NPR covers the homemade treadmill desk

Just spotted this story on the NPR website: Can You Move It and Work It on a Treadmill Desk?

The author cites an expert who says not to try to walk on the treadmill all day long. Instead, walk for a half-hour on the treadmill, then a half-hour off, and so on, for two to three hours a day. That’s a maximum.

Don’t know if that means two to three total hours maximum of walking, or two to three hours maximum of on-off. The wording implies the latter.

Even just standing the rest of the time might be enough to mitigate “the sitting effect.”  You are using your leg muscles, and that’s what seems to count most, from what I’ve read.

I liked finding out that someone is now an expert and is consulting with companies. There’s a new “walking meeting,” in which participants walk and talk.

Levine is on a mission to get any kind of movement into the workplace and the workday. He’s consulted with a number of companies nationwide to help them do this. The most popular activity by far, he says, is the “walk and talk” meeting. “They’re generally shorter, more productive, and people don’t fall asleep during walk-and-talk meetings.”

Also, during one study in which participants rotated on and off treadmill desks, the company earned its highest revenue ever.

The environment, he says, was simply “more dynamic.”

Yep, moving people are definitely dynamic!

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Testing the FitDesk: an update

Last week I posted on testing the FitDesk. Here’s an update.

I discovered I had mounted the desktop backward. I had assembled it intuitively and then thought the velcro for attaching the electronic monitor was missing. I held the laptop in place with the giant rubber bands the company provided.

Later, I saw a piece of velcro on what I thought was the wrong side, and the little wheels in my mind started turning. I got out the instructions, looked at the photo, and sure enough, the fat end of the desktop is closer to the rider.

Here’s a photo with it mounted correctly, electronic monitor attached:

FitDesk

This way, there’s a slight ledge that you can’t really see but can feel on the desktop (which is made of dense foam covered with cloth) that will keep your laptop from sliding off. Although giant rubber bands are included, I did not find them necessary to hold my laptop in place with the desktop mounted correctly.

Note: I didn’t really use the electronic monitor. I just looked at the clock or set a timer on my iPhone and pedaled for a set length of time. Since I’m not using it to meet fitness goals, I found it more of a bother.

FitDesk pocketThis way of mounting the desktop also places the pockets closer to the rider. I used my iPhone to take these photos, but when not in use, I store it in one of the pockets, with Post-Its and writing instruments in the other pocket.

My friend Edward Spurlock tested it out. He adjusted the seat to fit his leg length. He is a cyclist and concurred with me that the FitDesk is not comparable in quality with exercise bikes at the gym (which are built for heavy, nearly constant use mimicking hills and so on). But for simply keeping your legs active while doing computer work, it’s great.

(Note: I took the photo below before figuring out the right way to mount the desktop!)

Edward monitored calories burned using an app called BodyBugg and reported the following:

I spent the entire interval from 12:42 PM to 12:48 PM turning the pedals on the FitDesk and burned 23 calories total during that time.

By comparison, I highlighted and selected the interval from 1:06 to 1:12 PM, when I was sitting in stop-and-go traffic on IH35 on my way home. The ‘Bugg registered a total of 8 calories burned for the interval, or around 1.4 calories / minute.

I usually burn 1.2 – 1.4 calories per minute on a normal workday sitting at my desk. If I used the FitDesk for a longer period, I might have slowed down a bit – but I think it’s fair to assume that one would burn at least twice as many calories turning the pedals and holding one’s body upright using the FitDesk than sitting still in the standard office chair with backrest.

Two to four calories per minute is pretty good compared to 1.2 – 1.4. You could definitely lose weight/eat more delicious food using a FitDesk regularly!

And finally, I want to report that the FitDesk does seem very feasible for use in an actual office wearing actual office clothing. I rode it for 30 minutes with the pedal tension set to 1 (no tension). You may remember that my first test was for an hour with the tension set midway at 4. I got sweaty then.

I did not sweat using the lowest setting, which is pretty remarkable considering I keep my trailer a bit warmer than the typical 72 degree setting found in most offices, closer to 76.

So I would say that the FitDesk is a desirable option in an office setting as well as for working at home.

Check out my tips for improving your health while sitting less (written while pedaling on a FitDesk)!

12 ways to improve your health by sitting less (written while pedaling on a FitDesk)

If you commute (usually sitting) to a desk job (mostly sitting) and then go home and watch television (sitting) and/or spend a lot of time on your computer (sitting), even if you manage to work in an hour at the gym, your health is at risk.

You can Google to learn more about the science of this — and they’re just beginning to learn. I’m just here to give free advice on behavioral changes you can make.

To counteract all the sitting, you could consider:

  1. Cutting the car commute and work from home as much as possible. Seriously. Present this option to your manager as a way to cut their costs, improve your health, and therefore make you more productive!
  2. If you can’t avoid car commuting, every time you’re at a red light or stop sign or gridlocked in a traffic jam, stretch your legs, and tense and relax them several times. Really pull the muscles to the bone. (Okay, that’s the yoga teacher in me talking.) Point and flex your feet and rotate your ankles.
  3. Take public transportation and stand during your commute, a la New York City subway riders.
  4. Bicycle to and from work, or combine biking with riding the bus or light rail. Many now have bike racks available. You may want to request that your workplace provide showering facilities.
  5. At work, take frequent breaks (1-2 minutes every 20 minutes) to stand up and walk around. Set a timer and do it. Go get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, stretch, shake the tension out of your body, do a forward bend to stretch the backs of your legs. Walk to the best view from your building and partake of it to refresh your spirit.
  6. Sit on an exercise ball. You have to use your legs to balance. You can also bounce when no one is watching. It will strengthen your core muscles because there’s no back — you have to hold your torso up. This will burn more calories, if you’re interested in doing that.
  7. Instead of emailing, texting, or phoning, walk over to a colleague’s office to communicate with him/her. I know, I know, this is really analog, but it’s also refreshing. Think of how much more information you get from seeing their face and hearing their voice in person. You might even learn something about them from seeing their office decor.FitDesk
  8. Persuade your office to invest in a FitDesk. One FitDesk shared among eight employees sounds like a great start. I imagine 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon would make a big difference in the health and longevity of those eight employees, especially if they’re doing some of these other things when not pedaling. Of course, if your office can afford it, get a FitDesk for every employee! If you can’t afford it, you could phase this in over time as finances allow, as employees using it report they’re feeling better, missing less work, being in better moods, and being more productive, improving the company’s bottom line. Hey, maybe this is the key to the economic recovery and the obesity epidemic! FitDesks for every employee!
  9. When you get home, turn off the TV and computer and do something that uses your legs: cook, go for a walk, clean house, garden, do yard work, do yoga, lift weights, kick box, have sex, play with the dog, take a shower, swing your kids around, give them piggy-back rides, roughhouse, dance, put on a show. Also known as “living life” and “being embodied”.
  10. If you can’t eliminate TV or video games or Facebook or whatever is so compelling on your computer (okay, blogging and Facebook for me), limit it to an hour (with a break every 20 minutes; see #5 above) and get up during commercials unless you are on your feet while watching. Or…
  11. Get a FitDesk for your home so you can move your legs while watching TV and being on the computer.
  12. Do this with other people. It will be more fun.

Making the world a healthier place, one blog post at a time…

I’m pedaling on a FitDesk as I write this!

The FitDesk that I wrote about previously arrived last week in a big box — and today was the first day I had time to devote to assembling it, testing it, and inviting friends to come over later and try it out.

I am pedaling as I write this blog post! After hopping on for seat adjustment (none needed for my 5’1″ height on the lowest setting), I decided to cycle for an hour while I read email, caught up on FB and Twitter, read some articles, and wrote this post. I set the tension control midway.

The FitDesk came with its own assembly tools! I didn’t even need a screwdriver or wrench, just a sharp knife for opening the box and unpacking the parts. Assembly was very easy and took about 15 minutes. There are 12 bolts already in place, and the desktop just slides onto the handlebars. The laptop is held in place with giant rubber bands.

