Tired of spending your 9 to 5 work day (or longer) slumped over in a chair? Get up — a recent year-long experiment published in PLOS ONE revealed that treadmill desks could offer health, performance, AND financial benefits for both you and your employer.
Researchers enlisted 40 sedentary volunteers from a financial services company (headquartered in Minneapolis) and converted their desks (with computer, phone, writing space, etc.) into a treadmill-based workstation. They were allowed to operate the treadmills between 0-2 MPH and could switch over to their standard desk/chair at-will.
Data from the study showed promising results for the future of treadmill desks: Calorie Burn — Treadmill users increased energy expenditure by an average of 74 calories per day; amounting to a 7-8% boost in daily activity caloric expenditure.
Performance + Productivity — While there was a learning curve with an initial drop (it takes time to acclimate), productivity and performance also increased in the long run. This supports results from a 2012 study, which showed that the accuracy of doctors’ diagnoses increased from 88% to an almost perfect 99% when using treadmill desks.2
Sedentariness — Despite the additional calorie burn, most subjects didn’t even break a sweat. And that might not matter. The biggest perk of treadmill desks likely has nothing to do with sweat or productivity — it’s simply the ability to make you move more and decrease sitting time; two things that have been linked with everything from diabetes and obesity, to all-cause mortality. Research showed that treadmill desks reduced sedentary time by an average of 77 minutes per day.
Back in July of 2013, Runner’s World Magazine claimed that “sitting was the new smoking,” and found that even if you were to jog two miles each day, the nine hours spent sitting in a desk chair would still greatly increase your risk of disease. Based on a sample of 3,757 women, for every two hours the women sat in a given work day, their risk of developing diabetes went up by seven percent. Translated: their diabetes risk was 56 percent higher on days when they sat for eight hours.
It gets worse. One unrelated study found that women who sat for more than 6 hours/day were 34% more likely to die over a 13 year span, when compared with those who sat for fewer than 3 hours per day; while that same risk jumped by 17% for men.5 In a second study of 200,000 Australian men and women, people who sat for 10+ hours per day had a 48% greater risk of death compared with those who sat for less than 4 hours per day. It’s clear — sitting all day is not healthy, and the more time you spend sedentary, the higher your risk for various diseases becomes.
Treadmill desks can range in price, ranging anywhere from $400 to $4,000. While some companies here at the Merchandise Mart Gym have established wellness programs and are purchasing walking workstations, it is an investment — but one that your company might be willing to make.
TechCrunch created a hypothetical equation, stating its case that in-office treadmill desks could actually save money while boosting employee health; assuming the bump in productivity, healthcare savings (sick days and insurance), and employee satisfaction all add up.
But if you’re unable to get your hands (or feet) on a treadmill desk — or convince your boss to buy you one — here are a few simple ways to stay moving throughout the day:
-Take a longer route to the bathroom or cafeteria.
-Park in the farthest space from your building.
-Walk to a co-worker’s ofice or cubicle instead of calling or sending an e-mail.
-Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
-Get a quick, 45-minute workout in during your lunch break.
-Take a quick field trip for a few minutes every hour to visit a colleague.
-Keep a huge bottle of water at your desk and walk to re-fill it whenever it’s empty. It’s a self-regulating technique to increase water consumption AND help you move more.