|A 1x10 board laid across the arms of the treadmill provides support for a laptop.|
January 9, 2012
A year ago this week, I replaced the desk and chair in my office with a treadmill. For the past 365 days, whenever I've wanted to check email, write a column, do online research or see what's new on Facebook, I've done so in an upright position. My fingers tap the keyboard while my feet pad along on a band of movable floor.
My husband, a disciplined exerciser whose daily three-mile loop around the lake has been an integral part of his routine for years, has watched my indoor rambles with mystified indulgence.
"I don't know how you do it," he says, referring to my ability to punch computer keys while maintaining a steady pace. But what he's really wondering is: Why? Why would I opt to walk inside when I could be outside enjoying the fresh air and scenery?
I do it because I like it. I do it because I can. I do it to burn calories. I do it for my health.
Computers have the uncanny ability to alter time. A few minutes checking email can easily turn into two hours of browsing the web.
If I hadn't replaced my desk and chair with a treadmill, my derriere and the cushioned seat would be wedged together for a good part of the day. Sure, I'd get up for breaks, and I might even go outside to join my husband for a walk around the lake, but I'd spend the majority of my daytime hours sitting down fixated on a LCD screen.
With such a proliferation of technological gadgets vying for our attention these days, it has become common to spend more time exercising our fingers than our feet. That doesn't make it right. Or healthy.
A number of studies support the position that sitting down is causing rising health problems.
"Prolonged time spent sitting, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences," said Dr. Alpa V. Patel, senior epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society and lead researcher of a 2010 study on how sitting affects mortality.
Patel's research, which spanned 14 years and included 123,000 subjects, showed that women who sit for more than six hours a day were about 40 percent more likely to die during the course of the study than those who sat fewer than three hours a day. Men were about 20 percent more likely to die.
I have no desire to die early, but neither do I want to sweat my way to good health. That's why working at a treadmill desk is ideal. It is nothing like a ruthless gym workout. When walking-while-working on my treadmill, I do so at the leisurely pace of 1 mph.
At such a slow speed, integrating thoughts with actions is seamless. I'm able to do everything I ordinarily would do on the computer, but I do it while burning more than 100 calories an hour. Multiply that by the four to five hours I normally spend in my office and the numbers become significant.
One mph is the speed recommended by Dr. James Levine, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the person responsible for popularizing the concept of a treadmill desk.
"It's amenable to regular people," said Levine in a 2010 interview with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. "You don't need to have a gym membership. You don't need to be physically trim to use it. And you don't need to sacrifice productivity or access to the workplace in order to improve your health."
That certainly has been true for me. I love my treadmill workstation, a homemade desk made out of a length of wood laid across the treadmill arms upon which my laptop sits. I love knowing that every time I log on to the Internet I'm strengthening muscles, building bone and improving my overall health.
Sometimes getting on a road to self-improvement doesn't necessitate a road at all. An inexpensive, easy-to-construct treadmill workstation has the power to transform a sluggish, tired workaholic into an energetic, happy and much healthier walk-a-holic. That's one feat my two feet can really take a stand on.