If you’ve been conscious about your health, you’ve probably come across literature online stating that sitting for extended periods is not suitable for your health, and more commonly, the title, “sitting is the new smoking.” Over the last couple of years, several studies have been conducted and published just to show us how bad prolonged sitting is terrible for our health. Based on the findings from these studies, office workers who spend a lot of time seated on their desks are more likely to be obese, suffering from diabetes, heart diseases, and back pain. In this article, we will explain to you the advantages and disadvantages of treadmill desks.
Why Should I Be Bothered?
It is estimated that individuals who sit for more than 11 hours in a day are 40 percent more likely to die prematurely compared to peers who spend four hours a day seated. Also, according to a recent study, about 70 percent of adults in the U.S are overweight; therefore, everyone must incorporate more exercise into their daily routine.
It might be hard to imagine that anyone can spend that many hours seated; but if you work in a traditional office set up; sitting at your desk from 9-5, you’ve spent 8 hours already. Now, consider the amount of time you spend eating dinner and watching your television after you get home. In case you commute to work, that’s more time spent seated.
According to health experts, it is recommended that you walk at least 10,000 steps every day to stay healthy. However, between work and home commitments, it might be challenging to achieve this goal. It doesn’t matter if you get some time to hit the gym after a long day at work, sitting for 8 hours in a day is still not a healthy option— In comes the treadmill desk.
The treadmill desks are not anything new. They have been in use in the workplace environment since 2007. Part of the reason why they are so popular is that they are believed to help increase your steps, burn more calories, help get better circulation, and also boost your overall energy levels while working.
Treadmill Desks: The Good
Helps burn calories
This shouldn’t come as a surprise – you will burn more calories walking than standing! The difference between an individual walking in place and standing is significant, and it adds up over time. Based on recent data, while standing for an hour, a person weighing 170 lbs. burns 186 calories compared to 139 calories while seated. This is not such a huge margin when you think about it.
However, the same individual at a moderate pace walking in place burns around 320 calories in an hour. A significant margin, adding up over time.
According to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, there is a mean increase of 120 calories per hour (a tablespoon of peanut butter) using a treadmill desk compared to working while seated. These margins could significantly help maintain a healthy weight.
For most health-conscious office workers, a workout at the gym sums up their day. With the treadmill desktop, individuals can work and burn their daily calories at the same time, offering a huge benefit. With this setup, office workers can get in all their daily steps while remaining focused on the tasks ahead- getting jobs twice as much done with the same amount of time.
Depending on your schedule, you could take a break from work and use the treadmill to get a brisk jog in between your day for more calorie burn and extra energy boost.
Improves psychological health
Recent studies have indicated that individuals who spend a lot of time seated working on their computers experience a lot of fatigue leading to poor psychological health and wellbeing. Exercise has been known to help boost mood through circulation, improving focus, and attention.
Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology discovered individuals who used walking stations experienced higher levels of arousal and job satisfaction. They experienced less stress and boredom at work compared to their seated counterparts.
Treadmill desktop: The Bad
Occupy a lot of space
It’s evident from their size, a treadmill desk isn’t a tiny piece of furniture in an office space. It is due to this reason that you need to carefully measure and consider the room area you will install it before making a purchase.
Treadmill desks are not cheap
It’s understandable for an employer to spend more than $2000 on a desk that will offer long term benefits for their employer. However, an employer paying that amount of money on a desk that will be used briefly isn’t a smart choice. In case your employees are not committed to walking while working, these desks will end up being dust collectors.
Reduces posterior chain engagement
Walking on a treadmill and walking outside is not the same, even though the motions look similar. During a regular walking routine; you will engage your hamstrings and glutes to help push yourself forward by pulling your legs back.
While using a treadmill, the belts in motion do this work for you. All you need to do is get the next foot in front to prevent falling and lift your rear foot to prevent you from falling backward. Based on research, the posterior chain engagement in your swing is lower using a treadmill. Also, individuals using the treadmill desk will miss out on the calf flexing benefit walking offers; which is perhaps the most significant benefit we get from walking.
Reduce cognitive performance
A study discovered that treadmill desks resulted in lower work performance when carrying out particular cognitive tasks and fine motor skills results compared to office workers who were seated. However, additional research needs to be done to ascertain if the results remain the same over a long period; or the users will simply adapt to working while walking.
Like anything else that involves activity, using a treadmill desk comes with the risk of hurting yourself. While it’s natural not to walk fast while working or concentrating on something, there’s always the risk of losing balance and falling while using the treadmill desk, which is a liability to the employer.
They are a distraction to coworkers
Treadmills like most health and exercise equipment can be noisy. And while the treadmill desks are made to be a little quieter compared to an actual treadmill; your colleagues might find your repetitive steps and whirring motor a bit annoying. Depending on the tasks, some individuals might not be able to get fully immersed; while others are walking on the treadmill desk.
Considerations to Make Before Purchasing a Treadmill Desk
Before purchasing a treadmill desk, consider the amount of space you have in your office. For the best benefit, have at least 6-feet of support length and 3-feet of clearance behind the treadmill.
It is essential to consider the noise your treadmill desk will produce in the area around coworkers. It’s also imperative to consider if you will be using the treadmill desk while working on conference calls and phone calls. The motor and footsteps you make using the treadmill desk will produce noise and vibrations that can be very distracting.
Safety at the workplace is critical to the current workplace environment. An individual using a treadmill desk could miss a step and lose their balance. Also, someone who is unaware the treadmill is operating could step on the belt, losing their stability. It is, therefore, essential to consider the following safety tips:
- Maximum speed – The higher the speed, the higher the potential risk
- Side rails – a treadmill desk with side rails will offer a stable place to stand when the belt is in motion. Purchase one with this feature.
- Auto pause feature – Most accidents on a treadmill desk occur when the desk is left in motion and accidentally stepped on. Purchase a treadmill desk with an auto-pause feature.
- Cost – treadmill desks are not cheap. Therefore, consider their usability before making a purchase, ensure that your employees are committed to using them before wasting your money on a gadget that won’t be used and will also lose valuable office space.
Since treadmill desks are relatively new in the market if they have a problem; what can you expect from the product warranty? Depending on the company, the manufacturer warranties will include separate lengths of coverage for labor, frame, and parts.
Like any other device, you will be expected to maintain it to keep it working perfectly for longer. Consider the type of maintenance the treadmill desk requires and what it might cost you. It is recommended that you visually inspect the device every 3-months to ensure the belt is centered correctly and lubricated.
There is no doubt that treadmill desks offer excellent benefits and promote a healthier workplace. Having an office that lets you exercise while getting tasks completed empowers you to find time to take care of your health without necessarily having to worry about sacrificing time somewhere else (for instance, family time).
However, while the treadmill desk is excellent for staying alert and exercising, using it for every task won’t be practical. Due to this, treadmill desks will offer the best benefit as a communal office resource.