Exercise while you work in office of the future

According to a Mayo Clinic obesity researcher, if he had his way sitting at their desks is about the last thing workers would do in his office of the future.

In Dr. James Levine's set-up instead of being sedentary in front of their computers, workers would stand, and instead of standing still, they would walk on a treadmill. Rather than meet around a conference table, they would talk business while walking laps on a track.

What is more this not a case of yet another silly scientific notion, Levine, and several of his colleagues have been working for the past five weeks in just such a fashion.

Levine, says he hates going to the gym, which is probably why he is so interested in this idea, He manages to keep up a 1 mph. pace on his treadmill while checking e-mail and answering questions.

That speed, says Levine is slow enough to avoid breaking a sweat but fast enough to burn an extra 100 calories per hour, or 1,000 a day, given his average 10-hour workdays, and it helps the 41-year-old endocrinologist keep his 5-foot-8 1/2-inch frame at 158 pounds.

He says by this method he could anticipate a weight loss of 50 pounds a year, if he were to maintain his present diet.

Levine is a leading researcher of NEAT, short for "non-exercise activity thermogenesis", the calories people burn during everyday activities such as standing, walking or even fidgeting.

In a recently published study he showed that thin people are on their feet an average of 152 more minutes a day than couch potatoes, and was brainstorming ways to address that 2 1/2-hour NEAT deficit a few months ago when he had the idea for the "ultimate office makeover.

He maintains that the response has to be appropriate for the magnitude of the problem, and so they had to find a completely different way of working.

His team quickly developed an alternative to the traditional cubicle - workstations that combine a computer, desk and treadmill into one unit. This was a refinement of a desk Levine created for himself about six months ago.

Around the perimeter of their new 5,000-square-foot space, he and his team put a carpeted track, and made walls out of magnetic marker boards so they could stand up while developing project ideas.

They also used black tape to mark a hockey net on the wall behind Levine's treadmill so they can fire lightweight plastic pucks at the goal while talking to him.

Levine says the makeover was relatively cheap, the 10 workstations cost about $1,000 each, about half the cost of a cubicle, and remodeling the space cost about $5.50 per square foot.

For those who don't feel like standing they can pull up a tall stool to work on their computers. The environment sends out the message that walking and being upright is the norm.

For Chinmay Manohar, a 24-year-old research assistant in Levine's office, a runner and a hiker, staying fit doesn't appear to be a major concern he's a trim 5-feet-8 and 130 pounds.

He says he has found that Levine's setup keeps him more alert and focused, and it took only a day or two to get acquainted with the system.

Levine has had a positive response from many sedentary workers who would to access the treadmill work stations which as yet are not commercially available.

Mayo Clinic's technology licensing people are presently working on it.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
Physical activity in the 20s appears to provide heart health benefits for women in later life