The kinesiology professors at University of the Sciences encourage the maintenance of fit and healthy lifestyles…even while working. Karin Richards
, interim chair of the Department of Kinesiology
, said she and her colleagues decided to “practice what they preach” by replacing their traditional office desks with treadmill desks nearly two years ago.
Though she originally used a stability ball at her desk, Richards notes the importance of constant movement that a ball or even standing desk does not provide. Research suggests the stability ball is beneficial for elementary school children, as it increases awareness and alertness through movement – though better options exist for the working world.
“Even though you’re sitting on the ball, it’s helping to engage your abdominal, hip, and leg muscles, but it’s not doing anything cardiovascular,” said Richards. “That’s why we decided to go with the treadmill desk instead.”
The treadmill desk has a maximum speed of 4 mph with no incline. During a typical work day, Richards sets her treadmill to 2.5 mph, then increases and decreases her speed depending on the task at hand. For instance, Richards will slow her speed while talking on the phone, but pick up her pace when reading emails or browsing the Internet. On an average work day, Richards logs up to eight miles before leaving the office.
Richards admits to a distinct adjustment period when she first started using the desk, during which she had to learn the best strategies to walk while working. Now, she and her staff are more productive than ever.
“It all goes back to exercise; regular, sustained exercise releases endorphins that elevate a person’s mood and energy, which ultimately stimulates creativity and productivity,” Richards said.
Furthermore, Richards said humans are meant to move. In fact, data suggests that prolonged sitting can be damaging to an individual’s health.
“We sit during our commutes, at our desks, and at home,” she said. “Even one hour of exercise cannot overcome all that sedentary time on a daily basis. We need regular breaks from sitting.”
While some critics argue that treadmill desks are not ideal working spaces for individuals who dress up each day, Richards said there have been many occasions where she and her colleagues sport sneakers and business suits on their treadmill desks. Richards also noted that she does not offer any seating in her office; therefore, her guests must stand when they meet in her office. She joked that standing cuts the length of meetings significantly.
Widely available online, treadmill desks come in a variety of options. Some sites even offer step-by-step instructions to build treadmill desks for as little as $39.
However, even without a treadmill desk, small amounts of movement are better than none, said Richards.
“Rather than parking your car at the closest spot, or circling around looking for that close parking spot – park in the back and walk; everything adds up – the more movement in your day, the better,” she said.