It's good news for the horizontally inclined. An American inventor has come out with a machine that helps a person walk, and lose weight, while working at the computer.
The researchers from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who designed the standup "walk-and-work" desk, suggest it could help overweight workers shed pounds as they perform what are traditionally sit-down tasks. The workstation can be locked in place over a treadmill, allowing employees to work at a computer while simultaneously walking on the spot at a speed of their own choosing.
Says the inventor James Levine and lead author of a report entailing the use of the workstation: "Along with obesity, the sedentary nature of work is increasing because of the common use of desktop computers.
"By 2010, it is estimated that more than half of the workforce from developed countries will be working at computers."
"We are therefore interested in devising and validating approaches that promote physical activity in an obese person in the workplace, without sacrificing work time."
In the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers had 15 obese volunteers use the treadmill-cum-desk and measured how many calories they burned compared to sitting at a conventional desk. All of the participants had sedentary jobs and none did regular exercise.
The scientists measured the energy expended by the 14 women and one man with an average body mass index of 32 (a BMI of 25-plus is considered overweight). This was while they worked and walked for 35 minutes out of an hour, compared to the number of calories used as they worked seated at a normal desk.
It was observed that participants burned an average of 191 kilocalories an hour while at the vertical workstation, walking the equivalent of 1.6 kilometers an hour, compared to 72 kilocalories per hour while working sitting down.
According to Levine, by using the vertical workstation a couple of hours per day (and boosting energy expenditure by 100 kilocalories an hour) an obese employee could shed 45 to 65 pounds over the course of a year.
Commenting on the study, obesity expert Dr. Arya Sharma of McMaster University says the vertical workstation is one idea for incorporating physical activity into the workplace.
While saying "I would love to have a desk like that," he cautions that the study results shouldn't be misinterpreted. Because exercise increases appetite, employees using the device would have to guard against eating more, "which would bring them back to zero," Sharma opines.
The vertical workstation, designed by Levine and his team, costs about $1,600 US and is available for purchase.