Some University of Missouri nutrition and exercise specialists are going the extra mile at work thanks to treadmill desks.
“Active employees are healthy employees,” says Steve Ball, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU. “We’ve got to get people up and moving.”
Recent studies suggest that sitting at a desk all day can cancel out the health benefits of regular exercise. Treadmill desks let workers walk at 1-2 mph and burn as many as 100 calories per hour. The benefits for employees include weight loss, improved posture, less back stress, better focus, reduced mental stress and anxiety, and enhanced job satisfaction, says Ball, who also is a fitness specialist for MU Extension.
Improvements Beyond Weight Loss
Employers benefit as well through lower employee health care costs, improved morale and productivity, and reduced sick days and absenteeism, Ball says.
Ball and other MU faculty in the College of Human Environmental Sciences (HES) say they follow the mantra “practice what you preach.” The desks help them open conversations about health and exercise by providing opportunities for them to model physical fitness and activity, Ball says.
Ball says the HES faculty plans to conduct research on how the treadmill desks affect long-term health and employee satisfaction.
Nikki Raedeke, director of the HES dietetics program, now uses her office chair for storage rather than sitting. She has walked 446 miles since Jan. 7, the equivalent of walking from St. Louis to Kansas City and back on Interstate 70.
Some Activity is Better Than None
Raedeke says she has lost weight and gained energy from her workday walks, which have inspired her to eat healthier and exercise more at home.
Low-impact walking on treadmill desks is not a substitute for a complete exercise plan, but for some busy people, the walk at work may be all the exercise they get, Ball says.
“Some activity is better than none,” Ball says. “More is better than some. Too much is difficult to get.”
The Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology is jointly administered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the School of Medicine.