Desk jobs are evolving. More Americans are getting off their butts at work. Corporations like Microsoft, Procter and Gamble, and Coca-Cola have begun purchasing new treadmill desks in bulk. In fact, TreadDesk’s sales are expected to increase by 25 percent this year alone.
According to LifeSpan Fitness from Salt Lake City, sales of tread mill desks more than tripled a year ago in 2012.
A treadmill desk allows workers to walk a pace of 1 to 2 miles per hour while doing their office work, making them simultaneously more productive mentally and physically. The slow, steady walking pace gets blood flowing without distracting workers from their desk tasks.
“Even walking at 1 mile an hour has very substantial benefits, such as doubling metabolic rate and improving blood sugar levels,” says Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic.
“Although you don’t sweat, your body moving is sort of purring along.”
Building a healthier work force from the ground up
As companies start to realize the importance of maintaining a healthy work force, they are beginning to implement ideas that encourage workers to lose weight, reduce stress, increase productivity, and hopefully lower insurance costs.
TreadDesks are the future workplace motivator.
“But not everyone wants one,” says Georges Harik, who founded a web-based instant messaging service. Harik bought two treadmill desks three years ago for his 20 employees to share.
“Employees tend to sort through email or do other work while using the treadmills…but some workers find it too distracting to incorporate standing or walking into their work, and some feel they are just not coordinated enough to multitask as they exercise.”
On the other hand, Denise Bober, human resource director for a resort hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, spends one to three hours on her office treadmill desk. She says that the subtle pace throughout the day makes a huge difference in the ways she feels at the end of the day.
“The more movement and interaction I have, the more energy I have at the end of the day.”
“If I go faster, then I make too many typing errors, but if I’m just reading a report I can go faster,” she said.
A daily 4 mile walk at your office desk
A generation that has shifted to more sit down jobs has become a generation more prone to developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Dr. James Levine believes movement at work may be the best medicine at this point. He says, “Even going to the gym three times a week doesn’t offset the harm of being sedentary for hours at a time.”
Andrew Lockerbie, of Brown & Brown, a global insurance consulting firm, says that walking on a treadmill while sorting through his emails and making phone calls has allowed him to be productive on two fronts. Lockerbie walks 3 to 4 miles a day at work, effectively burning about 350 calories a day.
“I’m in meetings and at my desk and on the phone all day,” he said. “It’s great to be able to have an option at my work to get some physical activity while I’m actually doing office stuff. You feel better, you get your blood moving, you think clearly.”
A better company health investment for the future
TreadDesks aren’t the only new workplace exercising trend. Bicycle desks are becoming more common, allowing workers to pedal their way through their work day. Giant exercise balls are replacing chairs, helping workers maintain posture as they strengthen their back, abs, and legs. Standing desks, which can be raised up and down, allow workers to stretch and get the blood moving through their body.
It may not seem like much, but just standing up at a desk makes a huge difference. Dr. Levine says, “Once you’re off your bottom, it’s inevitable that you start meandering around. Within two minutes of standing, one activates a series of metabolic processes that are beneficial. Once you sit, all of those things get switched off.”
For companies looking to keep their workers active and alive, exercising desks will be the future. A simple standup desk runs as low as $250, while desk cycles can be purchased for as low as $150 and slid under an existing desk. Exercise balls may be a cheap alternative, while many full-blown treadmill desks range from $800 to $5,000 or more.