Exercise desks could help office workers stay active during the workday. Sitting at a desk all day is not only bad for your posture, it can be bad for your heart. Exercise desks combine the functionality of a working surface with a lower end that allows the worker to stand, walk, or even cycle while they work. While there could be minor tradeoffs in productivity, these desks could offer tremendous health benefits to office workers who may otherwise be stationary all day.
A study presented at the 2015 meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Diego, Calif., found that previously sedentary workers who walked at a treadmill desk for two hours per workday for two months significantly improved their blood pressure and slept better at night.
While these desks can offer health benefits, they can also potentially hamper work productivity. Typing and engaging in intensive tasks while moving requires that workers simultaneously access multiple parts of the brain, and neurologists have long indicated multitasking can reduce our ability to optimally perform each individual task.
Researchers at Brigham Young University studied 75 men and
women and compared task performance at a regular desk
compared to a treadmill desk. They found those on treadmill desks saw a nine percent drop in cognitive processing speed, attention and working memory, along with a 13-word-per-minute decline in typing speed. Nevertheless, researchers said the modest losses in productivity were offset by the health benefits and likely "worth it" for those who need the exercise they may otherwise not get.
"For health alone it’s great, but if the cognitive decline is small, then you bet it’s worth it," says neuroscientist and study author Michael Larson.