INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There has been a flurry of new research that points to sitting being “the new smoking.” In light of this, local companies are taking actions to make their workforce more active, by providing options to stand or walk while working, instead of spending all day confined to a seated desk.
In the basement of the Fishers library, the entrepreneurial co-working space Launch Fishers caters to its 450 members with options for working that include standing desks and walking treadmill desks.
“When you sit for long periods of time, you stand up, you can feel it in your legs and in your backside — you get up and it’s like you just sat on a plane for a couple of hours,” says Launch Fishers member Brian Stasey.
Stasey expressed how necessary it was to find a workspace that allowed him to walk, sit or stand while working. He says he walks on the treadmill desk at Launch Fishers in 20-minute increments.
“So, I’m at 1.5 mph which is enough speed so I can feel like I’m doing something,” says Stasey. “It’s not so much that I feel like I’m going to fall off this thing. I can still type and be reasonably accurate.”
Research suggests a pace of between 1.3 mph and 1.5 mph is the ideal walking speed for maintaining the ability to type and walk simultaneously.
There has been plenty of research showing the negative effects of too much sitting. A study of 200,000 Australian adults found those who sat for at least 11 hours a day had a 40 percent higher risk of dying within the next three years than people who sat for less than four hours a day.
Yet another study shows regularly sitting, even if you also exercise regularly, could be bad for your health. It also raises the risk of disability, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and obesity among other things.
“What we were going for was giving our entrepreneurs and our innovators the most innovative solutions for work spaces,” says John Wechsler, Launch Fishers founder. “It sparks a conversation about an alternative to sitting all day, so I think people are just happy to have options.”
The desk alternatives have been so popular at Launch Fishers, Wechsler is in the process of adding a new option for members – hydraulic flex desks.
“We actually are going to take some of our desks and install a mechanism to allow the user to stand up and work and then drop back down and work,” says Wechsler. “So it’s a specifically designed desk that allows them to change the work position throughout the day — so they don’t have to sit for 8 hours — they can actually stand a little and sit a little.”
In downtown Indianapolis, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world is giving workers a way to counteract complacency. At the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) headquarters, a walking treadmill desk and stationary bike sit in the back of a large presentation room. The equipment is there for any employee to use at any time.
“I get to a point where I need more energy to continue through the day,” says Lauren Johnson, the Marketing and PR Manager for ACSM. “Coming down here and walking while I work, it helps boost my creativity and just keeps me productive through the day.”
Johnson uses the treadmill desk at least once a day, usually after lunch during the dreaded afternoon slump. She also uses the ACSM’s stationary bike that sits just a few feet away.
“I love that the organization doesn’t just talk the talk — we actually, literally, get our employees to walk the walk while we’re at work,” she said.
Richard Cotton, the ACSM’s National Director of Certification, says the research is clear on the benefits of having an active workday.
“Being active during the day helps with digestive challenges, it lowers cancer risk, it does help with creativity,” says Cotton. “There’s a really nice positive return on the investment. Not just the support for the employee — but also decreased health risks and health care costs can be reduced.”
Cotton points to recent research that says regular exercise doesn’t protect you from the negative effects of too much sitting.
“There’s research to show those who work out an hour or so 3 to 4 times a week actually don’t gain as much of the benefit when they’re doing just that,” says Cotton. “There’s more benefit to doing things [over the course of the day].”