Category Archives: Health

Antisocial Virtual Reality – Retinas Deep

I’m finally reading Ready Player One, Ernest Cline’s dystopian future sci-fi novel that’s chock full of awesome ’80s culture. It’s a fun read, accurately called a “nerdgasm” by John Scalzi.

Brief synopsis: In 2044, an energy crisis has resulted in widespread economic despair. The OASIS is a virtual reality simulator in which many people escape the depressing world. It functions as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and a virtual society. High school student Wade Watts spends his days seated in an old cargo van in a junkyard wearing his VR visor and haptic gloves, attending school inside the OASIS and hunting for OASIS creator James Halliday’s Easter egg. (Full synopsis here.)

“In the OASIS, you could create your own private planet, build a virtual mansion on it, furnish and decorate it however you liked, and invite a few thousand friends over for a party.” p.57

15% through the book, these were my first two thoughts, one somewhat unique to me and the other not at all:

  1. OASIS users sit for hours or days on end. They probably take about 200 steps per day (bathroom breaks).
  2. The OASIS replaces real life interaction like Facebook on steroids, and it’s a scary but fathomable progression.

pop art woman wearing virtual reality goggles saying OMGPlenty of people have written about whether Facebook could become a sort of OASIS. It’s clearly on Zuckerberg’s radar with the acquisition of Oculus Rift in 2014, and the fact that the company hands every new employee a copy of Ready Player One.  All covered.

What interests me is whether technology will make our future lifestyles even more sedentary and less interpersonally connected than they are today. In a world that enjoys VR more than IRL, we could really lose our ability to interact in a vulnerable, face-to-face manner. That’s already happening with smartphone addiction (social media and checking behaviors). People are more likely to complain on Facebook about daily offenses by neighbors, fellow drivers, or rude cashiers than to confront one another. But furthermore, in an increasingly virtual future, our bodies could either atrophy (if food becomes scarce) or expand even more (if foodstuff replaces real food and we subsist on cheap sugary cereal and microwave dinners). It’s not a pretty thought.

I like technology. I like the idea of free, globally accessible information. It just worries me that we’ll all be sitting on our asses not talking to each other even more. Instead of being thumbs deep, we’ll be retinas deep.

Two girls playing hopscotch on playgroundOn the bright side, quite the opposite of Wade attending virtual school from his van, here’s an elementary school in California where students have standing desks.  Bloodflow improves cognitive function and learning. Add in some VR use with open source global libraries and submersive educational experiences. Maintain real outdoor recess and give them standing desks – that’s promising.

Ergodriven Topo Mat Review – Inspired by Nature

Topo by Ergodriven is the standing desk mat inspired by nature. After 5+ years of standing while working and testing several types of flat cushioned floor mats, Topo is the most comfortable and ergonomic anti-fatigue mat I’ve tried.
emily-binder-standing-ergodriven-topo-mat-review
Standing barefoot on my Topo

Addressing the hidden problem with standing desks:

Standing is only healthier than sitting if it’s done right.
-Ergodriven
Emily standing on Topo floor mat
At my standing desk, on my mat, long hair don’t care.

I’ve always recommended a high-quality anti-fatigue mat at least 3/4″ thick. You can certainly buy a cheap mat for $15 or $20 and kid yourself that you’re not wreaking havoc on your feet and legs, but prolonged standing with little movement isn’t healthy. Topo is a fun new take on foot relief, and it’s rooted in science.

Standing Science

I got rid of my chair because sitting can kill you. But standing on a flat mat, even a nice one like my $75 Rhino Mat, wasn’t cutting it. My legs still felt tired and heavy – stagnant.
Emily Binder standing on ergonomic mat at standing desk
To test it out, I stood on Topo at least six hours a day for two months. Sometimes in cushioned wedge sandals like this. Usually barefoot. Still using it.
Ergodriven is led by mechanical engineers who care about science. Topo’s calculated terrain keeps you moving while standing so blood doesn’t pool in your calves, which can cause poor circulation and increased risk of deep vein thrombosis. You subconsciously shift into different standing positions, engaging the anti-gravity skeletal muscle pump. Increased blood flow mitigates the risk of varicose veins. Great news for me, because although my CEP Women’s Progressive+ 2.0 Calf Sleeves are a big help for circulation while sitting or standing for long stretches, adding more movement is the best medicine.

