Thursday, 18 July 2013

Thursday's Random Thought (Walk While You Work)

Have you ever “accidentally taken” a magazine from a waiting room? 

Come on, you can admit it.  I won’t tell anyone!

I hate to admit it but I did – just the other day.

I usually walk around with a book or my e-reader in my handbag, but on this day (of course) I did not have either with me.  I had occasion to be sitting in a waiting room and was thumbing through a magazine (Chatelaine April 2013).  As I came upon the article that was the inspiration for this blog entry I was called in to my appointment (of course).  I held the magazine in my hand as I walked into the office, sat down, rolled up the magazine and tucked it into my purse as if it were my own.  I would feel guilty but as it turns out I have a return appointment next Tuesday, so I am going to, just as surreptitiously, return the magazine to the waiting room. 

Hey, it’s better than tearing the pages out and leaving the rest of the magazine there.  I hate it when people do that because invariably the “continued on” pages of the article I’m reading was located on the opposite side of the page that has been torn out.

By now you are probably thinking to yourself, “Enough already.  What was the darn article about?”

It was titled “Walk While You Work” and it introduced the idea of ‘treadmill desks”.  The tag-line read, “Melt off that muffin top, add years to your life and clear out your inbox (without breaking a sweat!) on a treadmill desk – coming soon to an office near you”.    Honestly, it probably won’t be coming to an office near me anytime in the foreseeable future.  A.  My boss would never go for it and B.  I am just not coordinated enough to pull that off.

Researchers at Brigham Young University recently linked lack of exercise with poor work performance and lower productivity of up to 50 percent.  (Then again, maybe my boss would go for it if I showed him those stats?  Nah, I can’t even get him to invest in a new computer right now.)  Researchers also linked the health risks with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, dubbing it “sitting disease”.  Inactivity stresses the heart, clouds critical thinking and messes with how our bodies process cholesterol, blood sugar and gats.  It can also lead to diabetes, cancer and premature death. 

The good news – a recent study found cutting the time spent sitting in half can increase life expectancy by two years!

The article goes on to say that 70 percent of us spend six or more hours a day in a chair.  Even weekly workouts are not enough to offset the damage due to too little movement.  Several studies show that something as simple as standing for two minutes every 20 minutes can fight the unhealthy effects of sitting.  If you take a walk break every 20 minutes, the results are immediate: blood pressure drops, blood sugar stabilizes and the enzyme that helps break up fat in your bloodstream fires up.  After two weeks you’ll even begin producing more brain cells, particularly those related to memory and learning.

Now I am the first to admit that I complain about never having enough time to do everything I have to do, much less carve out a little bit of time for things I want to do.  But, a treadmill at my desk … I don’t know? … I picture being all sweaty dealing with customers, being out of breath when I answer the phone, reaching for something and ending up flying off the back of the treadmill … all sorts of interesting pictures come to mind and none of them are too flattering.

Apparently the makers of these desk treadmills ( $999) have factored in my “klutz factor”.  Unlike regular gym models, treadmill desks max out at just over 6.4 km per hour, so they can run all day without burning out their motors.  The suggested pace for walking and working at the same time is 1 mph (1.6 km).  This means, say the manufacturers, that we can “run” a slow moving marathon without even noticing we’re doing it.  Light cardio exercise boosts the production of feel-good chemicals and lowers levels of stress hormones.

The result?

The Mayo Clinic says we can burn 800 calories or more a day, which can translate to weight loss of 15 to 50 pounds in a year.  It may also eliminate that afternoon sugar craving.  A simple 15-minute stroll can cut chocolate cravings in half.  The article claims that because you are moving slowly, it does not interfere with daily tasks, like tapping out emails or talking on the phone.

Before I go on I need to address that last line with a bit of a personal note.  I have a treadmill at home and I do enjoy walking on it.  It’s down time – I do not have to think about anything or concentrate on anything except putting one foot in front of the other.  I prefer it to walking outside because it forces me to maintain a consistent pace (of my own choosing) and there are no obstacles to worry about (there’s that klutz factor rearing its ugly head again).  There are also no weather concerns (okay that’s a plus/minus point because it also means I can’t use ice and snow as an excuse not to walk).  I listen to music while I am on the treadmill.  I have mentioned before that I need that thump-thump-thump to keep my feet moving.  I cannot concentrate of listening to an audio book.  I cannot concentrate on a television program or a movie.  Granted I walk faster than 1 mph on my treadmill at home, but if I can’t even watch a television program how am I supposed to concentrate on work, or carry on an intelligent telephone conversation or type an email while I am walking on the treadmill? 

I’m not trying to be a Negative Nellie, but for me (and it is after all my blog) the treadmill desk would not work.  It’s an interesting idea and for some (more coordinated) folks it would definitely be an interesting idea for the workplace.

My other main concern?  In all the pictures I looked at in the magazine and on line the people walking/working has these wonderful, well-organized, tidy desktops and apparently no need, what-so-ever, for desk drawers and files.

Mine never looks like that while I am working.

If, like me, you are not going to have a treadmill desk delivered anytime soon there are a few other steps you can take to get in a little exercise and burn off a few calories while at work.
-         take the stairs instead of the elevator
-         stand up whenever possible, standing burns an extra 56 calories per hour
-         walking to a coworkers desk with communications instead of emailing them burns an extra 12 calories
-         if you must sit at your desk and/or in meetings for extended periods of time try to get up every 20 minutes or so and have a stretch or do a couple of squats

According to Chatelaine Magazine next year Lifespan plans to roll out a cycle chair.  It would definitely be a little more stable but for many of the same reasons I stated above, in my personal situation I don’t think this would work out any better than the treadmill desk.  Besides, with both the treadmill desk and the cycle chair I have these thoughts of two people (probably men – sorry!) deciding it would be fun to have a “race”.  Under no circumstance would that ever be a good idea in the office.

Remember a few years ago when fitness and health experts were suggesting a stability ball instead of a chair at your desk to help strengthen your core.  That was a non-intrusive addition to the work place.  However, maybe because in my line of work I have occasions throughout the course of the day where I deal with the public walking in, I could never get over the “dork” factor.  I envisioned all sorts of ugly scenarios if I tried to get up too quickly.

Yeah –
I think I will stick to doing my workouts in the privacy of my own home, while constantly
complaining about the lack of time to do them.
Of course!

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