‘Walking desk’ researcher publishes study results

By Jeff Hansel

A Rochester scientist has published research results showing his "walking desk" idea could help obese employees lose up to 66 pounds a year.

Many people spend the majority of their work days seated in front of a computer, Mayo Clinic researchers Dr. James Levine and Jennifer Miller say in the current issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Levine has spearheaded an effort at Mayo to find ways normally sedentary office workers can burn energy while they work.


Levine himself uses a treadmill-desk in his office, walking at a steady pace while talking on the telephone or doing computer work.

"Our hypothesis was that a vertical work station that allows an obese individual to work whilst walking is associated with significant and substantial increases in energy expenditure over seated work," says an online abstract of the small study.

Fifteen "sedentary individuals with obesity" were studied, including 14 women and one man who chose the speed at which they walked while working.

Mean energy expenditure while seated in an office chair at work, according to the Journal of Sports Medicine, was 72 calories per hour. While walking at an average of 1 mph, it increased to 191 calories per hour.

"If sitting computer-time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure might increase by 100 (calories per hour)," the researchers concluded. "Thus, if obese individuals were to replace sitting computer time with walking computer time by two to three hours per day, and if other components of energy balance were constant, weight loss of 20 to 30 kg/year (44 to 66 pounds) would occur."

Although such walking desks aren’t available commercially yet, the leading U.S. furniture manufacturer, Steelcase, has said it has already made — and begun testing at an undisclosed Minnesota company — two prototypes of Levine’s design.

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