Walk and Work

Two days ago I reminded readers that not too long ago, people were actually paid to be physically active. Today, choosing to be physically active actually costs money (not to mention time).

So the big challenge is, how do we reintroduce activity into the work place so that people can actually be physically active at work again (allowing them to lounge around the couch in front of the TV when they get home).

Well, one obvious solution is to create a workspace where someone can get a workout in while on the computer. That is exactly the idea behind the “Walk Station” a desk that comes matched with a treadmill instead of a chair.

The device, the science (and the hype) behind it are described in an article from the Edmonton Journal from which I quote:

The device allows people to work on their computers while walking on a treadmill at a slow speed of up to three kilometres per hour, enabling small amounts of movement that supporters say have the potential to reap big health benefits.

The product, made by Details, a unit of Michigan-based office furniture maker Steelcase, is selling 30 to 40 units per week, according to company president Bud Klipa.

The Walkstation was unveiled last year based on research from James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, who contends that fitness can be improved through small, modest movements for people who are otherwise sedentary.

Levine’s research indicates that people who use the Walkstation can increase energy expenditure by 100 calories per hour when walking at a 1.6 kilometres (one mile) per hour, helping weight loss.

The treadmill, which costs around $4,500 for a base model, never exceeds a speed of three kilometres per hour, which, according to the manufacturer, allows most people to use it for a few hours each day.

So here are my questions:

Where is the evidence that this device will actually promote weight loss?

What will prevent this device from going down the same path as previous workplace health initiatives – embraced by the already fit, ignored by the people who need them most?

Will it increase weight-based discrimination at the workplace – the thin people are walking, the overweight are not – no one stops to ask why – back pain? osteoarthritis? depression? plantar fasciitis? – excuses, excuses! Who cares!

Although is seems like a good way to reintroduce activity into the workplace, it is still “useless” activity, i.e. you are not actually paid to walk – or in other words, you don’t really have to walk to get your job done.

While I personally would probably not mind having this device, I can see all sorts of problems – anyone out there who’s experienced this or a similar device – I’d love to hear how this has influenced intra-office dynamics.

I will maintain my scepticism on this being the answer till I see some actual data.

Edmonton, Alberta