FitDesk assembly tools

I did discover that the cloth covering the desktop did not have any Velcro (TM) in place for attaching the electronic monitor (which measures time, speed, distance, and calories), so I used it without the monitor. Since the purpose is to be active while getting computer work done, the monitor seemed like it would be a distraction.

I imagine the company would rectify this quickly if asked.

And now I’ve finished one hour! I did get off it a couple of times to make hard-boiled eggs and drain them.

I got a little sweaty using the midway tension control setting, which was comparable to going up a very low incline. I’m wearing exercise clothes, so no problem.

I will try it later at a lower setting dressed in business casual clothing because I’d like to find out if an office worker could use it at work and look fresh afterwards.

I can feel my sit bones! There’s no pain, but it’s been awhile since I’ve ridden a bike. The seat is wide and cushy. I imagine it just takes time to adjust to riding, no matter what kind of seat. The company suggests standing frequently, using a gel cover for the first few weeks, wearing padded cycling shorts, and, lastly, trying a different saddle (they have an accessory that allows universal saddle mounting) if it bothers you too much.

 

FitDesk bike seat

 

This is my initial report. Please let me know if you have any questions. I will write more later.

 

New alternative for sedentary desk work: the FitDesk

Since I’ve posted before on how prolonged sitting is unhealthy and how to counteract it, and I’ve promoted standing desks, I want to bring this to your attention (and thanks, Shelley Seale, for bringing it to mine).

This is on the heel of news that sitting less could add two years to your life expectancy.

It is a stationary bicycle with a desktop attached to the front of it. You can pedal and keep your leg muscles active, improve circulation, burn calories, circulate lymph, move cerebrospinal fluid, and more, while working or playing video games!

The FitDesk X Compact Pedal Desk is for sale on Amazon for $249.99. Amazon will cross-sell you a comfy bicycle seat and a laptop/iPad holder to go with it.

The seller offers a full refund (plus shipping) within 30 days if you are not satisfied with it. (Hint: Save the carton.)

One thing I really love about Amazon is reading the customer reviews. This product gets an average of 4.5 stars from 111 reviewers (all gave it 3 to 5 stars). Here are what some said:

  • A grad student in an online program lost 10 pounds the first month (30 lbs. over six months) using this product. She raves about the product being sturdy and quiet (quiet enough to use in the same room as a sleeping spouse), and about the customer service. The 2011 model has a timer/calorie counter/speed/distance monitor like stationary bikes at the gym.
  • Another reviewer mentions the great customer service: “Steve, the inventor of FitDesk, will answer your call or email himself. Some day he’ll probably have a huge company because this is such an awesome invention and then he won’t have time to talk to customers himself, but for the moment, he’s the best customer service rep you’ll ever talk to because he believes in his product and is doing everything he can to make it even better.”
  • The critical review rated “most helpful” gave the product 3 stars and said the exercise bike is not that great, that it’s hard to get a consistent pedaling rhythm. This reviewer is also an avid mountain biker who also regularly rides exercise bikes at the Y.

It sounds like it won’t compare to serious exercise bikes, but the whole point of it is not getting a strenuous workout but rather getting a light workout over time while getting computer work accomplished or playing video games.

Okay, okay! I want one! I’m drooling at the thought of cycling while writing blog posts! Would be awesome to have one at my next corporate stint.

The FitDesk weighs 33 lbs., holds users up to 250 pounds, and has a “seat extender” available for tall people. It is easy to fold up and move.

Also, there may (or may not, since the product is being continually improved) be issues with the electronic monitor, and I couldn’t get the straight dope on that.

The company has a video showing the product in use:

You can “like” FitDesk on Facebook (where they offer discount codes and giveaways) and follow @fitdesk on Twitter.

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Follow-up on 7.13.2012: The maker of the FitDesk has offered to send me one to try out! I love it! Will post on the experience, with photos!