We see patients every day for the common complaint of discomfort from sitting at a desk or computer all day at work, whether it be a sore back and neck, stooped shoulders, or stiffness throughout the body from being sedentary. Is a treadmill desk the answer?
Treadmill desks are a rising new trend and may be coming to your office soon. In 2005, Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, conducted a study showing that lean people tend to burn about 350 more calories a day than those who are overweight, usually by doing very ordinary things such as fidgeting, pacing, or walking more around the office. He was inspired to get people moving more during their normal work, and constructed a treadmill desk by sliding a beside hospital tray over a standard treadmill. Mayo Clinic research has shown people can burn 100-130 extra calories an hour while walking slower than two miles an hour!
The British Journal of Sports Medicine similarly conducted a study of obese office workers, giving them vertical workstations and then comparing the calories burned by those who sat as usual at their computers, stood while doing the same work, or walking slowly at a self-selected velocity on a treadmill. The study found the workers burned an average of almost 120 calories an hour compared to sitting, all while doing their normal work!
When you consider how much time the average American spends at work, that is the kind of calorie burning that can really add up over a year, not only shrinking your waistline, but also improving your health and energy level!
Another reason to consider a treadmill desk is explored by US News and World Report, who recently had their reporter Stephanie Steinberg try one. Sitting may be an even more insidious problem than obesity. Steinberg writes: “In the last few years, studies have shown that obesity is associated with simply sitting too much…. Besides weight problems, [Dr. Levine of the Mayo Clinic] points out that excessive sitting is associated with heightened risk of cancer, heart attacks and cardiovascular disease as well as an increase in mental health issues like depression. And here comes the real frightening part: These risks pertain to physically active people, too.” Steinberg quotes Dr. Levine: “Even if you’re lean and healthy and a nonsmoker and you even go to the gym Monday-Wednesday-Friday, you are still being harmed by sitting too much…. We were never designed to sit behind desks all day. We were really designed to be either out hunting or doing agriculture or building shelters. We were built to do stuff, not to sit down.”
And if health benefits don’t get you motivated enough, research is backing up the fact that increased movement and activity at work actually improves concentration, creativity, and overall performance! And you are less likely to suffer the physical ailments of bad posture, stiffness, and lethargy at the end of the work day. Perhaps this is why employers around the country are making these walking workstations available for their employees, particularly some of the bigger employers such as Mutual of Omaha, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, and Motorola.
If you have more questions about how a treadmill desk might help you at work, ask our chiropractic physician Dr. Michael Herb! He can work with patients about how to get started safely and get the most benefit from this great new trend. He is also happy to talk with employers about how to safely implement such a program.
Links to Sources:
“Are Treadmill Desks the Cure for America’s Sitting Epidemic?” by Stephanie Steinberg at US News and Word Report
Study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine: “The energy expenditure of using a ‘walk-and-work’ desk for office workers with obesity”
“I Put In 5 Miles at the Office” by Mandy Katz at The New York Times
Absolute Wellness Center offers sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, and massage therapy in Eugene, OR. You may be particularly interested in learning more about how workplace injuries and workplace ergonomics. If you have questions about how these treatments may benefit you, give us a call at 541-484-5777.