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As I write this blog post from my standing desk, I’m wondering if it’s time to take the next step (pun intended!) and invest in a treadmill desk.

Walk the Talk on a Treadmill Desk

As I write this blog post from my standing desk, I’m wondering if it’s time to take the next step (pun intended!) and invest in a treadmill desk. The latest weapon in the fight against sitting disease, the treadmill desk is a mainstay at many cutting-edge companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Evernote, and the Marriott and Hyatt hotel chains. Treadmill desks are commonly placed in main areas so that employees can sign up for 30-minute time slots to work while walking at speeds of 1-2 mph.

I did some research to find out if treadmill desks are fab or fad. The first thing I found was this clever video by Business Insider magazine, where staff members tried it out for a day.

What becomes clear is that temperament and task have a lot to do with whether a treadmill desk is a good fit. Some users took to it right away and enjoyed scheduling phone call “walk and talk” meetings, while others groaned through the whole process. And certain types of work—typing and thought-intensive tasks—were more difficult. In fact, researchers at Brigham Young University tested the cognitive (attention, learning and memory) and computer skills (typing) of treadmill walkers versus sitters. They found that when people walk (at 1.5 mph) on the treadmill, their verbal and auditory learning, processing speed, attention, working memory, and typing scores were slightly lower than sitters, though performance remained in the average range. Modest drops in total learning and typing, however, may not outweigh the physical activity and energy expenditure gains from walking on a treadmill.

Benefits of treadmill desks:

  • Reducing sedentary activity in the workplace
  • Increasing energy expenditure
  • The average person will burn about 100 calories for every mile that they walk at 1-2 mph
  • Some physiological improvements in glucose and HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Some treadmill veterans say that productivity and accuracy increase as you become more comfortable with the new setup.

Some tips if you do try a treadmill desk:

  • Wear supportive footwear.
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing.
  • Walk at a slow pace. While the belt is designed to go up to 4 mph, the recommended speed to multi-task at work is 1-2 mph.
  • Increase your walking time gradually (aiming to walk 150 minutes per week)
  • Depending on your fitness level, walking for extended periods of time can lead to repetitive or overuse injuries especially in the foot and ankle.
  • Mix up treadmill walking with stationary standing.
  • Keep your posture tall and straight.
  • Make sure your computer screen is at eye level to avoid neck and back strain.

Treadmill workstations that combine computer work with light physical activity is one solution to combat the health hazards associated with excessive sitting at work. Workplaces need to be mindful of the associated costs and administrative challenges to providing treadmill desks to workers in a cost-effective and equitable manner.

Stretch breaks through the day, frequent short walks, and using a standing desk are also effective strategies. The goal is to get out of your chair and “take a stand” against sitting. No matter what solution you choose, just take a stand (or a walk)!

Curious about ways to fit stretch breaks into your workday? Have a look at our Workplace Program!

Standing up for good health,

Dr. Kim

Move of the Month

BICYCLE

  1. Keep back straight
  2. Reach each elbow to each opposite knee while bicycling legs for 30 seconds
  3. Remember to breathe!

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