Inspired by Nature

A Data Driven Playground for Your Feet

Topo’s design was inspired by hiking, swimming, and cliff-jumping.

Ergodriven Topo mat in grey
Office cliffs and peaks – Topo in grey

Our office environments are hardly natural for our bodies, so any way that we can introduce more of what we were really meant to do – run around the forest all day – the better our health. Topo increases range of motion and circulation vs. standing still.

The Amazon links in this post are referral links. See my full disclosure policy.

Startups and Crowdfunding

Ergodriven eschewed Kickstarter. They took the time to calculate costs and benefits instead of just following the herd. They put in the grunt work required to market a new product; driving traffic and building relationships takes elbow grease. Here’s their homegrown product launch campaign. It worked nicely, and best of all, had a 0% fee.

In fact, we have everything Kickstarter would have provided us set up on our own domain now, and it only took us about 150 hours. Compared to the estimated 8,000 hours we’ve put into developing and launching Topo so far – well that only represents about 1% of our time. So why would we give up 5% of our users’ hard-earned money?

Because that’s truly what it means. Avoiding Kickstarter’s 5% fee means we can charge 5% less.

People focus on funding too much.
Product is sexy; customers are sexy; revenue is sexy.

Product Details

  • Material: Environmentally-conscious, 100% polyurethane foam, with no PVC or plasticizers (like phthalates), or added flame retardants
  • Durable, breathable pebbled skin which feels nice barefoot
  • 7-year warranty against manufacturing defects
  • Hands-free sliding is easy with one foot (no reaching down)
  • Size: 26.25″x29″
  • Thickness: 2.7″ at highest point
  • Weight: 8 lbs
  • Colors: Black, grey, blue, purple, or green
  • MSRP: $199
  • Amazon Prime cost: $119
  • 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee (free return shipping)
I asked Ergodriven CEO Kit Perkins why he’s proud of Topo:
Kit Perkins CEO Ergodriven
I’m most proud of how many people love Topo and how much they love it. Topo’s return rate is incredibly low, and the reviews we get online and sent directly to our customer service via email are absolutely glowing and incredibly heartwarming to read. I’m so proud that Topo has improved so many lives, and continues to make a big difference in happiness and health for our users every day.

One Drawback

I still find myself striking my signature desk yoga pose with one foot on the ground and the other leg resting horizontally on my desk, bent at the knee, which may or may not be healthy. The flat areas of the mat are a bit thinner than I would like, so standing on those areas for a long time gets tiring. A larger footprint for more stretching and angled standing would be nice, but the current size is nicely manageable in a cube. Overall, it’s a great product from a company I respect, and it’s worth the $119.

Buy Now with free shipping on Amazon Prime

Disclaimer: Ergodriven provided me with a Topo in order to write this review. My recommendation is not for sale: this is my honest opinion after two months of testing. The above links to purchase this product are Amazon Associate links – read more here.

Review: Ergo Desktop Hybrid Kangaroo Standing Desk

An ideal standing desk supports ergonomic posture and lets you easily change from sitting to standing. The Ergo Desktop Hybrid Kangaroo delivers on these characteristics and more. There is no question that prolonged sitting is bad for your health. But it’s important to choose the right standing desk. This is my second Ergo Desktop desk. Keywords: Quality, stability, and adjustability. It’s made in the USA and customized to your settings. At $599, the Hybrid Kangaroo is not the cheapest nor most expensive on the market, but it’s one of my favorites.
Emily working at her standing desk
Standing at my Hybrid Kangaroo in my old cube (2016): monitor left, laptop right

What is the Hybrid Kangaroo?

