For those who are new to the topic of treadmills at your dispatch console, head over to workwhilewalking.com and check out the FAQ on treadmill desks.
At first, the prospect of combining light exercise with work seems like a great idea. You can save time and achieve a level above the ubiquitous sit-to-stand desks all while crushing the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s guidelines of 150 minutes or more of moderate exercise per week. That will lead to better health, more productivity and happiness, right? The answer is yes… with a few caveats. The following is a summary of the key takeaways we’ve gleaned from our research and speaking with our customers and colleagues who have taken the step.
More movement means better health.
This is a widely accepted and generally true principal. As previously mentioned, 150 or more minutes of exercise can lead to benefits including “lower risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and depression.” Additionally, research has pointed out that compared to short, vigorous exercise, constant movement throughout the day is a far greater contributor to individual health.
Increased energy levels
I can personally vouch for the benefits of mid-workday exercise as a cure for afternoon slumps. Whether taking a 2-3 mile walk or diving into a lunch session of cross-fit, I am able to return to work with a renewed focus and increased optimism to finish out the day. The same principles hold true with more frequent exercise and continual walking on a treadmill while working.
Higher calorie burn
Among the chief benefits of standing, walking and moving more are the well-documented benefits correlated with increased calorie burn. A 2011 study led by Timothy Church estimates that daily caloric burn is reduced by at least 100 calories when sitting. There is no doubt that a treadmill at the desk will reverse this effect.
Reduced back pain
Many blog articles have been written that detail experiments with treadmill desks at work. A common theme is the reduction of back pain. Likely a result of muscular tension balancing across the core muscles, there seems to be consensus that constant walking can reduce some instances of chronic back pain.
The hassle factor
Regardless of how much you love your treadmill and your job, there are very few, if any, individuals that can actually walk on a treadmill for 16 miles a day. Most people either need to be able to relocate to a second work area or replace the device with a chair as needed. In practice, moving and storing the heavy equipment may prove more hassle than benefit.
They are expensive
Integrated treadmill desks retail for between $1300 and $2700! Just for comparison, NordicTrack treadmills retail on Amazon for $700-$1300. If the equipment is used every day, this may make sense, but many communications center adopters never realize the full return from such a large investment.
They are a novelty
A large majority of the customers we’ve interviewed since purchasing their treadmills have reported abandoning their treadmills after around 4 weeks. At first the excitement and novelty drives a high rate of adoption that quickly fades when the marginal benefits cease to outweigh the hassle.
Limited capacity and durability
Potentially due to cost saving measures, or because some models are designed specifically for slow-pace walking, many office treadmills are not built to the same specifications as exercise grade equipment and don’t include the same warranty or weight capacities.
Increased error rates
Working while walking on a treadmill is simply more difficult. Although there are some accounts that claim improvement over time, typing accurately while walking is no easy feat.
The bottom line is that if you’re moving fast enough to qualify your exercise as moderate, you’re likely also perspiring enough for your coworkers to take notice.