WASHINGTON, November 27 (By Maria Young for RIA Novosti) - Like a lot of Americans, Craig Dexheimer has a desk job working nine or 10 hours a day, and with two young boys, he doesn’t have a lot of extra time for working out.
But Dexheimer spends much of the day on his feet, walking as he works, on an elevated desk that sits over a treadmill turning at a leisurely pace of one to two miles (1.6 to 3.2 kilometers) per hour.
“Right now I’ve got a suit on with tennis shoes, and I’m walking while I work,” he told RIA Novosti in a telephone interview Monday. “I’m not breaking a sweat, I’m not out of breath, and clients would never know unless I mentioned it.”
By the end of the day, he’ll likely have walked six miles (9.6 kilometers) and burned around 800 calories, said Dexheimer, who works for Salo, a financial consulting firm in the Midwestern state of Minnesota.
Salo, which has 10 treadmill desks as well as standing desks and exercise balls, is one of several companies on the cutting edge of a growing trend in workplace workouts that could hold the key to combatting something else that’s growing in America: waistlines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, and half of those individuals are obese.
Dr. James Levine is on a mission to change that. An obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical research facility, he came up with the concept of the treadmill desk as a way to get Americans up and moving, and away from an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
“The body, over about a million years, evolved to walking,” Levine said. “That is how we’re designed. But what’s happened over about the last half century is we became tied, or almost chained, to the chair.”
“You could literally spend your entire adult life from graduation to coffin entry without leaving your apartment, without getting up," Levine said in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR).
And that appears to be dangerous. Several studies, including one by the American College of Cardiology, have found that sitting for long periods of time can be just as harmful to one’s health as smoking. It’s linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and early death.
In Washington, Chase Poffenberger brought a treadmill desk into her office to help her get in better shape. Then she added another one for employees to share.
“I drive more than 60 miles to work each day and back again every evening, and I don’t often feel like stopping at the gym to work out before I get home,” said Poffenberger, executive vice president at Academic Travel Abroad.
“This way, I don’t have to sacrifice my health and I still have the time I need to do other things,” she said, adding that her company has added several standing desks as well.
Steve Bordley, who owns the treadmill desk maker TrekDesk, knows the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle firsthand. After an accident forced him to stay off his feet and inactive for more than a year, he saw his cholesterol, blood pressure and weight all increase dramatically.
By the time he decided to try a treadmill desk—while conducting research for a new job—he had developed back problems and trouble sleeping.
“Literally within a matter of six weeks I lost 25 pounds, all my blood levels—everything—returned to normal,” Bordley said. “I was sleeping well, I didn’t have any back problems. … It was amazing.”
Bordley was so impressed he turned down the new job and launched his own firm, manufacturing treadmill desks for stay-at-home workers and corporations.
“Business is definitely good,” he said. “And 10 pounds [of weight loss] is nothing. We’ve had people lose 30, 40, 50 pounds or more.”
The point, Dr. Levine says, is just to move.