Monday, July 09, 2007
A workout for your mind... and body!
Dr. James Levine works at his treadmill desk
Like any good journalist, I try to go into a story with an unbiased view. "Just the facts, ma'am" is my motto. But before I even arrived at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester Minnesota, to produce a story on a treadmill built into a desk, I was rather skeptical. The story was simple. A doctor named James Levine, had designed a piece of office equipment for the Mayo Clinic that not only housed a computer and a phone, but a full-sized treadmill. The idea was to keep moving while doing your desk job.

Now I don't know about you, but the idea of walking at the same time you're writing a report or taking an important phone call was a little iffy for me. How was that possible? How could you concentrate? Yet when I arrived at Dr. Levine's office (equipped with two desks and two treadmills), he was already typing a manuscript while putting in his daily walk on the machine. He was doing it -- why couldn't the rest of us?

"Why not do the interview from the other treadmill?" he said. Ok! I was up for it! I had worn flats. I was ready.

First off, I found that the machine's tread moves slowly, about one mile an hour. And it's more of a natural movement; your feet just kind of get into it. After about 10 minutes you don't even feel like you're walking at all. It's very peaceful...very "Zen" like. I loved it. Not only was I doing the interview on the treadmill, (the photographer was on the treadmill with me!!!) but my heart rate seemed to go down. My mind was clearer. I was relaxed!!!!

The treadmill desk is a just part of a master plan of Levine's called the "Office of the Future.” He envisions a workplace equipped with exercise machines, including walking paths employees could use while working in an office setting. He's even patterned the "Suit of the Future," made out of lightweight material that you can wear to exercise in and then walk right into a boardroom meeting and not even kick up a sweat. It's all designed to help sedentary workers get active without losing precious time.

Levine says that on the average, an employee can burn about 150 calories an hour using the treadmill desk. Some doctors will tell you, you can get just as much exercise and burn just as many calories by taking a 20-minute walk for lunch. But Levine says in today's workplace, many employees never get to leave their cubicles. His thought: If they can't get to exercise, bring the exercise to them. Levine has already found a major corporation that will be providing the machines to its workers on a trial basis.

As for my treadmill experience? After about 20 minutes on the machine, I had gotten my interview and a pretty nice workout. I felt refreshed and ready to take on more work. It was invigorating and fun, and all it took was a little bit of energy to get on the machine and keep going. No longer a skeptic, I'll be calling my boss to see if we can have a few treadmill desks in our office!

Would you want a treadmill at your desk? Do you know of other ways for office workers to keep fit at work?
Get a discount card. It's a good start for encouraging healthier habits and behaviors.
I have one and there are some great vendors and deals on the Card.
Corps should look into this for their employees.
I think this is a great idea! Although taking the time to get out in the fresh air would be ideal, it's not just time that interferes with our ability to excercise. Often, the weather, extremely warm or cold spells, hinder our motivation. Personally, I prefer NOT leaving the office and getting into a hot and humid car and driving a few miles just to get to a gym for a 30 minute workout. In the same vain, who wants to waste the energy it takes to heat your car when it's frigid outside? Not only would a treadmill desk benefit the individual and company, it could potentially help conserve energy.
Hi Val! I got a good laugh (complete with obligatory snort noise) imagining you on the treadmill with the photographer at the same time.

I can't imagine doing that. Nope, not at all. What I DO, though, is sit on one of those size 75 squishie exercise balls while at my desk and pretty much everywhere else. It works your abs (you have to balance the whole time) and when you get bored you can bounce up and down and wobble back and forth. Plus everyone burns calories laughing at each other because you look silly. Walking on a treadmill though? Um, no. I already squash a two hour workout into my day complete with strength training and I don't think I need it. Your average couch potato might benefit though....
I think it's great!! I just wish Mayo Clinic would make it available to its employees.
PART I (of 3 parts)

A study published by CNN found that hypertension is associated with prolonged working hours. The same study indicated that work which require workers to stay still (i.e. typing) tend to be affected more than those who keep moving about. The suggestion that incorporating a treadmill to become part of the desk seems plausible and may prevent hypertension. Your treadmill/desktop combination supports the fact that physical activity, prior to industrialization, is almost always involved in work and particularly heavier in men. Men are more prone to hypertension.

