Workers at the financial consulting firm Salo use their treadmill desks. (Salo LLC/NPR)Will health-conscious office workers soon be skipping trips to the gym for an extended shift at the desk? It could be a healthy alternative, as some companies have begun experimenting with treadmill desks.
NPR's Patti Neighmond made a transition to the treadmill by first converting her sitting desk into a standing desk. After getting acclimated to standing, she installed a "discreet" treadmill, minus handrails, below the standing desk.
"I'm into my second week now and walking at a pretty slow, casual pace, about 1.4 miles an hour," Neighmond writes. "When I first started, I thought I'd simply hop on the treadmill and be off walking all day while working. But it turns out it's really hard to walk, talk, think and concentrate."
Last year, The New York Times reported on Salo, a Minnesota-based financial consulting company that tried a similar experiment with some of its employees. And so far, the results have been positive both for employee health and for the company's financial bottom line: During the six months that Salo took part in a Mayo Clinic treadmill desk study, the firm experienced record earnings.
"Remarkable," Salo director of operations Craig Dexheimer told NPR. "We didn't even go to a gym. We just went to work!" Dexheimer says he has lost 25 pounds since switching to the treadmill desk.
You can buy a treadmill desk, which typically costs several hundred dollars. Or, if you're in do-it-yourself mode, this website shows how to build your own treadmill desk for just $39, not including the cost of the treadmill.
Still, the doctor who headed up the Mayo Clinic study says you shouldn't jump right into running a minimarathon each day at work.
"There's a tendency to want to jump on the treadmill and walk for hours and hours a day," Dr. James Levine told NPR. "Don't do that. Certainly, at the absolute maximum, do half-hour on, half an hour off, for two to three hours a day."
You can watch a recent video of Levine discussing the effect of workplace mobility below: