Whilst more and more research shows how bad sitting for long periods of time can be, most people have little choice but to spend most of their day ass on-seat staring at a screen. Beyond the numerous health issues that arise – think back problems or even sedentary death syndrome and a whole load of other issues related to physical inactivity – what about the mental cost? Our attention spans are not infinite and we all know the feeling where you simply have to get up and stretch your legs, take a walk, take a much needed body break. Possibly the only reason I have ever envied smokers is because they have the excuse of getting up for smoke breaks every however often, whilst the rest of us just need to consume enough water to warrant regular bathroom trips.

More and more people are advocating treadmill desks or walking meetings. I’m sure you know the feeling when you’re working on a tough project or at a tense meeting and you’re sitting in your seat grappling with the problem, tensions rising, frustration building, your body stiffening under the tension, until you just can’t take it anymore. You eject yourself from your seat with an exasperated “I need a break”, head to the canteen or the kitchen, grab a chocolate or a soda, they will do wonders for your mood and you concentration (…or not), then it’s back for round 2.

What if your body never got the chance to get so tense, if you never got that numb-bum feeling from being seated for inordinate amounts of time, and what if you could burn calories whilst getting the job done?

Personally, the idea of treadmill desks is fantastic. As a health and wellness fan but also a busybody without the ability to sit still for long periods, if I could work whilst walking I would be blowing off steam as I go, meaning less pent up stress and more focus. Some of us can’t ignore the discomfort of long periods of sitting, nor do we want to. In addition to the obvious health benefits of walking whist you work there are tons of mental benefits as well. Susan Orlean, author and writer for the New Yorker is a big advocate of treadmill desks saying: “the nervous energy that can get a body in trouble when they’re faced with a particularly pesky project can be absorbed by walking, and it helps concentration”. “I get very tense from sitting there,” .“That is the surprise [on the treadmill desk]. You just feel more relaxed. Your body is busy walking and your brain can be busy being a brain.”

Cosmopoitan’s editor-in-chief in Joanna Coles also spends a large part of her day walk-working. She runs meetings and ploughs through media publications whilst pacing. Another benefit she describes is that of  mitigating the exercise panic that tends to set in around 4:30 p.m”. Most people can relate to the “I’ve been sitting, slouching and munching all day and now I feel gross” feeling.  Well here’s a win-win suggestions: give your employees the opportunity to walk-work through their day. You benefit how?

•In the long run you have healthier employees,  less “sick” off time,

•Less stressed employees as they get to blow off steam as they work,

• More focused employees,

•Employees wanting to get in a regular bout of exercise aren’t rushing out the door as the clock strikes 5 hell bent on getting to gym and claiming a treadmill amidst the afterwork gym rush,

• And possibly the most important of the lot – happier employees less stressed, increased physical activity, healthier – all for a seemingly insignificant layout of setting up some communal usage treadmill desks.
Another strong advocator for moving away from the desks is: Nilofer Merchant who advocates the importance and inherent benefits of leaving your desk, taking a walk and turning one-on-one meetings into walking meetings.
Keith Ferrazzi, author of ‘Never Eat Alone’ states repeatedly in his book that he often conducts meetings on the squash court, whilst on a run or by inviting people to join him at a bootcamp. Physical activity helps alleviate stress and promotes problem solving; also a change of scenery and perspective can do powerful things to attitude and perspective.
If you’re in a position to institute changes in your work environment, be they personal or wide spread I challenge you to explore first-hand the benefits of treadmill-desks and walking-meetings. I am certain that the changes you experience either personally or on a larger scale will be worth it. As Nilofer Merchant puts it: “you’ll be surprised at how fresh air drives fresh thinking”.
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