Can You Truly Work and Workout at the Same Time?

November 30, 2018

walking treadmill desk
Working out on the job is easier than you think.

Woman using standing desk for better workplace ergonomics.

Ben Eubanks

Does the idea of a desk bike or a treadmill desk sound a little bit strange to you? While some may hold onto skepticism, others have come to love just how much exercise they can sneak in during the day — sometimes without even realizing it.

For many Americans, especially those in office jobs, sitting is something they've come to expect from work. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, sitting for extended periods of time can contribute to all kinds of health issues, with results similar to those of obesity or a smoking habit. To combat the ill effects of sitting, companies have come up with creative ways to get employees more active in the workplace, and you may be surprised at how effective they can be.

Ergonomics in the Workplace

The first step in creating a more active employee population is to look at the ergonomics of their work environment. Ergonomics refers to the efficiency of the workplace, and focusing on ergonomics can change how work gets accomplished.

Today's workers don't have much activity built into their day. Consider this: the average worker wakes up, rides in a vehicle to work, sits at a desk and doesn't move except to go to the restroom or break room. But employers can change work routines, the physical work space or other elements to create a healthier work environment.

Standing as a Workout

In an effort to make offices more ergonomic, what if we swapped most of our sitting for standing?

Standing desks have become more common in today's workplace, and for good reason. Standing meetings have been shown to increase creativity in teams, according to Washington University in St.Louis. Standing also burns approximately 50 more calories per hour than sitting, according to the BBC, meaning the average person can burn an additional 400 calories a day by doing nothing other than swapping to a standing desk. This is a step in the right direction, but additional options for improving ergonomics in the workplace are worth consideration.

The Desk Bike and the Treadmill Desk

Riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill might sound a bit over the top, but you may reconsider when you realize some of the potential health benefits involved in a more active workforce.

With a desk bike, workers can pedal away while they file their expense reports, prepare for that big presentation or talk with customers on the phone. While some question the practicality, the Atlantic shared a story outlining how the use of a desk bike can boost concentration. Research published in the journal Public Health also reported that using a desk bike helped participants improve their attention, motivation and work performance. In addition, those individuals were more energetic and self-confident following sessions on the desk bike.

Treadmill desks are similar pieces of equipment. A study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that the use of a treadmill desk improved memory and attention in participants. Not only do these desks have the same productivity-boosting effects as a biking desk, but, according to the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, they are also helpful in reducing stress.

When thinking about employee wellness, many employers turn to offering gym membership subsidies or other approaches, but those methods don't necessarily target the right workers. Beyond that, the use of specialized desks can give back some of the time employees may spend exercising outside of work. Adding treadmill desks or bike desks in the workplace puts employee health at the forefront and also brings additional benefits around heightened creativity, better moods and more.

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