I remember when people first started playing with the idea of replacing their desk chairs with Pilates balls. While the benefits were considerable to those of us who took up that challenge, their use never became widespread. Then, a few weeks ago, a friend told me that her law firm has treadmill desks -- a working desk built around a treadmill. Rather than sitting in a chair, the subject walks slowly on the treadmill while continuing to work at a computer or completing other tasks at the desk. Have you heard of this?
Here’s how it works:
The front edge of treadmill desks are padded to add comfort while resting your forearms or wrists on it as you write, type or sift through materials. You can also easily adjust the desk height to accommodate personal preferences or biomechanics issues. However, some people with coordination issues on treadmills and might find it stressful to work while trying to stay on the sucker.
There are a few types, most of which you can order online. Some are more accessible price-wise, while others are a more solid gamble, but at a more luxurious price-point:
The Trekdesk costs around $500, attaches to an existing treadmill and seems pretty simple to install. The kicker is that most decent and durable treadmills cost around $3000 so getting set up isn’t cheap.
Then we’ve got the Lifespan treadmill desks that come as one and cost anywhere from $800 to $2000 (prices may vary for Canadians). If you’re used to a high-end treadmill experience, then the Lifespan treadmill might seem a little clunky and less impact absorbing.
UpLift Treadmill Desk (starts at approx $1,800, prices may vary for Canadians ) is an adjustable, lightweight design with simple straight-edged console desk.
Why I’m Iffy About This Trend
On one hand, so many of us spend more than 8 hours/day tethered to our desks. There are studies linking sedentary lifestyles to an alarming number of health issues. We need to change how we work, and a radical change to our workstations -- making them a more physical healthy and active experience -- could be a start. I’ve been thinking this for quite a while and even co-authored a book that is designed to help people be more active at their desks.
As someone whose professional life is about fitness and wellness I find it weird that people are so busy that they forget to move. Shouldn’t people focus on life balance and step away from their desk to get that motion and health break they need?
That said, there are great benefits to using a treadmill desk, including:
Walking to reach 10,000 steps a day:
Research has shown that walking 10,000 steps a day (8 km or about 150 minutes of walking per week) will significantly reduce your risk of initial heart attack, Type II diabetes, stroke and cancer. Most sedentary desk workers only get about 2000 steps in a day, definitely not enough to meet Health Canada’s recommended 150 minutes of activity per week to maintain optimal health.
Walking to prevent the disease of the desk worker:
It seems like every time I scour health news, I see yet another study about the serious negative health impacts of sitting for work, even if you get the recommended amount of activity every week. Yikes! So anything that makes a workstation more active gets a big thumbs-up from me.
Walking for weight loss:
Depending on your weight, 10,000 steps burn between 250 and 600 calories. Most weight loss programs recommend burning 200-300 calories per day in moderate to vigorous exercise.
Walking to improve mood:
People suffering from anxiety or depression benefit from regular exercise. If companies bring the water to the horse so to speak, they will be helping their work force make important lifestyle changes. This means a a happier work force hopefully taking less time off in the long
Walking to improve brain function and memory:
In a 2010 "Cell Stem Cell" study of rats' ability to grow neurons, Dr. Fred Gage and colleagues showed that rats who were allowed to run on wheels, later did better on running through mazes -- a test of their "rodent I.Q." -- as compared with rats who didn’t run on wheels. Exercise seems to have increased their ability to grow more neurons, which in turn improved their thinking (watch the video here).
The final assessment: Ideally, the healthiest choice would be to make real changes to our desk-dwelling lifestyles. That said, the treadmill desk in a distinct improvement to a cubicle and a chair. It could improve your health risk factors, cognitive function, battle issues like ADHD, depression or anxiety while you’re also earning a living.
If money were no object, would you want a treadmill desk? Or do you think we should just get up from our desk chairs more often?
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