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Walking Workstations Help Stop Caregiver Stress in its Tracks

Sep 03, 2013 10:36PM ● By Med Editor

Researchers have declared that our tube-watching, hunched-over-the-computer, stuck-behind-the-

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steering-wheel lifestyle is making us sick. Linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and premature death, experts call this health epidemic the “sitting disease,” and even suggest that sitting is the new smoking.


Some companies are encouraging employees to stand up and fight the trend – no pun intended – by offering standing and treadmill desk options. Such forward-thinking employers include the National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, FBI, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Google, Facebook and Mutual of Omaha.


Health-care workers are not protected from the metabolic woes of inactivity, especially if their jobs – as radiologists, administrators or clerical personnel – require sitting and working at computer for long hours. If health-care workers cut the time spent parked on their rear, they can lose a few pounds, stress less and have more energy. Developing healthier habits may even make them better able to care for patients.


Could treadmill desks be right for your organization? Consider the pros and cons:


+ Better health. Logging miles improves cardiovascular health and circulation, causing more feel-good hormones to reach the brain—reducing stress and depression. Don’t think you have time? One Mayo Clinic doctor uses a treadmill workstation for dictation, phone calls and typing into electronic medical records between seeing patients.


+ Fewer insurance claims. Prolonged sitting requires the body to use less blood sugar and burn less fat, increasing the risk for developing cancer and diseases, which can impact insurance claims. A medical transcriptionist in New York lost 35 pounds in one month—thereby reducing her breast cancer risk—by strolling along at 1.5 mph while typing physician notes.


+ Quality, efficient work. For radiologists who read imaging scans while walking, research suggests that accuracy results are no worse than when images were interpreted while sitting. Plus, marketing and finance employees are more likely to have quick, efficient phone calls and type less-lengthy emails when active versus sedentary.


- Cost. Any treadmill can be used to make a treadmill desk, though many manufacturers now provide models that are specific for desk use, without handrails and equipped with motors that are designed to run for long hours at slow speeds. These can range from a couple hundred dollars to $5,000.


- Liability. Walking workstations are designed to only go as fast as 3.0 mph, so strenuous activity isn’t an issue. If you’re concerned, have employees who use treadmill desks sign a waiver similar to one for a company gym.


Tana Phelps is a marketing specialist at Cassling, a Midwest health-care company that provides local imaging equipment sales and service, and marketing and professional services.