My findings, which are based on an independent study and experiment, which is also on the other end of the scale, differ from the treadmill/desktop combination but may produce similar results. Combining my finding and the treadmill/desktop may even produce better results. My conclusion is: No one is ever physically rested in the typical office environment even while seated on so-called ‘ergonomically’ designed office chairs.

(I strongly suggest the CNN medical staff try my experiment on a larger scale. I also wish to receive a response from a CNN medical correspondent particularly if CNN decides to conduct my experiment and wishes me to provide more details)

In the experiment, one subject (not affected by hair loss) has since stopped taking anti-hypertensive drugs due to what I consider a positive result of my experiment. The other subject in my person, non-hypertensive, who reports a higher intelligence and ‘emotional’ quotient, has also reported that pattern hair loss progression has since halted. Hypertension and pattern hair loss are associated.

My study follows:

NASA physiologists find that astronauts lose blood during a prolonged stay of several weeks in outer space and experience severe hypotension and hypovolemia once gravity begin to act on their system upon their arrival on Earth.

The absence of gravity, which causes an increased blood pressure/volume in the upper body and head, sends a wrong signal to the baroreceptors. Baroreceptors are present only in the upper body and head. The effect of the absence of gravity or, specifically, the disappearance of the ‘head-to-toe blood pressure gradient’ where blood pressure and volume goes from the legs to the upper body and head, is interpreted by the body as hypervolemia or hypertension and responds by dumping blood through the urinary system. This is closely similar to the effects of staying in bed (horizontal) for weeks. The situation or environment was not part of human physiological adaptation. This inappropriate response and regulation also shows that the body considers blood volume and pressure very critical factors. This is a prime example that environmental/physiological conditions can cause medical conditions.

We can state that there is a direct relationship between hypovolemia and hypotension. On the opposite end, there is a direct relationship between hypertension and hypervolemia. There is little study to support these however but are stated for the purpose of discussion and experimentation.

Do we need to create an ‘opposite’ environment to determine if humans will respond in the ‘opposite’ manner by increasing gravitational pull while taking a vertical posture for extended periods? The answer is no. We only have to create or find conditions or situations that require a vertical or upright posture that allow gravity act and to determine whether the situation is new or unknown to human physiology or was not part of the environment of humans during his evolutionary adaptation that occurred over a period of a few million years.
PART II of 3 parts

I am referring to the typical office environment and, more specifically, desktops and upright chairs which were never part of our environment but force us to take an upright unmoving posture vis-à-vis the fetal or yoga sitting posture taken by our primordial ancestors. The prolonged use of chairs and desktops began during the dawn of commerce and industrialization in western cultures where chairs are standard furniture. In almost all non-western cultures prior to industrialization, chairs could not even be found in their homes. They sit on the floor or mattresses as did my recent ancestors in the early 1900s.

“Desk chairs” are called as such because they are designed to be compatible with desktops or work tables. Desktops are intrinsically positioned horizontally to prevent items from falling to its side. But this horizontal position also requires the occupant of a compatible chair to take the upright vertical posture often unmoving to work in typical office desks – a posture that was not taken by our primordial ancestors for prolonged periods for millions of years.

This substantially differs from the posture taken by reclining on a couch or sitting on the floor because it allows or forces humans to raise their legs and knees equal to or higher than the pelvis and nearer to the heart. In physiology this eases overall tension because neurological and biochemical mechanisms – smooth muscle tension - that assure blood flow to the head and the upper body is less needed and we know how comfortable it is to sit on a couch. It also allows lesser pressure on the heart. Physical activity which causes contraction of the muscles which consequently causes the valves in the veins to aid the heart push blood circulation upwards and against gravity are also less needed when seated on the floor. (Cardiovascular disease is also associated with the work environment) It has also been repeatedly said that people think better in a reclined posture – the only explanation is increased blood flow to the brain.