This is a freestanding, height adjustable desk add-on made for a monitor and laptop. The unit sits on a broad, sturdy footplate which can be slid around your desktop. A rear mounted vertical riser is fixed to the footplate. A work surface for your keyboard and mouse is attached to the riser. Easily adjust it up or down by turning the knob on the riser.
Kangaroo standing desk in office
My office (2017): badass Ergo Desktop standing desk,  Ergodriven topographic floor mat, incandescent light, two VoIP phones, and a door.

Will it Fit? Cubicle and Desk Size

My first standing desk was a Dual Hybrid Kangaroo, also by Ergo Desktop, and similar to the Hybrid Kangaroo, but it had two shelves instead of one. Then I had a private office with a large desk surface. While at a startup, I had a standard size cube (first photo above). My Hybrid Kangaroo has a shelf plus a VESA mount (where my monitor is mounted). The Hybrid Kangaroo fit fine in my cube. Now I’m back in an office and damn, it looks good (second photo above). The two models have the same footprint:
  • the main work surface is adjustable 16.5″ above your desk and measures 28″ wide x 24″ deep.
Some people complain about reduced workspace with add-on desks, but I have no problem here and frankly don’t often need a physical writing surface (or a printer for that matter) anyway.
Ergo Desktop Hybrid Kangaroo at Emily's office
My Hybrid Kangaroo setup in the old cube – ergonomic AF

Vote with Your Dollar

Ergo Desktop’s customer service is excellent. As a marketer, I’m sensitive to every aspect of the customer experience, from advertising to website to product description to transactional emails. Brad at Ergo Desktop was responsive, professional, and most important, highly knowledgeable about his products. You get the sense that this company cares. Ohio people, right? 🙂 They also have a 100% quality guarantee.

Continue reading Review: Ergo Desktop Hybrid Kangaroo Standing Desk

FluidStance Level Review

Standing beats sitting – this is known. But how can we stand better? I have been testing a standing desk accessory called the Level for three months. As a 3+ year standing desk advocate, this is the first time I’ve used a balance board. Until recently, I had relied on a thick floor mat and other products to help ease foot and leg strain.

Emily Binder using The Level for standing desk
Me standing on the Level

The Level by Fluidstance, office-category winner of Inc.’s 2015 Best in Class Awards, has added health benefits to your standard shock-absorbing floor mat. While it’s simply a piece of wood framed by curved, die-cut aluminum, the product has fantastic design and an undeniable cool factor – it gets noticed. The science behind it centers on this:

The body is meant to move in three dimensions, and our FluidStance product enables that movement at a desk or workstation. Merely standing at a desk doesn’t allow for this movement, whereas using the Level does.

Benefits include:

  • 15% increased heart rate vs. sitting
  • Increased range of motion vs. static standing desk (23.98 degrees ROM)

I’d rather not strain my feet standing in heels or wedges, and I rarely wear flats. I stand barefoot most of the day in my office and slip on shoes for meetings. That said, my feet get sore if I stand still on the Level for more than about ten minutes. It is really made for you to continually rock and sway.

Side view of The Level
The American-Made Level (Bamboo)

The Level is supposed to help reduce the need to shift your weight while standing, which can produce poor posture. Indeed, I have found this constant urge to be a negative symptom of my stand-up desk. With the Level, my feet still get tired and I end up standing on one foot with the other bent at the knee laying horizontally on my desk, which is not optimal.

Takeaway: I enjoy the added motion but I find myself switching to my floor mat for at least half the day. I think my feet would get less tired if I stood in tennis shoes; I’ve simply been too lazy to change shoes throughout the day. The Level is a neat piece of ergonomic furniture if you can afford it and wear comfortable shoes, but a quality floor mat at least 3/4 inch thick is a more affordable, still solid option that works better for women who wear heels.

