|Can you imagine walking at your desk while you work? Rob Marsh can, and does. Marsh, a real-estate broker, purchased something called a "TrekDesk" (a combination desk-treadmill) with his own money because, after a 25-year career spent mostly sitting at a desk and enduring lower-back pains that he attributes to that sedentary work regimen, he decided it was time for a change. As you'll read in "Making Moves,"
Jared Shelly's story about companies that are encouraging their workers to move around more during the workday, Marsh doesn't regret his decision.
"I much prefer working this way than being stationary," he told Shelly.
You certainly won't find me spending the day on such an apparatus anytime soon. I get a headache just thinking about it. But after reading some of the research Shelly used for his story, I've definitely begun walking more around the office, taking the more circuitous route between my desk and the break room and, weather permitting, venturing outside for walks during the lunch hour. It definitely makes the day go by more quickly.
The unpleasant reality is that, according to the latest research, sitting all day has health consequences -- even if you work out after you get home. This is unwelcome news for most of us. We've already been told we need to watch our weight, reduce our portion sizes and exercise more. Now we've got to worry about moving around more when we're supposed to be focusing on our work?
It's true that we humans weren't designed to be sedentary all day. Our ancestors moved around constantly -- let's face it, they had to. Today, many of us sit in our cars on the way to work, then spend most of the workday at our desks and, save for perhaps an hour of walking or exercising for the more diligent among us, spend much of the evening sitting in front of an electronic screen of one sort or another.
The companies profiled in Shelly's story are doing everything they can to encourage their employees to be more active during the workday. Some of them are turning to devices like the TrekDesk (a similar device, the Walkstation, is made by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Steelcase). The makers of these devices say that giving people the opportunity to stand and walk at a slow, steady pace throughout the day -- without necessarily breaking a sweat -- can yield positive health benefits.
The very latest research suggests they're onto something. A recent New York Times Magazine story on the benefits of exercise cited a new study by Barry Braun, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting -- when they had to use the bathroom, for example, they used a wheelchair to get there. The same volunteers spent the following day standing, not engaged in any particular activity, but remaining on their feet the entire day.
The researchers found that the day spent standing resulted in a big difference in terms of calories burned by the volunteers compared to the sedentary day -- "hundreds of calories," Braun told the magazine.
Even more notably, the research team found that the day spent standing did not lead to increased levels of ghrelin -- a hormone that helps to regulate the appetite. That's especially noteworthy because high levels of ghrelin are thought to negate the potential weight-loss benefits of exercise -- the more you exercise, in other words, the higher your ghrelin levels and, thus, the greater the urge to eat to make up for the calories burned.
However, standing all day lets you burn calories without a concurrent urge to replace them by gorging during mealtimes.
Standing meetings, anyone?
TrekDesk Treadmill Desk story by Andrew McIlvaine