Your Office Chair Is Not Killing You

Forget Herman Miller. This is what an office chair should look like.

Business Week reports that “Your Office Chair Is Killing You.”  It is entirely unclear as to why Business Week is reporting this story now though.  Science Magazine published the underlying study five years ago.  That research revealed that on the average people burn 100 extra calories every hour while walking slowly — at one mile-per-hour — than while sitting in a chair.  Shocking.

And as a result of this study, Business Week reports that office chairs are killing Americans.  Business Week  contends that the treadmill desk is our only hope. Unfortunately, no one has studied whether workers are productive while trying to work while walking at slow speeds.

Conveniently, Dr. Levine, the researcher behind the 2005 findings, is designing and marketing desk treadmills.  “Recently [he] talked to Best Buy [], Wal-Mart, and Salo accounting about letting him design their offices and keep people walking and working as much as possible.”

The video below is a clip of Dr. Levine hawking his wares on Good Morning America.  In the two-year-old clip, Diane Sawyer uses a Treadmill/Desk, while wearing heels.  (2:39; 2:55).  Dr. Levine points this out and exclaims that she is “looking fabulous.”  (3:07).  And he says that this is the “absolute natural way the body is meant to be.” (3:21).

This guy is off his rocker.  Siouxsie doesn’t trust him for a second.  He stands idly by and even encourages people to wear heels on a treadmill.  This can’t be good for you.  Plus, his accent is straight out of an infomercial.

Siouxsie predicts the treadmill desk will never make it.   These desks look like something out of the Jetsons.   Not to mention that these things look like death traps for the clumsy.   Forget about drinking your morning coffee at your desk.

If these things do make it though, Siouxise bets there will be some pretty creative personal injury claims.

So what to do instead?  Common sense suggests that a good place to start  would be to take some breaks, walk during lunch, use the stairs, and practice some yoga.

Photo Credit:


~ by siouxsielaw on May 3, 2010.

7 Responses to “Your Office Chair Is Not Killing You”

  1. Siouxsie – don’t knock it until you try it. In January of 2007 our office manager wanted one and we would not spring for it, so she bought it herself (not Levines, it was much too expensive). Now we have 8 in our offices where 12 people work and we have reimbursed her. Although ours was by no means a scientific study, we found that everyone gradually lost weight, but more importantly, they felt more alert, creative, energetic and productive.
    It’s not for everyone, but it can work for those that would like to change their working position throughout the day.

    • I can see how this could work while making conference calls or reviewing emails. But I have a difficult time imagining that this would work for a lot of other desk tasks, i.e. reviewing folders, editing hard copies, and drafting documents. But you are right, I haven’t tried it, so I shouldn’t knock that aspect.

      But what I can and will knock is a doctor who encourages women to wear high heels while walking on a treadmill. That is just ridiculous. Not to mention the inherent tension in a researcher who uses his own studies to start a business venture.

  2. Nice post. I agree with you. Employers should be more to employees taking breaks and moving around. I guess there is nothing wrong with having one of these treadmill desks in the office. I don’t see them as a viable option for any lawyer.

    • Funny you should mention lawyers, my brother who works for a rather large firm ended up buying one for his office after he tried mine out. He still has a nice big executive desk where he does most of his work, but he also has a smaller treadmill desk over in a corner that he uses every day. He says that when reviewing docs or working on his laptop, he will usually end up using it for about 2 hours each day.
      The one thing that makes this work is that we are walking at only a 1-2 mph pace, which is a very slow stroll. At this speed, most people can type and talk on the phone just a well as when sitting. Don’t think that we are using these for a cardio workout, it’s just to get up out of the chair off and on throughout the day to change the static working position.
      And by the way, none of the women in our offices use high-heels, they all wear comfortable walking shoes.
      I also agree that Dr. Levine did jeoperdize his credibility by jumping on board with a manufacturer.

  3. Knowing me, I would get focused on something, and forget to actually walk. Then, imagine days that you are feeling ill and close to fainting, yet you have to stand up all the same and continue walking in order to get work done at your desk. I can’t … er … stand behind it.

  4. I’ve seen this treadmill desk before and it looks like it really could work, but only in certain applications. As someone mentioned before, it would be rather hard to write or do tasks that require the use of a computer. But as far as phone calls and other tasks that do not require your hands, I think this would actually be great. I always feel lazy sitting in a chair 8+ hours a day and would love to try this out.

    Definitely do not agree with wearing high heels on this, and who is to say all us women wear high heels anyways?

  5. I think given the right kind of tasks this could be an effective way of working. I imagine it would be good for surfing the net, but writing and typing would likely be difficult to coordinate effectively.

    I like the idea of keeping your normal desk and switching between the two it seems to make a lot of sense. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the price.

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