Do Office Desk Treadmills Improve Productivity?

treadmill-workWhat if employees could lose weight, improve health and become more productive at the same time? A treadmill desk offers these benefits and more. Many people have read about them before–they have been in the media a lot lately. Let’s take a closer look and see why office desk treadmills improve productivity.

Office desk treadmills are hot. Google now offers them to help keep employees healthy. Other well-known firms like AOL, Twitter and Facebook are joining the trend. You cannot open a business or health magazine without reading about the benefits. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic was the first person to combine treadmills with working at a desk. He got together with Steelcase, the office furniture maker, and the first models were available in 2007. Many at that time had a maximum speed of 2 miles per hour.

What are the Health Benefits for Office Desk Treadmills?

There are solid health benefits to office desk treadmills. In America, over 85 percent of workers sit all day at their job. Experts say all that sitting is dangerous:

  • In comparison to sitting four hours or less per day, sitting more than 11 hours each day results in a 40 percent increase in the risk of passing away in the next three years.
  • Even if workers exercise on a regular basis, the more they sit, the shorter their lifespan.
  • The musculoskeletal system experiences distress from long periods of sitting.


A one-year study in Obesity, a monthly journal, reported that it only took employees 5 minutes to adjust to using a treadmill desk in the office. No participant had significant objections to using them. Further, subjects demonstrated more daily physical output and less time in sedentary activity. Workers considered “obese” lost more weight than slimmer co-workers and improved their overall daily physical movement.

stepsPart of the appeal of treadmill desks is that anyone able to walk can benefit. The American Heart Association found that walking over 10,000 steps every day can bring down initial heart attack rates by over 90 percent and reduce the rate of stroke by 70 percent. Similarly, the National Institute of Health found that walking could bring down cancer rates from 30-70 percent. The American Diabetic Association reported that 10,000 steps each day can reduce the rate of Type II diabetes by 50 percent.

The problem with sitting is not just that is not vigorous exercise. When sitting, metabolism drops to almost zero. Before she got a treadmill desk, Author Susan Orlean told NPR Radio that sitting all day put her body into a kind of stupor–she suffered from a mid afternoon slump from sitting. It went away when she invested in a treadmill desk.

Does Productivity Increase with Office Desk Treadmills?

Do-Office-Desk-Treadmills-Improve-ProductivityThe trend seems clear. Healthier workers are more productive. Experts believe that treadmill desks make workers more healthy, alert and refreshed. The end result is more focus and increased productivity. However, what does the hard research say about productivity? In the Obesity journal study mentioned earlier, after one year overall performance exceeded the pre-study level. An article in HealthLeaders discussed studies by both the University of Maryland and the Mayo Clinic. They showed that radiologists were more accurate and precise when reading scans while utilizing an office desk treadmill.

Salo, a financial staffing company, took part in a study that lasted half a year. Several employees took turns working at different treadmill desks for an average of three hours a day. At the end, they had record revenues during the time they were evaluating the desks. In addition, employees had lower cholesterol and reduced body weight. Office desk treadmills are more than a fad. They are rapidly being adopted by cutting-edge and traditional companies alike.

Study after study shows people who adopt treadmill desks lose weight and increase their overall health. Health employees directly affect the bottom line. Success magazine reported that small businesses save up to 5 dollars for every dollar they invest in wellness. The savings come from reduced medical outlays, absenteeism and accidents on the job. Integrated Benefits Institute, a research company focused on health and productivity, reported that US companies suffer productivity losses totaling more than half a trillion dollars every year. One of the key reasons for low productivity is poor employee health. Employers are beginning to realize they need to take an overall approach to employee engagement and productivity.

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Ready For A Treadmill Desk?

When evaluating office desk treadmills, consider that it takes a certain amount of time to adjust to the new movement. While the basic walking motion is easy, it takes longer to get used to moving a mouse and typing while walking in place. Over time, however, productivity increases. The Obesity journal study showed overall productivity went down at first as subjects acclimated, only to rise above pre-study levels at the end. Give an office treadmill desk a reasonable trial, and experience improved health and higher productivity.

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Antonio Ferraro

On behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR, I strive to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. My knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. I believe in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier workplace. Connect with Antonio on Google+