A study has shown that blood pressure begins to drop in the average person after about ten minutes of sitting. In an upright sitting posture, the drop in blood pressure is critically more pronounced in the head and upper body due to inactivity. As a consequence, when blood pools in the lower legs, an opposite condition occurs – blood is drained from the head (decreased blood flow to the brain) when neurological or biochemical mechanisms that assure blood supply to the upper body become ‘tired’ and allows the ‘head-to-toe’ blood pressure gradient to aggravate. I call this: Aggravated ‘Head-to-toe’ Blood Pressure Gradient or AHBPG.

I put into perspective the question of why many people cross their legs or raise their feet when they sit on chairs that allow them (instinctive physiological countermeasure). Sitting on the floor forces a natural physiological countermeasure. So the question is: what prevents these countermeasures?

While we can state that humans are more adapted to the pull of gravity in a vertical posture more than any animal, the adaptation is based on the primordial environment - an environment that occurred during our evolutionary adaptation over a period of a few million years where taking a prolonged upright unmoving postures were not included. I mean to say that primordial humans did not take prolonged upright unmoving postures longer than, perhaps, a few minutes and could mean that mechanisms that assure blood supply in the head and upper body do not last longer than a few minutes. It also means that it may only take a few minutes for inappropriate responses to begin. It may also explain why regular daily exercises do little to prevent hypertension.

It seems obvious that the reason why many people cross their legs when they sit is deeply rooted in human evolutionary adaptations. Before chairs were invented, humans sat on the ground - this raised their legs at a level equal to or higher than the pelvis when rested physically and prevents a drop in upper body blood pressure and volume – the fetal and yoga position. This means that a situation such as the work environment - with a table in front that prevents a person from raising his/her legs higher than the pelvis - is a new situation and was never part of our environment during our evolutionary adaptation of the vertical sitting posture. (People who shake their legs while seated is also a form of countermeasure whose only purpose is to increase blood supply to the head – and may or may not be part of a psychological condition as some experts would suggest.
PARTS III of 3 parts

This brings us back to the study at the beginning of this article: Hypertension is associated with prolonged working hours. These are situations that require us to sit in an upright and relaxed manner – a situation that was never part of our environment during our evolutionary adaptation over a period of over a million years. These are the same situations that prevent us from employing instinctive and natural physiological countermeasures (raised feet and/or crossed legs).

The reality is that the prolonged use of upright chairs and desktops began during the industrial revolution. Industrialization began at different parts of the globe over a span of a few centuries and many races did not even begin using chairs up until the 20th century prior to industrialization.

We still don’t know the long term adverse consequences of prolonged and habitual upright sitting posture but we do know that the fetal and/or yoga sitting position is a posture that has been taken by humans when physically resting for millions of years until the upright chair was invented more than 5,000 years ago and when the industrial revolution necessitated its prolonged use.

We know that many people cross their legs while seated and/or recline if they can. These postures are not mere sitting ‘styles’ but are, in my opinion, physiological countermeasures that ease stress on biochemical and neurological mechanisms that optimize blood circulation to the upper body and head. Current designs of chairs and desks prevent people from employing these countermeasures because a desk is almost always in the way. It is also my opinion that hypertension is a result of a reaction to aggravated ‘head-to-toe’ blood pressure gradient or AHBPG. AHBPG could also be the cause of other medical conditions associated with hypertension.

The question remains: Does a prolonged, relaxed upright and vertical sitting posture send a signal to the baroreceptors that hypotension or hypovolemia is occurring? Does the body respond by increasing blood pressure or blood volume?

The question can be answered by physiological countermeasures. Countermeasures have been under study by NASA to address the absence of gravity. The application of an ‘opposite’ or ‘reverse’ countermeasure should be able to address the typical office environment that may prevent hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and associated disorders such as pattern hair loss and varicose veins. Alzheimer’s perhaps?

