walk it I mean twist it side to side to move forward or back. This might seem like a small detail, but it solves a problem I’ve had with balance boards in the workplace.
On the balance boards, to change the position, I would jump-scoot forward (trying to move the cylinder with the board at the same time). The jump-scoot would alarm my colleagues and make my immediate desk neighbor think I was falling, potentially on him. To avoid giving him anxiety, I was either hesitant to reposition the board or had to frequently dismount, change the position, and get back on it. With Movemate, I can easily move it forward or backward without alarming anyone. Walking it also works my core a little.
Calf muscles work
Perhaps what I love most about Movemate is that I can feel it work my calves a bit. Remember that I started standing in part to rehab my calf. After I’ve been on Movemate for a while, the next day my calf muscles are a little sore. This might be from the front-to-back rocking motion. I often switch between the front-to-back rocking with calf stretching (using the board to stretch). It feels great! Alternating between the two feels great.
I’m not sure if this motion will rehab my calf without also doing more focused and rigorous PT exercises, but it’s doing something. My hope is that frequently sustained micro-movements throughout the day might be better than 30 minutes of gym time.
Lower back pain relief
Standing periodically on the Movemate board also reduces a lot of pressure on my lower back. While any kind of periodic standing probably helps reduce back pressure, because Movemate allows me to stand more easily for longer periods, the effect on my back is more noticeable.
I don’t know if others feel this way, but when I sit for hours at a time, I can feel my back compress down a bit. Standing up lets my vertebrae open up and breathe more easily. Of course, if I were to stand all day, I’d probably have similar back pain, but the switch-off between standing and sitting seems to provide good relief for lower back pain.
My standing routine
When I first started out with periodic standing, I used a timer to switch every 20 minutes. However, I found that the timer makes it more of a chore to stand. Sometimes I’m simply not in the mood to stand, like when I first arrive at work and have just eaten breakfast.
Instead, I try to listen more to my body. When I feel my body starting to get stiff and compressed, I stand. It feels good to stand, rather than a chore. My rotation between standing and sitting usually works out to standing every 30-40 minutes. I’ve stopped keeping track of my exact standing and sitting times. This makes the rotation much more delightful and welcome.
Getting over the cost
One prohibitive factor about Movemate is the cost. As of October 2023, it costs $359 + shipping. This is what initially made me reluctant to try it. However, if you think about all the money you mgiht spend going to physical therapy, or trying other standing board solutions only to find that they don’t work, Movemate’s price seems justified.
Also, the product really is a sturdy, impressively crafted wood unit. (I’m hesitant to call it a “board” because it feels so much more than that.) The 14 planks/slats are thick, treated wood with a curved bottom and rotating around 3 metal rods in a wave-like motion. There’s also a built-in carrying handle. It probably weighs 10 pounds or so.
If I’m bringing Movemate to or from work, I can fit it in a skateboard backpack (which has more depth than a usual backpack). It’s transportable, but not in an easy way because, as I said, it’s sturdy.
All I’m trying to say is that, despite the cost, you’re getting your money’s worth with this product. I think future versions might innovate on cost with other materials, but I prefer the solid feel of the wood.
Overall, if you’re considering trying the Movemate, go for it. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on the site if you’re not happy with it. As I mentioned at the start, this isn’t a paid post and I don’t have an affiliate link. I’ve found the board to be worth it, and I’m confident others will too.
About Tom Johnson
I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.
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