Employees walk while working on treadmill desks

It’s bad enough that for many people work is like being on a treadmill, but now I am reading that, as a response to our  sedentary office life,  some companies are installing treadmill desks.

I had heard about people using elevated standing desks. I tried setting up a makeshift standing writing desk myself (more like a podium). After all, Hemingway used one!

I tried writing that way for a few weeks, but I didn’t see any improvement in my writing or my back, legs or health, so I went back to a chair.

James Levine, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic came up with the idea of the treadmill desk, and he recommends only alternating a half-hour on and off and only for two to three hours a day.

If you think about it, we usually design our work spaces to minimize movement. Everything easy to reach, rolling chairs to move to file cabinets, the coffeemaker and the snack cabinet.

I have read in several places that you shouldn’t sit for more than ten or fifteen minutes, and that just getting up at your chair for a minute is helpful. Even better is walking a bit.  I find myself so absorbed sometimes that I have to remind myself to go to the bathroom. And most office types have sent an email or called someone who is within walking or even talking distance. Now that is sad.

Levine talks about companies doing “walk and talk” meetings. And companies like Google pride themselves on offering chances for employees to break with exercise, or games like ping-pong, tennis and squash.

I have definitely bought into walking as a way to add years to your life.  The studies I have seen vary on the numbers but generally if you can do some brisk walking for just 75 minutes per week, you can increase your life expectancy by 1.8 years. Kick it up to 450+ minutes a week (about an hour a day) you can add 4 years or more. How do they do such a calculation? They track the activity levels of people (ages 21 to 90) and then 10 years later, they follow-up to see who is still ticking.

A lot of this research indicates that even small increases in activity lead to a longer lifespan. It’s the no exercise group that suffers the most. There are plenty of  “50 Ways to Add Years to Your Life” types of articles online.

So, if life and work is a treadmill (better than a rat race, I suppose), then walking is one way to keep ahead of the Grim Reaper.

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