Walk your way to Health-at Work!
By Heather Langan
Have you been hearing things in the news lately about Treadmill desks but can’t really imagine how they work? The concept sounds strange at first but is actually quite simple. The biggest challenge in even considering a Treadmill desks is the mental shift required.
Let me pose a few questions:
1) Have you been trying to think of ways to add more activity into your day?
2) Do you have physical issues (like a sore back or shoulders or hip) from sitting at a desk all day?
3) Do you find that your posture isn’t good (shoulders rolled forward, head hanging forward)?
4) Do you have a few pounds you’d like to drop?
5) Do you exercise regularly but still find yourself feeling blah at your desk job?
6) Do you suffer from the dreaded “post-lunch dip” – that mid-afternoon feeling of fatigue?
A Treadmill desk can offer a viable solution to all of the above. There are now a number of treadmill desks that are manufactured all of-a-piece, and there are ways to easily set up a
Treadmill desk using a standard treadmill. Different approaches are right for different people and different budgets.
Treadmill desks manufacturers include companies like Steelcase, Trekdesk and Lifetime Fitness. Steelcase is a 100-year old office furniture company that consulted with James A. Levine, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic to design their Walkstation, a really attractive, contemporary desk attached to a treadmill. (http://store.steelcase.com/brochures/treadmill-desks-walkstation/). The company makes several models of treadmill and standing desks that are well-designed, the result of research on ergonomics and office viability.
Dr. Levine advocates use of a Treadmill desk to combat obesity and he’s done a lot of research on the topic. There are a number of articles available online that will offer you scientific evidence that use of a Treadmill desk can be very positive, but it just stands to reason, doesn’t it? Our bodies were made to move – to walk, to run, to stay active. Human anatomy did not evolve to just sit, and the pain we feel in our bodies when we sit too much is evidence of this. The computer revolution of the last generation has transformed many things about our lives in a positive way, but unfortunately, sitting all day is not one of them.
TrekDesk is another maker of Treadmill desks. This company makes just the desk component – the piece that sits over an existing treadmill. They have recently reduced the cost of their desk to less than $500. When I was doing research for my own treadmill desk, I corresponded with the customer service department and Trekdesk and was impressed by their friendliness and professionalism.
Lifespan Fitness is another company that makes a variety of Treadmill desks to fit different needs and budgets. This company also sells a “standing desk bike” for pedaling in place at your standing desk. An interesting idea! This would work well for someone who prefers pedaling to walking and who already has a standing desk.
Due to budget constraints, I had to take a different approach, but if I had the money, I’d purchase a treadmill desk from one of the above companies. They are forging a new trail for us folks traditionally stuck sitting all day!
My treadmill desk is a very simple set-up. I purchased a Nordic Track machine – a moderately priced model that tested as sturdy and quiet. Sears offers a number of treadmills and has a lot of them set up so you can try them in the store, which I found very helpful. I was able to purchase the treadmill along with a three year extended warranty, which seemed like a good idea since I was planning to use the treadmill a lot. Other stores, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, also have treadmills set up to test drive. I recommend you try a few and compare. After test driving Amazon is the often the best place to purchase a Treadmill desk for optimal value and choice. Remember that using a treadmill for work is quite different from using a treadmill for aerobic exercise. You will be walking slowly – about 1.5 miles per hour – so you don’t really need a fancy machine with lots of bells and whistles (unless of course you do intend to use it for aerobic exercise sometimes, or someone else in the household will use it that way). Think carefully about how you and your family will use the treadmill before making your purchase.
I looked for a treadmill with arm rests parallel to the floor, to offer supports for my “desk”. The desk is really just a board that sits on top of the treadmill arms. I attached two platforms to the main board to create elevated shelves for my laptop computer and my large, extra monitor. The desk board serves as a shelf for the separate keyboard and mouse pad I use. Unsure how secure the desk board would be, I initially used large clamps to hold the board in place, but I’ve stopped using those – they just don’t seem necessary. The whole set-up probably cost me $20 and a couple of days of measuring, banging boards together and a small amount of cursing. I ended up with something that has now served me really well for 2 years. I love it.
Many people wonder if they could actually work on a treadmill – that is, type, read the computer screen, concentrate, etc., all while walking. Dr. Levine’s research has shown that some people require several hours, or even days, of practice to get the hang of the treadmill desk, but that most folks do adjust pretty quickly. I had no problem adjusting and was able to type, read, talk on the phone, etc., immediately. Concentration is no problem. In fact, I concentrate much better when I’m walking on my treadmill. My mind is sharper and I definitely avoid the afternoon blahs, so my employer is getting a much better worker as a result of my treadmill desk. My prediction is that, in a few years, treadmill desks will be routine and sitting all day will be considered the strange thing!