The Case for Treadmill Workstations

“Outside of a career change, is there anything you can do to reduce your chair time and increase your activity level? You might talk to your boss about installing a treadmill workstation, allowing you to do your work standing on a slow-moving treadmill,” Consumer Affairs reports.

“These workstations have been shown to help employees increase their activity level and burn more calories. But on your company’s tight budget, how can you convince your supervisor that this workstation is worth the investment?”

“You might start by telling them about a new study by researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. The researchers suggest that employees who use these workstations not only benefit from improved health but the company benefits from improved productivity.”

“Desk-bound employees at a financial services company were enlisted for the study. Their workstations were outfitted with a treadmill desk. The surface could be raised or lowered with the touch of a button. Whether the employees worked sitting down or standing up and walking was entirely up to them. However, all were wired with an accelerometer that kept track of their daily calories burned. At the end of 52 weeks, the employees averaged burning 74 more calories per day than before the workstations were installed. That’s all well and good, but is it enough reason for an employer to go to the expense of installing these more treadmill workstations?”

The New York Times also has a great piece on treadmill desks.

The Hidden Risks of Sitting Down

Regular readers of this blog know that we take the idea of avoiding sitting too much very seriously. It’s one of the easiest, least intrusive, and fun ways well-run workplace wellness programs can make an immediate difference in people’s health and lives.

Today we bring you a way to watch more on the topic, rather than read more.

Murat Dalkilinç created an engaging, useful, and educational video for Ted-Ed: Why sitting is bad for you.

The text intro states: “Sitting down for brief periods can help us recover from stress or recuperate from exercise. But nowadays, our lifestyles make us sit much more than we move around. Are our bodies built for such a sedentary existence?”

Understanding the Signs of a Healthy Heart

With a week still to go in American Heart Month, we wanted to address a key goal of healthy heart approaches: Avoiding heart attacks.

A well-run workplace wellness program can help focus on many components of healthy heart behavior: Exercise, stress reduction, regular movement, weight reduction, and more. But as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out: “A crisis often strikes without warning.” Further, “Preparing for a potential heart attack now could save a life later.”

Any of these tips can be part of the awareness that accompanies a workplace wellness program:

  • “Know the risks. Be educated about the risks you and your loved ones face. Certain behaviors and conditions can increase your risk for a heart attack, including smoking, having uncontrolled high blood pressure, being overweight, and eating an unhealthy diet.”
  • “Recognize the signs. Heart attacks look and feel different in women than they do in men. Both men and women may feel chest pain when having a heart attack, but women are more likely to also experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and pain in the back, neck, or jaw. About 1 in 5 heart attacks are called ‘silent’ heart attacks, which means you’re having a heart attack but don’t know it.”
  • “Be safe, not sorry. Many heart attacks start slowly with relatively mild pain. That keeps many people from calling 911 as soon as they should. Make an agreement with loved ones that you will call 911 as soon as anyone experiences any of the signs of a heart attack. Don’t hesitate: acting fast can save a life.”
  • “Focus on prevention. It pays to be prepared in case a heart attack happens, but the best case scenario is to never experience a heart attack at all. You can help prevent heart attack from happening by eating healthfully, getting enough physical activity, not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, and managing other health conditions like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes. Reach out to your loved ones and commit to making these healthy changes together.”

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

One growing trend in a healthy work life is ditching the chair and moving to a standing desk.

The Financial Times writes that “an increasing number of experts are saying that sitting for long periods is the ‘new smoking’ in terms of increasing our risk of death and disease – no matter how ergonomic your chair or how extensive your weekly exercise routine. This is because leg and back muscles become shortened over time from staying in a sitting posture and your heart suffers from a lack of activity.”

The piece continues: “Working at a computer while standing has been shown to be beneficial to office workers in a number of ways. Marvin Dainoff, an ergonomist who is director of the centre for behavioural science at US insurer Liberty Mutual, found that workers who stand up during their workday have “fewer complaints about their health as well as having higher work accuracy.’ Furthermore, they take fewer breaks than their sedentary colleagues and get more accomplished.”

Of course, there is also risk to standing too much.

“’There is a risk to the lower back and lower limbs from standing,’ says Karen Messing, who has studied this issue as a professor of biological sciences at the University of Quebec. Prof Messing says the ideal ratio is roughly 70 per cent standing and 30 per cent sitting, alternating throughout the day.”

