Walking the Talk

By Allison J. Cleary

If James Levine has his way, your next desk could be a treadmill.

Q: That’s sounds a bit unlikely for most office settings.

If every office had treadmill desks, it would be possible. It takes less than 10 minutes to get used to working this way, and of some 300 people who’ve tried treadmill desks, we have had no failures. We recommend that you spend 30 minutes out of the hour walking.

Q: Some would argue that it comes down to willpower rather than environment.

People make this horrendous mistake, all the time, of assuming heavy people are not intelligent. We have innate drives; some people’s drives are to be active. For example, I just got off the plane in Washington, D.C., and I’ve got work to do, but for the last three hours, I’ve been walking around the city. I had the drive to do it. But others get off the plane and say, “Fantastic, I’ve got four hours with no interruptions and I can work now.” They’ll sit on their bottoms for four hours.

Similarly, when dessert comes around, some say, “I fancy I’m full,” and pass on the offer while others wait for a second piece. I don’t call those people lazy or gluttonous, they simply have a different biology.

Q: It’s probably safe to assume that not every worker will convince her colleagues to walk at meetings. And there won’t be treadmills on the sidelines of kids’ soccer games for the parents, which is my fantasy. So what other steps can people take to increase their everyday movements?

I’ll give you real examples from a study we did to discover whether it was feasible to have normal people stand and walk around for two and a half more hours a day when given the directive. All of them succeeded.

One woman moved the television to a room with her treadmill and never watched TV unless she was walking. Another lady created three 50-minute walking sessions she takes before work, in the evening, and at lunchtime after she eats her sandwich in five minutes. I’m not necessarily sure that I would do that, but people do what they want to do and that’s the point.

At the government website www.small, by the way, one suggestion for improving health is to walk the sidelines at your child’s soccer game.

Next: James Levine talks more about revolutionizing the work environment »

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