The experiment is simple: The subjects were asked to do away with ‘ethics’, remove their shoes if they like, raise their feet at a level or higher than the pelvis and to recline as often and as long as possible while performing a desk job. Regular exercises were also employed but not during work hours. The positions taken can be described as unacceptable in a formal office setting. Salt intake was nominal to average and carbohydrate/sugar intake was below average but were already part of their lifestyle before the experiment commenced.

Results can be had in a few months on hypertensive patients. Under strict observation, progression of pattern hair loss can be seen in one to two years. Two of a subject’s younger brothers have also lost more hair over the past eight years and are now classified as Hamilton chart levels five and seven. The subject in my person has remained to be a level two.

(I also wish to state that I already applied for a patent for an invention of a desk and chair combination based on my studies.)
I think the Treadmill Desk is a wonderful idea! There are just too many Americans that are over weight and need to exercise. I asked a few co-workers that have a desk job what they thought about the treadmill desk, and they were excited. A few co-workers mentioned that maybe by the time they had to get on the freeway and get stuck in traffic they may feel better to deal with the amount of time spent commuting. This may be a great way to help reduce the "Road Rage" that Americans are expierencing in today's overly congested freeway's. Maybe if Employers helped employees feel better of themselves(after-all many of us spend 8-12 hrs/day at our jobs) employees would look forward to getting to work on time and not have to call out sick as much. I believe that the "Treadmill Desk" may even inspire some people to think about eating healthier!

In the society we live in today many people are interested on the idea of getting fit, and if those people could just get a little help from the place they dread (some dread going to work), they may just "tread" it instead and I don't think this could harm anyone.
I really like this idea and if I ever had a desk job I would love to have "The Treadmill Desk".
Sincerely Mirella, Los Angeles, California.
What a great idea! If this treadmill desk becomes widely used, lots of businessman would no longer complain the lack of time for exercise. They can always do it at workplace. I wish I could do my job not only walking but also jogging on it someday. Thanks for a wonderful piece of information.
I think this is a fabulous idea! I'd heard about this a few years ago and would love for my current employer (a large academic medical center) to give these a trial run - I'd sign up. I went from having a job where I was on my feet for 8 hours to one where I was on my behind for 8+ and noted a big difference in my health (and my waistline). Every little bit helps, IMHO. Not too sure about the suit idea though....
So rather than give workers a break and encourage them to get some fresh air, stimulation and sunlight, the next "improvement" in worker health is effectively to put them in a hamster wheel while they toil away. Why go through all the trouble? Here's a proposal for Dr. Levine: Have workers do all their work from a steel surgery table. While they look up at the screen and "type" by pointing their eyes at letters on a screen like experimental monkeys, he can wire their muscles with electrodes to pulse them into activity, just like one of those late-night-TV gadgets, just for their whole bodies. The workers could take lunch through a shunt in their wrist that would be installed during employment. It's 2007 and 1984 gets closer every day.

Dr. David Hartman
I'm sold. I work at home, in front of a computer for well over 8 hours a day. On the weekend report that featured these treadmill desks, someone mentioned a price tag of $300-$1500, as if they could be purchased now. Where can I buy one?
I'm not so sure about that. I am so clumbsy that when I walk on a treadmill it's all I can do to keep my balance. Talking, yes, I could do that. Walking, typing and way!
I used to respect Dr. Gupta but I have to say I agree with Moore that CNN and other media do not cover the issues adequately and just because Dr. Gupta is a neurosurgeon and a journalist does not mean that he is correct on every single issues. I ask that Dr. Gupta, CNN, and others look at the reality of America's situation by actually going to those affected meaning the un and underinsured and getting back to the people.
OT re SiCKO Factcheck: You guys should post the complete letter MM mailed you of his sources for SiCKO. Your report should have also listed your sources and if/why you chose another cost source.

The fact that you are nitpicking on slight dollar percentages while ignoring the salient facts is highly questionable.

