I think the shelf is real wood, but it's on a cabinet that's under it, it looks like it may be mdf, but I'm not sure. The space is too small to sit on, what kind of braces could I add? I'll see if hubby will put his weights on it for a few days but I'm not sure if he has enough weight. Will it eventually start stress? I know it looks more sturdy than some of the stands they sell at petsmart.