Treadmill Desks Working Their Way Into Workplace
> 9/17/2008 6:46:17 PM

For most of human history, work was tied inextricably to physical exertion. However, the days of cutting lumber and working the mines have been replaced by endless hours sitting at a desk. This has contributed greatly to rising obesity levels, and a psychologically unhealthy disconnect between the exertions of mind and body. A recent trend, treadmill desks, may be a solution to these problems.

The treadmill desk began as a contraption put together ad hoc by people trying to escape the eight-hour block of sedentary time imposed on them by the modern work environment. Now it has grown into an organized phenomenon worthy of coverage by the New York Times.  Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist from the Mayo Clinic whose research uncovered the calorie burning achieved by small exertions incorporated into daily life, created a treadmill desk for himself using spare hospital equipment. When Dr. Levine saw that many others were enthusiastically following his lead, he helped design the Walkstation, a sleek all-in-one  unit costing around $4,000.

The Walkstation has been ordered by major corporations, such as Best Buy and GlaxoSmithKline, and the manufacturer seems to have convinced many employers that they can boost employee health without sacrificing any efficiency. In fact, many employees report that they are better able to concentrate while walking (think of all the people who pace when thinking). This fits with the thesis of Spark, a book we reviewed early this year that demonstrates the cognitive benefits of exercise. The treadmill desks move at a pace slow enough to get the heart pumping but not fast enough to distract or cause a sweat.

While a treadmill desk does not mean that you can skip the gym, it does ensure a baseline level of cardiovascular health and probably helps elevate mood. One pioneering company, Mutual of Omaha , has already begun a study to discover just how effective the treadmill desks are at reducing weight and cholesterol. The very cautious might want to wait for the results of these and similar studies before going out and purchasing a treadmill desk, but it is very likely that the conclusion will be that they offer substantial benefits. So go buy some good walking shoes and get ready to burn calories while working at your computer.

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