Treadmill Desks Are Pretty Ineffective

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Photo: Timothy A Clary/AFP/GEtty Images

Sitting, as you may have heard, is the newest health crisis we’re facing in America. We sit all day at our desks, sit in cars or trains after work, then get home and sit some more. Standing desks and treadmill desks have both been proposed as ways to get people moving while at work, but according to the results of a (small) new study from Oregon State University researchers, treadmill desks on their own are maybe not quite the solution we were looking for. Using a treadmill desk during the workday doesn’t even help people meet the minimum physical-activity guidelines, reports John M. Schuna, Jr., an exercise scientist at the university, in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

About 40 overweight or obese employees participated in the study, with about half switching to a treadmill desk and the other half continuing to use their normal desks for 12 weeks. The treadmill-desk users did end up walking more than they usually did, but their pace was so slow that it didn’t count as part of the 150 minutes of "moderate" physical activity we’re all supposed to be getting each week. Makes sense — it would be pretty tough to run or even speed-walk at a decent clip on a treadmill while at the same time composing typo-free emails. Still, if we’re talking about the evils of sitting, at least this got a group of overweight office workers to move a little bit more than usual, even though they’ll apparently still need to hit the gym after work if they want to make some real changes to their health.