Could walking at a tortoise pace all day long in the office keep you thin or help you lose weight?
Many people seem to think so and have built themselves treadmill desks — basically a treadmill with a raised platform for their computer and phone. Moving at less than 1 mile per hour all day long helps them burn between 250 and 350 calories a day. Don’t believe me? See this New York Times article. (Illustration by Eric Lister, from Gelf)
A couple of years ago, when I wrote a story about people using treadmill desks for the online magazine Gelf, the phenomenon was just beginning to surface on personal blogs. It’s clearly taken off. (David, the Gelf editor who assigned me the story, now has is own treadmill desk.)
There’s actually a lot of science behind the idea of work-walking, which comes mostly from the Mayo Clinic. Dr. James Levine and his team published research in Science back in 2005 showing that thin people tend to fidget and move around more often than overweight people, thus burning more calories. They call it NEAT— Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
Two years ago, Levine, an endocrinologist, told me that he wanted this idea to go beyond a few individuals. He wanted corporations to embrace the idea, or at least promote practices that get employees moving more.
We’re a fat nation, and our evolutionary biology combined with our current environments practically guarantee we remain so unless we adopt some creative interventions. This definitely is a step in that direction.