Chris Spurlock's blog "My Workday On The Treadmill Desk" is part of an ongoing series where Huffington Post employees report on their time working from the TreadDesk available in our offices. See more on our Fitness page.
Back in February, I read a pretty eye-opening article on Yahoo! Green about sitting. It doesn't sound like a very intriguing topic, I know, but I must have been bored that day. And it turned out to be quite the alarming read. A couple quick stats from the piece:
1. Americans spend, on average, eight-and-a-half hours per day in front of a screen.
2. The average person spends 33 percent of his or her week sitting (and that doesn't even include the time we spend in bed sleeping).
3. Forty percent of workers in 2010 reported they had gained weight at their jobs, and 49 percent of that group attributed the weight gain to sitting at a desk all day.
There are plenty more interesting tidbits to take away from the article, but those three stood out to me the most. I think I spent the rest of that day pacing back in forth in my room, trying to reverse the effects of a lifetime of sitting. But, of course, I then forgot about the story the next day and went on living my sit-in-a-seat life...until an infographic from Medical Billing & Coding caught my eye a few months later. As both a health nut and infographics nerd, I was in love. I was also, of course, terrified.
And thus began my standing crusade.
That afternoon, I ditched my desk chair, set my laptop on top of an old milk crate, and voilà! I had myself a standing desk. It took a bit of getting used to, but soon I was standing for hours at a time to work. Shortly after, I decided to take the standing thing further and began eating my meals at my desk so I could stand then as well. Despite my tired legs I felt good about my efforts, and I noticed a positive change in my posture and decreased pain in my back as well. I was thrilled with the results, and couldn't help sharing my new lifestyle with my friends and family.
Then, I moved to New York, and it all fell apart.
Don't get me wrong, I love this job. But, since starting at HuffPost in June I have devolved from the enlightened state of "Upstanding Citizen" to what Erwan Le Corre calls a "zoo human." I've been feeling very constrained by the confines of my office, and, even more, my desk. So, when I stumbled upon the treadmill desk a few weeks back, I wasted little time hopping on and taking it for a spin.
I had heard about these sorts of desks being scattered throughout the offices of Silicon Valley tech companies like Google, but I had never seen one in person (much less used one). That first day I clocked about 90 minutes on it, hopped off feeling like a million bucks, and immediately emailed the Health team and proposed the idea of this crazy walk-a-thon blogging experiment.
Of course, when it came time for me to do my entire day of walking, I was pretty confident. I've only been out of college for a few months, so the walking stamina I gained on campus (bolstered by all the trekking I've done through the city since arriving in June) was still very much intact. And in addition to my walking prowess, I've been known to ride my bike to work (almost 15 miles round trip) and use the company gym at least five days a week. So, doing a day on the TreadDesk should have been a piece of cake, right?
Well, as Catherine noted in her piece last week, the desk is a tough beast to tame. I managed to make it to lunch without stopping, but for the remainder of the afternoon forced myself to do alternating intervals, one hour walking and one hour standing. As a graphics guy, I found it a bit challenging to illustrate while walking, but I managed that part without too much trouble. The real problem I had was I couldn't focus on what I was doing because I kept staring at the clock, willing it to be the end of the day.
So what's the moral of the treadmill desk story? Well, we all know sitting is not healthy. Though there have been a few extensive studies on the ill effects of sitting all day, I don't think many of us need to scrutinize the data to know that. The simple act of rolling out of bed in the morning and hearing more creaks and cracks than one can count on two hands is enough to tell us there has to be a better option.
For me, it's the standing desk. I've been trying for weeks to work up the courage to grab some empty boxes from storage and elevate my keyboard and monitor to standing height. But, I don't want to stick out like a sore thumb in a newsroom devoid of the security of cubicle walls. If you'll forgive the pun, I don't want to "stand" out too much. Perhaps, though, my standing would incite a revolt against the office chair. And perhaps these blogs will inspire the purchase of more treadmill desks. Who knows?
I'm not sure if the treadmill desk is the cure for what ails us, but it sure is better than the alternative.
Disclaimer: Best practices for using this machine is 30-60 minutes at a time. For the purposes of these fun stories, we have decided to use them for an entire day, but the recommendation is to work gradually up to that point. For more information on use visit www.treaddesk.com.
Follow Chris Spurlock on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ChrisSpurlock