ergo equipment May 15, 2017

If you have ever stood for long durations, you know that it can take a toll on your body. In this post I review a product called the 'Steppie' that claims to reduce joint and muscle pain associated with prolonged standing. Scroll down to read the comprehensive review!

Steppie Ergonomic Review

In a past post I have talked extensively about the benefit of using sit-stand desks as a method to improve health. By now we are all acutely aware of the risks associated with sitting for too long, especially if you are a long-term follower to this blog! With this being said, targeting sitting time is the most effective way to reduce the negative health outcomes associated with prolonged sitting, according a comprehensive review of strategies and literature. It's a bit obvious, isn't it? But, just as sitting too long is a risk factor for discomfort so is long-term standing. In this post I share some of my favourite pieces of equipment that can help to reduce the ergonomic risk associated with long-term standing, including anti-fatigue mats, perch stools, foot rails, and running shoes. A newer addition to this is the Steppie, which was sent to me (disclaimer!) for a comprehensive review. Check out the 'pros' and 'cons' of this product below!

  • Simple To Use. Have you ever used a wobble/balance board? You'd typically find these in a physiotherapy clinic or gym because they are known to improve neuromuscular function mainly at the ankle. The Steppie is a simpler version of these. So simple that you can literally place it below your standing desk and go about your day. I assume that this was done on purpose to ensure that it can safely accommodate as many people as possible no matter their fitness or capability levels. It is easy to find the balance point and at no point during its use did I ever think that I would fall off, something that would be disastrous to your organization's health and safety program.

  • Options In Its Use. Research has found that by walking for just 10 minutes after a prolonged period of sitting (up to 6 straight hours) can restore vascular health. This strategy is applicable with the Steppie as subtle movement used on the board can break up periods of prolonged standing. There's four main ways to use this product, check out the graphic below for a visual. You can use a wide, medium, or slight base of support and then you can also switch this up with a 'walking' stance. The Steppie's value is that it uses an inherently unstable work surface and the amount of effort it takes to balance the board is based on the stance that you choose to use. Generally, the wider base of support that you use, the more effort that is required to balance the board (more on this in the 'cons' section). You can also use the board in a more active sense by shifting your weight from side to side, essentially rocking the board back and forth instead of trying to find the centre of balance. Either way you choose to use it will create more movement and therefore more muscle activity than just standing alone. This fact can make the Steppie attractive to many.

  • Technique. There is a big difference in the Steppie's output based on how you use it. There are two biomechanical principals that you need to keep in mind to get the most out of this product, but its not very obvious when you first see it. Take a look at these factors below and especially consider how a combination of these may work for you:
    • A narrow base of support (feet very close together) will make it quite easy to find the balance point of the board so you don't need to exert much effort to stabilize it.
    • A wide base of support (feet far apart) will encourage you to activate the muscles of your lower legs to stay balanced. This makes the board feel more wobbly.
    • Resting your forearms on the work surface acts like a leverage point, making the Steppie feel a lot more stable (less wobbly). On the other hand, if you hover instead (there is no contact between the work surface and your forearms), there is less of an anchor and makes the board feel more wobbly.
    • So, to get the most out of this product you would need to use a wide base of support while not supporting your forearms on the work surface. If you do this you will be in constant movement, albeit it will be slight movements by the stabilizer muscles of the lower legs. If you are looking to burn calories, you would be much better off going for a walk.

  • Hard Work Surface. The wobble board is made from a hard plastic. While this may be a lot easier to stand on than hard concrete for prolonged periods of time it is not ideal and you may even feel discomfort over time. You might find it value-added to place a softer surface or cut an anti-fatigue mat to fit on top of it. Instead of that you might find that running shoes can do the trick.
  • Workstation Ergonomics. This product is about 2 inches high. Keep this in mind when you are at your standing workstation as you will need to re-adjust the work surface height to keep it within an ideal working position.

  • Breaks Still Required. Although there are some minor postural and slight cardiovascular improvements (increased blood flow from lower leg muscle activation) from using this product you will still need to take regular breaks. Using this product while standing won't give you the whole body movement necessary to reduce the ergonomic risk associated with prolonged standing.

The Steppie is a useful product. Since it's marketed for the masses, it may not give you the level of instability as you were hoping for. But it does offer a unique work experience that those who use a standing workstation for long durations would likely enjoy using.


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