Price: The American Made and Original models range from $289 to $489 as of this writing. The average American works forty hours a week from ages 20-65. This totals 90,000 hours, or 10.7 years at work (excluding two weeks of vacation per year). Your health, well-being, and productivity at work affect nearly every area of your life. Treat your body to the healthiest options possible. You could drop hundreds or thousands on an ergonomic chair or a standing desk setup. The latter will save you time and money in the long run, and you might even live longer.

Box canvas bag Fluidstance Level green packaging
Unboxing the Level

Materials: The Level is made with eco-conscious materials, some models featuring renewable bamboo. The finish is GREENGUARD certified so it meets rigorous low emission standards. I’m happy to support a company that prides itself on being “responsible borrowers from mother earth.” Plus, 90% of initial products are produced in the U.S. The environmentally friendly packaging is a nice feature.

Disclosure: I was given a Level by Fluidstance and asked to write a review. I have not been compensated in any other way.

Foodstuff Marketing – Part 2

Updated follow-up to Part 1 about cereal games: Over the years I have tweeted and posted multiple complaints about the garbage in food that’s advertised as healthy. Cocoa Krispies box nutrition factsPart 1 originally linked to a Kellogg’s Cereal landing page encouraging activity (no longer available). Homepages for Froot Loops and Apple Jacks had pop-up messages urging kids to get outside and move around. The Frosted Flakes website was a big proponent of outdoor activity and sports participation:

Kelloggs-Frosted-Flakes-cereal-website-Are-You-Up Kelloggs Fruit Loops Get Your Move On

You see the same messaging on tons of food products. Hypocrisy rules grocery shelves. This hackneyed pro-exercise/health stance and the call-outs about vitamins and whole grain on boxes is ridiculous at best and criminal at worst considering the processed ingredients, added and artificial sweeteners, and chemical preservatives that these nutritionally devoid “foods” contain. That cereal nutrition facts have a second column for the addition of dairy milk to make it a “complete breakfast” is a problem.

Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats
Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats

Breakfast health poser brands like Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post tout nutrients and a healthy start to the day. Aside from government regulation (see FTC response to the Kellogg’s immunity claim), what would it take on a consumer level to make such brands replace their GMO ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils (see Cocoa Krispies ingredients), and modified corn starch with natural ingredients? You can find organic cereal brands like Lydia’s Organics, Farm to Table, Go Raw, etc. who do this, make better products, and still profit. Just not as much. And unfortunately that’s the deciding factor. But despite media exposés, documentaries and books galore about our food problems, the grocery landscape is wrought with more confusing, misleading messaging than ever.

Eat whatever you want. I’m not here on a granola crusade. Actually, I’m more interested in the larger question of selective consumer awareness and empowerment.

Society has spent decades scapegoating, punishing, and regulating the tobacco industry for its seductive marketing of addictive, cancer-causing products. How have agribusiness and food conglomerates escaped anywhere near the widespread, research-backed, trenchant criticism for the role they play in our nation’s health problems? In 2012, more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese (CDC). I barely scratched the surface talking about unhealthy cereal that is marketed as healthy. The convoluted mess that is FDA labeling regulation for terms like natural, organic, free range, etc. creates a false advertising field day.

There’s nothing automatically wrong with selling most unhealthy products as long as the consumer is fairly informed. Tobacco, alcohol, fast food, soda pop, hot dogs at baseball games, sugary bubblegum, you name it – we deserve the right to choose to indulge. But food brands and marketers need to take more responsibility when it comes to product positioning. The misinformation about what’s actually healthy is more expensive than consumers understand.

To wrap up:
Part 1: Good: a return to simplicity and creativity – kids cutting out cardboard shapes (see the Lucky Charms game).

Part 2: Bad: food brands that position themselves with health and physical activity but contain nefarious foodstuff (not food) ingredients while making claims about good nutrition.

What will force change? Maybe consumer awareness is already improving. Social helps. See Bettina Siegel’s petition on change.org which helped to remove pink slime (LFTB from Beef Products Inc.) from school lunches across the country.

Our apples are being jacked.