Treadmill desks—good for your health, but bad for your work?

Walking while working causes typos, a Mayo Clinic study suggests

The hindrances to productivity may far outweigh the health benefits of using a treadmill desk at the office, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The desks' popularity have soared in recent years, after health officials and studies warned the public of the dangers associated with prolonged sitting. From 2010 to 2012, sales of TrekDesk—a treadmill desk—increased tenfold, according to the company's CEO Steve Bordley.

But walking while working has proven to be more difficult than some expected.

"You quickly realize how difficult it is to type anything longer than a sentence," says John Osborn, CEO of advertising firm BBDO. Osborn's colleagues say his spelling worsened in his work communications soon after he acquired his treadmill desk.

According to the Journal, a small 2011 Mayo Clinic study found that typing speed and accuracy decreased by 16% while walking. Similarly, a 2009 University of Tennessee study found that walking decreased employees' fine motor skills by 11%, as well as their math problem solving skills.

Walking at work can also cause sore muscles and even the occasional electric shock from the machine's static build-up, according to an online community dedicated to discussing the negative side effects of a specific brand of treadmill desks.

When University of Kentucky employees requested treadmill desks, the university had its own specialists investigate the desks. The team of experts made a few recommendations to users:

  • Use noise-muffling technology so as not to disturb others;
  • Walk no faster than two miles per hour;
  • Do not wear high heels;
  • Maintain proper hygiene; and
  • Take regular breaks (Wieczner, Journal, 1/28).

Next in the Daily Briefing

Medical devicemakers pass ACA tax onto hospitals

Read now