Don't Sit!

By Anica Wong

November 30, 2011 5 min read

We've all been there before. After sitting at your desk for five hours straight, your vision starts to get blurry, your fingers are covered in potato chip grease, and your thoughts are getting derailed every time someone walks into your office. When you leave for the night, you can't help but think: "Ugh. I feel gross and unhealthy."

It seems that more and more workers are becoming tethered to their desks, unmovable from their computers and phone systems. While this may increase the productivity of a company, it also can decrease the health of the workers. Many studies have shown that sedentary office environments lead to health complications.

A report out of the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research has found that sitting at a desk for long periods of time increases the risk of colorectal cancers by 200 percent. A 20-year Nurses' Healthy Study of 72,000 female nurses showed that for those who walked three hours a week, their risk of breast cancer was reduced greatly.

According to a 2006 University of Michigan study, the percentage of people who exercised regularly from 1980 to 2000 remained the same, but the amount of people who spent time sitting (especially at their desks) rose by 8 percent. The more hours per day you sit at your desk, the higher likelihood of your dying an early death from a variety of health-related issues, including diabetes and heart disease.

This is what Steve Bordley is trying to battle. He is CEO at TrekDesk, a company that creates desks that can be placed over a treadmill so workers can walk on the treadmill during their workday. After an accident rendered Bordley temporarily inactive, he gained weight and his cholesterol levels shot through the roof. This was when his brainchild was born. He found that just from walking during the day, he lost 25 pounds, cured his back pain and lowered his cholesterol. It was as simple as walking.

"Our whole goal is just to start a movement revolution," says Bordley. He points to the surgeon general's recommendation of 10,000 steps a day as the key to a healthier America. "The American Heart Association says that if you walk those 10,000 steps a day, we'd reduce initial heart attack rates by 90 percent," he says.

But how do workers walk during the day if they need to create spreadsheets and presentations? That's where the TrekDesk comes in. By placing a desk over the treadmill, the worker can continue to perform while walking.

While the idea is simple enough, there is still some hesitation to "exercising" while on the job. People don't want to sweat. That seems to be the common misconception, says Bordley. He adds that you only walk about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour while using a treadmill and associated desk. A person can walk the 10,000-step minimum put out by the surgeon general in two to three hours while on a treadmill.

TrekDesk's treadmill desk has a price tag of $479, and to use it, one has to have a treadmill and, more importantly, the space to put a treadmill in an office. If your cubicle doesn't allow this, there are other ways to stay active while at work.

According to the Mayo Clinic, one suggestion is to look for opportunities during the day to stand. This could include standing while on the phone (a technique Bordley suggests for everyone) or even getting a standing desk (where you stand instead of sit).

Another good idea is to take regular breaks and move around during the day; avoid extended periods of time sitting at your desk. Instead of hanging out at the water cooler, take a walk around the office or down the hall. Climb a few flights of stairs to get your heart rate up. If you have colleagues who are up for it, create walking meetings, where instead of sitting around a conference table, you take the meeting to the sidewalks and enjoy the sunshine.

Bordley believes that walking is the magic pill that we've all been looking for to become healthier, happy individuals.

"TrekDesk doesn't cure cancer, but walking does. The magic is in movement," he says.

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