80% of Americans work at jobs that are sedentary or require only light physical activity. In a previous post we talked about the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle and urged company leaders to promote walking meetings as a way to get employees moving throughout the day.
An alternative (or a supplement) to walking meetings is walking at your desk. Walking at your desk is made possible with a treadmill desk. A treadmill desk is simply a treadmill under a desk. There are companies like TrekDesk who sell prepackaged treadmill desks and also plenty of online videos and articles that provide instructions for those who want to convert an existing treadmill into a treadmill desk.
Treadmill desks have grown in popularity over the last few years and can be found in the offices of many wellness savvy employers. Staying true to our wellness goals, Wellable has treadmill desks in its Boston office. Here’s Nick Patel of Wellable using one of the treadmill desks.
A recent study highlights some of the benefits from using a treadmill desk, including increased employee productivity. “On average [researchers] found that supervisor ratings of employee productivity increased 10% (on a 1-10 scale) and energy expenditure per day shot up 70 calories.” While productivity benefits were observed, the benefits were not immediate. “The productivity of 40 treadmill users dropped at first as they struggled to master typing and manipulating a mouse while walking at speeds of up to two miles per hour.” Like other wellness activities and programs, the ROI is not realized day one. It takes time for employees to adjust to the new work style and for wellness benefits to be noticed. With a cost of ~$1,400 per treadmill desk, it can take months to see a return on investment. Investment in wellness resources always requires some patience and an eye for the future – treadmill desks are emblematic of the wellness movement in this way.
Treadmill desk skeptics have sited increased potential for injury or difficulty concentrating while walking as reasons why treadmills may not be a great fit for the workplace. After a few months on a treadmill desk, many of these skeptics like cnet journalist, Danny Sullivan, are converted treadmill desk enthusiasts. Sullivan writes, “I didn't think I'd be able to work standing up, much less while walking. I figured that for any serious work, where I might need to concentrate to write a story, deal with spreadsheets, or other ‘heavy lifting’ tasks, I'd use my regular desk.” By the end of two months his initial skepticism was gone and he was a converted treadmill desk user.
For those American’s who don’t walk to work, using a treadmill desk might be a great way to get some additional light physical activity. Surprisingly, a very low percentage of Americans walk to work. Only 15% of Boston residents walk to work and Boston ranks 5th out of all American cities!
If you’re looking to get a more intense workout while on a treadmill desk, take a few tips from actor Jack Black, who suggests using jazz hands to burn more calories.