Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Are Treadmill Walkstations a Valid Workplace Wellness Solution?

corporate exercise workstationAs a health and fitness specialist in a corporate wellness center, it's not very often that I venture out into other buildings on our company's campus. However, a few months ago on one such trip, I saw a treadmill in the middle of a cubicle area. I did a double-take and realized this was a walkstation, a treadmill with attached desk space and a laptop dock.

Now, personally, I find it difficult to read a magazine while exercising, let alone plug away at data or send thoughtful, grammatically correct e-mails, so my gut instinct was that this was a case where multitasking yields fewer benefits than performing both things separately.

What the Employees Think About Walkstations as a Work Exercise Option

I decided to ask employees for first-hand comments. Here is a synopsis from one regular user:

  • Pros: It provides a change of pace to work routine; allows an employee to stretch his or her legs and get some activity while continuing to be productive; provides an energy boost when things begin to drag during the day.
  • Cons: It is difficult to do tasks that require a lot of computer mouse movement; once the treadmill reaches a speed of 1.5 mph, it is hard to do much besides read e-mail; there is often a self-conscious feeling of being on display, as this is a relatively new concept; the walkstation can be noisy for others working nearby.

This particular employee commented that he experiences more energizing and stretching effects simply by periodically standing up from his desk.

Another employee made remarks that were quite contrary to my assumptions about the walkstation. She said it forces her to focus on the task at hand and eliminates the distractions of the phone and people stopping by her office. She also said, rather shockingly, that her only complaint was the treadmill was too slow—the speed is capped at 2 mph.

One Professional Opinion on The Matter

I am concerned about safety and ergonomics. To my knowledge, this particular walkstation did not have the capability to adjust the computer screen to eye level, thus increasing the chance for neck strain and shoulder discomfort. In fact, the second employee also stated that after an hour of use, her lower back began to hurt.

I'm sure much of the walkstation debate depends on how coordinated and focused the user is, on or off a treadmill. If anything, these are best for very short periods of use. However, I'm not convinced that this invention increases workplace productivity or employee wellness.

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