Treadmill desks (they exist) can increase your activity levels without impairing your work performance

Obesity and being sedentary are both associated with health problems. Reengineering the office environment by providing treadmill desks may be one way to improve employee health. Using a treadmill desk running about 1.6km per hour burns an additional 418 to 627kj per hour. For this study 36 employees volunteered to trade their regular desk for a treadmill desk during the year-long study. Of these employees, 15 were overweight and 11 were obese. At baseline, 6 months, and 12 months, physical activity, body composition, blood variables, and work performance were measured. Before the treadmill desks were installed the average time spent walking per day was 70 minutes; that rose to 128 minutes at 6 months, and declined a bit to 109 minutes at 12 months. Time spent being sedentary fell from 1,020 minutes per day at the start of the study to 929 at 6 months and rose a bit to 978 minutes per day by the end of the study. Overall, average weight loss was a modest 1.4 kg, but was greater, 2.3 kg, among people who were obese. Use of the treadmill desk did not impair work performance. Participants who were obese benefited from the treadmill desks more than their lean counterparts. This is in contrast to some worksite health programs, such as subsidized gym memberships, that are use more often by lean than obese workers. The treadmill desks, which cost about $3,000 each, were not cost-effective for weight loss. But if they help prevent the development of diabetes – which costs about $10,000 per person per year to treat – then they could prove to be cost effective, say the authors.

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