Yahoo offers an article by one standing desk convert, who lists the reasons she’s happy with the move:

  1. “Despite my best intentions (and years of childhood ballet training), I’d hunch over in my chair for hours at a time. Slouching while standing at a desk would require real effort.”
  2. “Since I’m already up, I’m more likely to walk over to someone to ask a question or discuss an idea than to fire off an e-mail, which is healthier and more efficient, and yields richer communication.”
  3. “Sore feet are never an issue, thanks to my trusty antifatigue mat, made of spongy vinyl to give me all-day cushioning and support.”
  4. “My belly doesn’t bulge as much as it does when I’m sitting. Feeling less self-conscious about my abs and tightening them at the same time? Win!”
  5. “I’m empowered. When a coworker approaches me about a touchy issue while I’m sitting, I tend to react defensively. When I’m standing, I feel a greater sense of confidence and control.”
  6. “I have a newfound appreciation for meetings — or, should I say, sitting breaks.”

 

Time to Stand Up? New Research Reviews Problems with Sitting Too Much

We have written previously about the benefits of standing — and the dangers of sitting too much — during the day.

For example, we noted that — with more research linking a sedentary lifestyle to mortality and chronic diseases — Jacksonville University is conducting a study aimed at showing the impacts of standing on student health. The Florida Times Union reports that Jacksonville University is using “standing desks” to help reduce the eight to nine hours that a college student spends sitting during the day.

If standing at one’s desk carries benefits, a new study looks at the key question: How much?

The study is titled “Differences of energy expenditure while sitting versus standing: A systematic review and meta-analysis” and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. As the authors write:

“Replacing sitting with standing is one of several recommendations to decrease sedentary time and increase the daily energy expenditure, but the difference in energy expenditure between standing versus sitting has been controversial. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine this difference.”

“The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to investigate the difference in (energy expenditure) between sitting and standing by pooling all available evidence. These results could determine if decreasing sitting time may be considered a valid strategy to decrease sedentary behaviour, increase the amount of daily EE and possibly decrease the risk of obesity and other metabolic and cardiovascular conditions.”

Standing Matters

The results? As MedPage Today reports:

“Standing more instead of sitting was associated with a modest increase in daily energy expenditure that may add up to weight loss in the long term, according to a meta-analysis. When standing, people burned an extra 0.15 calories a minute — 0.1 calories for women and 0.19 calories for men per minute. At that rate, a 65-kg person (143.3 lbs) could burn an extra 54 calories a day just by standing instead of sitting for 6 hours.”

The study authors wrote: “Assuming no increase in energy intake, this difference in energy expenditure would be translated into the energy content of about 2.5 kg [5.5 lbs] of body fat mass in 1 year.”

While that amount of weight loss may seem modest, other benefits from standing vs. sitting have been noted.

MedPage Today wrote:

“Time spent standing, rather than sitting, was associated with lower fasting plasma glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol in a new study. Researchers attached a monitor to nearly 700 participants over 7 days and found that each additional 2 hours per day spent sitting was significantly associated with higher body mass index, waist circumference, fasting plasma glucose (about 1%), total/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratio (5%), triglycerides (12%), 2-hour plasma glucose (4%), and with lower HDL cholesterol (0.07 mmol/L).”

Ideas to Make Your Workspace a Healthier Space

You may not have total control over your workspace… but if you have even a little control, are there small things you can do to improve your health at the desk?

According to Health.com there are: “Whether you work from a home office or sit in a corporate cubicle, there are things you can do to make your workplace better for your health and wellbeing. Here’s how to give your office space a health makeover, according to the experts.”

Among the tips:

  • “Remind yourself to sit less: People who work at desks should stand or walk around for at least two hours a day to avoid health risks related to too much sitting, according to a 2015 British study… Computer programs like Move for iOS or Big Stretch Reminder for Windows can remind you to take breaks at regular intervals; some even provide suggestions for stretches and exercises you can do at your workspace”
  • “Try a standing desk: If your workplace allows it, switching to a standing desk can help you sit less and move more during the day. But being on your feet all day can also lead to aches and pains, so look for a setup that allows you to adjust the height or your work station and use a chair when needed.”
  • “Stop eating at your desk: Sitting down to lunch away from your desk won’t just keep crumbs out of your keyboard; it can also help reset your brain for an afternoon of productivity. Plus, it can stop you from eating mindlessly while you work or surf the Internet.”
  • “Pay attention to your posture: Invest in (or ask your boss to provide you with) an ergonomic desk chair that supports correct posture. You can also try a gadget like the Lumo Lift, a tiny sensor that pins to your shirt and vibrates when it senses you slouching forward.”