The Ambulatory Worker

July 16, 2007
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In partnership with researchers at the Mayo Clinic, local ergonomics and workspace customization firm Details, a Steelcase brand, is developing a “walking desk” it hopes to introduce at the National Ergonomics Conference and Exposition in November.

The walking desk is the brainchild of Mayo Clinic endocrinologist James Levine, who received national attention for his design of an office and workstation that incorporated a short track and exercise equipment.

Levine found that the sedentary lifestyle of the office worker was leading to widespread effects on a worker’s metabolism and was a contributing factor to the nation’s obesity epidemic. He also found that the effects could be reversed by integrating movement into the office worker’s daily regime, a process he calls non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.

As Levine explained, “It’s hard to be a couch potato without a couch. It’s hard to sit all day at work without a chair or a conventional desk or cubicle.”

One of Details’ core product lines are sit-to-stand workstations, created under the premise that alternating between a sitting and standing posture while working is beneficial in preventing skeletal disorders, stress and fatigue. The walking desk was a natural extension of that.

“This idea that you sit down at your desk and you’re there for eight hours a day is really being challenged in the workplace right now,” said Details President Bud Klipa. “We’re moving toward more of an ambulatory office rather than a sedentary office.”

Details currently has 30 walking desks installed at beta test sites nationwide. The workstation incorporates a sit-to-stand table, a wireless keyboard and mouse, a flat-screen monitor mounted on an adjustable arm — all adjustable above a slow-moving treadmill.

The treadmill is not intended to be used at speeds of more than 1 to 2 miles per hour — any faster crosses the line between motion and exercise. Even at that pace, the average worker will burn an extra 800 calories during an eight-hour workday.

Levine’s prototypes also included exercise bikes.     HQ

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