Employees Benefit From Treadmill Workstations In More Ways Than One
March 14, 2014

Study Demonstrates Benefits Of Treadmill Workstations For Sedentary Employees

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The use of treadmill workstations can improve an employee’s physical fitness and on-the-job performance levels, experts from the University of Texas at Arlington, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota claim in recently-published research.

In the study, which was published by the journal PLoS ONE on February 20, the authors provided treadmill desks to sedentary employees working at a nonprofit financial service company. The desks were placed in the study participants’ cubicles and offices, and could be raised or lowered at the push of a single button.

The employees were able to stand, sit or walk as they saw fit. Each wore an accelerometer that kept track of the calories burned each day, and were surveyed for a total of 52 weeks. According to the researchers, the employees burned an average of 74 more calories each day than they did before receiving the treadmill workstations.

“What’s great about that is that employees who had the treadmill workstations became more productive in addition to becoming more active,” explained Dr. Darla Hamann, a professor at the UT Arlington School of Urban and Public Affairs. “Walking on the treadmill didn’t come at the expense of being a productive worker. Walking seemed to augment productivity.”

Dr. Hamann and her colleagues surveyed approximately 200 employees each week at the financial services company, 40 of whom had treadmill desks. All of those employees spent most of their days on the computer, the majority of them were female and approximately one-third of them were college educated.

The workstations made it possible for those individuals to walk up to two miles per hour while still completing their day-to-day duties at the firm. While it might seem that this level of physical activity could potentially have an adverse effect on those employees’ performance levels, the authors report that was not the case.

“For the entire year-long period the net performance effect of treadmill workstations is positive, amounting to about 0.69 points for employee self-rating and 1.11 for supervisor rating on a 1–10 scale,” the researchers wrote. “While we cannot determine the precise behavioral source of the performance improvements, our data are consistent with the favorable effect of physical activity on performance found by other researchers using a within-person design.”

Dr. Hamann, who worked on the study with professor Avner Ben-Ner and graduate student Chimnay U. Manohar of the University of Minnesota, as well as Gabriel Koepp and James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, said that she believed the results of the study could help inspire other companies “to offer treadmill workstations for their employees as part of wellness programs nationwide.”