December 5, 2011

Treadmill Desk Could Be A Real Lifesaver

One financial staffing company in Minneapolis, Minnesota have taken drastic measures to combat the health issues that arise from spending long hours sitting down and working at a desk -- they have installed four treadmill desks in a conference room in order to allow their workers to exercise while attending corporate meetings.

According to Eric V. Copage of the New York Times, that company, Salo, encourages what they refer to as "walking meetings" by setting up four "height-adjustable" working surfaces above an equal number of treadmill tracks. Each of the desks face each other, allowing employees to take care of business while they also take care of their bodies by walking on the treadmills.

"We installed our first treadmill desks back in 2007," Craig Dexheimer, Salo's director of operations and administration, told John Preston of the Telegraph on Sunday. "We put four in a conference room that can be used for walking meetings and six that can be used by anybody."

He admitted that there was skepticism among Salo employees.

"When you see a treadmill in an office environment for the first time, it's kind of strange," Dexheimer said, adding that works have gotten used to the so-called treadmill desks. "We tend to have between two and eight people at a time, but as there are only four treadmills in the conference room, people take it in turns and rotate every 10 minutes."

"We do a lot of walking meetings -- some of them on the treadmills and some of them outside," he added In fact, we found that walking meetings not only tended to be more productive than sedentary ones, they´re also, on average, 10 minutes shorter."

The activity of the treadmill desks and walking meetings could be saving the lives of Salo employees. According to Copage, remaining seated for long periods of time causes a person's back to become strained, their muscles to become slack, and their metabolism to slow down, which could increase a person's risk for developing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and/or some forms of cancer.

The treadmill desk itself, Preston says, was the brainchild of James Levine, a British scientist based at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. In 2006, Levine began a study that measured how much people moved about when they weren't making a concentrated effort to exercise or remain active. He discovered that those who were lean burned an average of 350 more calories per day than their weightier counterparts.

"Sitting down, Levine concluded, is not just bad for people -- it's a killer," the Telegraph reporter wrote. "This may seem a bit drastic, but Levine isn´t the only scientist who reckons that being sedentary offers an accelerated route to an early grave."

"A survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong concluded that you´d actually be better off walking about and smoking than sitting down and doing nothing. Twenty per cent of all deaths of people aged 35 and over were attributable to a lack of physical exercise. As for the likelihood of dying from cancer, that increased by 45 per cent for men and 28 per cent for women if they happened to be inactive," Preston added.

The following year, while working at his office at the Mayo Clinic, Levine had an epiphany -- he figured he could exercise and work at the same time.

"Sliding a hospital tray on top of a treadmill, Levine set it to a modest 2mph," Preston said. "To his surprise, he found he could work perfectly easily while he was walking along. He could type, make phone calls and do almost everything that he normally did sitting down. Yet after an hour, he´d burned off more than 100 calories."

The invention caught the attention of the media -- and well as the attention of companies like Salo, looking to improve the physical fitness of their employees.

The Walkstation, as it was known, eventually went into production, with each unit costing $4,000 to make. Since then, other versions of the treadmill desk have popped up, many costing less than $500 these days.


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