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Treadmill Desks Won’t Solve All Your Problems

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If you’ve considered a treadmill desk to replace sitting in a regular old office chair, you may want to take some pause. While treadmill desks do have their benefits, which CBS News reports include “improved sharpness” and increased physical fitness, they can also be a pain in the behind to implement and may be much better in theory than they are in practice.

An author of a study on the use of treadmill desks in the office, John Schuna Jr., told Discovery News, “Treadmill desks aren’t an effective replacement for regular exercise, and the benefits of the desks may not justify the cost and other challenges that come with implementing them.”

For Schuna’s study, 41 overweight and obese people with desk jobs had their weight and body mass indices monitored over 12 weeks. 21 of these subjects were to work at treadmill desks, while the remaining 20 kept their normal seated stances. Over the course of 12 weeks, there was no significant chance to the BMIs nor weights of the subjects who used treadmill desks compared to those sitting at normal desks, although those at treadmill desks took an average of 1,600 more steps than their seated counterparts.

The study also found that those at treadmill desks only used the actual treadmill feature for about half the amount of the recommended time (only 45 minutes instead of the recommended 90); another issue those with treadmill desks faced was the intensity of their workouts: They averaged about 1.8 miles per hour, which amounts to light exercise. Of course, that’s better than nothing, but Schuna notes that it’s hard to actually do one’s job while getting a moderate to intense workout: “”One of the challenges with the treadmill desk is that it needs to be lower-intensity activity so employees can still perform their work duties.”

Other challenges faced by the study included participation (out of 700 company employees, only 10 percent were willing to use a treadmill desk), as well as scheduling treadmill desks’ use between all participants and figuring out where to place them and which job positions were able to use them with the least interruption of actual work.

Still, this all really depends on where you work what you’re doing. A treadmill desk may well be the best thing that’s ever happened to you, while being the worst idea ever for your cubemate with bad knees.

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