I switched from being a very active teacher,
who regularly ran in the hallway to the amazement of her students, to becoming a university administrator who spends her day sitting in her office in front of a computer.
I knew immediately that this wasn't going to work very well health-wise for me. The ironic thing was that because there is more flexibility in this job I can for example actually go out and speedwalk or jog at lunchtime. There is even a fitness center on campus that faculty and staff can become a member of for less than the cost of a commercial gym membership. But what I have really had my eye on for months now is Dr. James Levine's walking workstation idea. He is a medical researcher at the Mayo Clinic and has realized the benefit of incorporating moderate levels of constant activity throughout your day. People who fidget by twiddling a pen or pacing the room for example
are generally lighter in weight than those that do not. All those little extra bits of exercise spread throughout the day really add up. Dr. Levine decided to design a workplace that would allow office workers like the people on his team to exercise while remaining productive and, in fact, perhaps even increase their productivity thanks to the extra energy boost they get from the exercise. For example, he put a track around their office (yes, on the inside) so that workers could hold walking meetings. For the same reason, he put whiteboards on the walls for jotting notes. Did you know that you burn an extra 20 calories an hour just by swapping out sitting for standing?
This is the first thing that I did in my office, I raised my computer monitor (originally onto an ugly box until the office manager came in and took pity on me, giving me a real monitor stand from the closet) and my keyboard and pushed my chair to the side so I could stand (sometimes with one knee kneeling on the chair). This was usually a pretty easy thing to get used to. As long as I had had a reasonable amount of sleep then it was easy to automatically work while standing when I came to work in the morning. (Just don't sit in the first place...it'll be harder to get up once you do.) The most exciting idea however was to put a treadmill at each person's standing desk so they could walk at a very leisurely 1 mph while working at their computers. They even made a deal with Steelcase to create a single-unit treadmill computer desk.
But since this thing sells for some loony price ($4500? $3500? I've heard different numbers), most people (and there are now many of us) who want to do this have rigged their own versions of a computer desk at their treadmills with anything from cheap metal shelves and nuts and bolts to wooden boards and monitor stands. There are actually several people now who are selling desks that fit over your preexisting treadmill. Me, I am going to go buy a large lapdesk from Levenger and attach it to a really cheap treadmill like this one. I hear that the motors on treadmills don't like to be run at low speeds because they heat up too quickly without the fast moving air to cool them down but I can't afford anything pricey so I'll make due with this for now. There are even groups online for people who want to walking offices! I am so excited...If I can really rig this up then I'll lose 20 lbs without even thinking about it!
Check out James Levine talking about his awesome idea on Good Morning America...
Also, here is a very nice report on this phenomenon from NPR, Treadmill Desk Heats Up Office Jobs.
I'll be taking a class this fall during my lunch break so I won't be able to do that hour of exercise but I'll be exercising the rest of the day (plus walking 5 miles to work as I have also begun doing) if this works out. Wish me luck...and get moving!
P.S. Getting up and standing or even better moving around rather than sitting up on your bum is a good thing for kids as well. Kids are really less tired and more full of productive energy after being somewhat active all day... On the other hand, being physically active means they are spending their energies on this positive activity that will make them healthier rather than expending their energies in negative ways. This is another post for another day.
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