Many people struggle with finding time to fit exercise into their daily routine. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults should exercise for 30–60 minutes at moderate intensity, five days a week.1 People unable to meet these recommendations can still benefit from some activity. Enter the latest trend in worksite ergonomics: the treadmill desk.
Oftentimes, employees sit down at their desk, log in to their email and work for the next few hours. The negative health effects of sitting have led to the notion that “sitting is the new smoking.” So if we can whistle while we work, perhaps it’s time to walk while we work! Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of investing in treadmill desks.
On the pro side, walking can help maintain a healthy weight. It can help prevent or manage heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Walking improves your mood, strengthens bones and muscles, and can improve balance and coordination.2 There are psychological benefits, too. Regular exercise can reduce stress, ward off anxiety, boost self-esteem and even improve sleep.3
However, it’s also important to take a look at the risks. Many report that multitasking can be challenging. Walking can make it harder to complete everyday work tasks that require the use of fine motor skills, such as writing, typing and using the cursor or mouse. Have you ever tried to scroll through your music library in your phone, looking for that perfect song while you’re moving? Not an easy feat for many. It is easy to get carried away with work. And if an employee loses balance on the treadmill, it can lead to serious injuries.
For safety reasons, most treadmill desks are set to a maximum speed of less than 2.0 miles an hour (many closer to 1.5 miles per hour). That slow pace means they are not to be considered a replacement for regular exercise. Yet they play a role in helping to reduce sitting time.
Before outfitting your office space with treadmill desks, consider safety, abilities to multitask, how long to stay on a treadmill desk, and keeping it relevant. Too many times, I’ve seen treadmill desks brought into the workplace, only to be improperly used or not used.
Considering creative and fun ways to keep your employees healthy? Learn more about our On-Site Ergonomics.
ACSM issues new recommendations on quantity and quality of exercise. Press release. acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/08/01/acsm-issues-new-recommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.
Mayo Clinic staff. Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health. Mayo Clinic. March 19, 2016. mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.
org. The mental health benefits of exercise. helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.
About the Author:
Abigail Hoffman, MS, CEAS I
Abigail Hoffman holds a master’s degree in health promotion and has 10 years of experience in the field of corporate wellness. As product manager of Optum® On-Site Ergonomics, she ensures that on-site ergonomists build trusted relationships with employers and employees. Her focus is on education and awareness, to bring about positive behavior change to those within the workforce. This preventive solution aims to decrease the cumulative impact and stressors to the body over time that can cause injury and limit peoples’ ability to enjoy work, hobbies, sports and normal daily activities.