Michael Moore's source sheet.
Dr. Gupta, I enjoyed your Larry King interview tonight, and wish you, Michael Moore and others would continue this debate on future TV venues. This is too important an issue to give equal time on Larry King with some weird couple (I didn't even watch that segment). I would say that you backtracked quite a bit with your pretty lame arguments defending the US health care system. Mr. Moore, even if some of his facts are slightly off, has hit a nerve that's going to reverberate throughout this next election process. People are fed up with the morass of forms, insurance logjams, etc. with our current system. Let's have national debate on this and have an informed panel doing the deal. Thanks, Jim Palmer
I'm waiting to hear your side of the story with regard to the attack on efforts to fix our broken health care system.

Why not break with the failed corporate policies and help the US join the rest of the civilized world?
Paging Dr. Gupta...I used to like the Dr. but his attacks on Michael Moore and his "fact-checking" were attrocious from ascientific anfd journalistic perspective. I expected a lot better from the Dr. for example he talks about patience satisfaction being the highest in the US but at the same time in the piece admits that no one is satisfied with the system. Which one is it...There were many other errors of fact and interpretation. Sad. Very sad...Will never see the Dr. in the same light again. You only lose your credibility once...Sorry.
It was really embarassing to watch you flub the facts regarding SiCKO... even I remembered that Moore never claimed Cuba spent just $25 per person, and I only watched it once. How did you get such simple details so completely wrong? Don't you have a fact checker on staff? How can I take your other reports seriously... for all I know, your facts are similarly inaccurate in this report as well...
re your interview (this will probably never get published if I know the fair and balanced CNN) with Mike Moore last night. YOU have a forum to expose the corrupt medical system and report on the horror stories people deal with everyday and you don't. You mentioned wait times last night. Well what about the wait times for people with no insurance in this country? They don't get to wait, they get to die. At least in Canada they may actually be seen. At least there you can get in a line. Isn't being in line preferable to never being in one at all? Here, there is no hope for these people at all. No line...nothing
I'm sorry, but Dr. Hartman's comment was so hysterical about the hamster wheel I couldn't resist commenting again. 1984 describes this perfectly. Our society is becoming so dependent on technology that we're thinking of walking in place while we WORK at our desks!! Do people even relate to each other in person anymore? It seems to me that there are more cell calls, text messages, and emails going around than personal interaction. How many times have you seen four people sitting at a table in the diner and all of them have cell phones glued to their heads talking to other people instead of who they are with?

Personally... I really don't like this treadmill thing. I understand the idea, of course- to help people stay fit because of our sedentary lifestyles, but perhaps we should be focusing on working less, being with real people for once, and simply enjoying life.... instead of walking on that hamster wheel and talking on the phone while we type at the same time.
That sounds like a WONDERFUL idea!
What a great idea though there will need to be longitudinal studies done to see if there are any adverse effects to standing and walking for half of the waking hours!

Office workers can be made to stay fit by other simple ways - Banning email and phones on specific days for intra office communication; stocking break rooms with only healthy snacks like yogurt, and fruits; setting aside ‘healthy’ elevators, where possible, to only travel to chunks of floors by not stopping at every floor thereby forcing people to use stairways.
Dr Gupta,

Please read the article below that was in the huffington post website
Even Aetna accepts that patient waiting times in the US is also not up to the mark because people diagnosed with cancer have to wait 4 weeks before they can get medical attention! I found the basis of your attack on Michael Moore's film 'Sicko' extremely flimsy. The term 'fudged facts' was in poor taste. I found Sicko a very well made movie and with no exaggeration! People are not so naive as to imagine that universal health care is for free! One is prepared to shell out the extra money , knowing that there is medical care available if one falls ill/or meets with an accident!
I have a treadmill desk, built by myself with the help of my spouse, and love it!

I was fighting the battle of the bulge with no luck, and the treadmill desk has turned it around without any real dieting on my part. I feel better now, after the initial soreness from walking 6 miles a day (then 7, and up to 8 now) at 1 mph or less.

I am typing while using it right now.

If you need to talk on the phone or something very difficult to do while walking, you can always stand on the edge of the treadmill while doing it, and go back to walking when done. I have to do that when doing delicate graphic work, or sometimes when highlighting text to copy at 1 mph. At .7, it's a breeze.

Highly recommended! I'm hoping that eventually people will be able to buy these as easily as they can buy a regular desk.
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