Oct 11, 2010 (The Philadelphia Inquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The newspaper business has its excitement, but it's awfully sedentary. I sit when I interview people. I sit when I transcribe notes. I sit when I write. In a typical day, I sit in front of a computer six to eight hours.
My colleagues -- and millions of other Americans -- do likewise, making us prime candidates for "sitting disease" and its associated ailments -- obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, arthritis, cancer, and depression.
I've tried to fight back. I commute to the Word Mill by bike. I run at lunchtime. Throughout the day, I drop to the floor and do push-ups. Better than nothing, but still not enough to halt the deleterious effects of prolonged sitting.
In short, chairs are hazardous to your health. We were made to spend our days upright, to move and use our bodies. In the course of their hunting and foraging, our primordial ancestors covered the distance of a marathon and more every day. Your body's components -- brain, heart, muscles, joints, circulatory, digestive and lymphatic systems -- all function better when stimulated by movement.
Over the years, I've fantasized about doing my word-slinging at a stand-up desk. That would put me in interesting company: Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo da Vinci, Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, Donald Rumsfeld.
Now I've decided to up the ante. I'm going to ask the paper's new owners to make me an example by replacing my desk with a "walk station" -- a treadmill with a desktop so I can walk and work at the same time.
Steelcase makes such a product with that very name, Walkstation, conceived by James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Levine himself uses one and promotes it as a surefire way to accumulate the 10,000 daily steps recommended for optimal health as well as to increase your NEAT -- "non-exercise activity thermogenesis" -- the calories you burn while going about the business of everyday living.
Those activities -- walking, climbing stairs, cooking, cleaning, raking leaves -- can account for 1,500 to 2,500 calories a day. The more you sit, the lower your NEAT, and the easier it is to pack on the lard. We Americans are obese not so much because we're eating more than we did 50 years ago (about 100 calories a day) but because we're moving our bodies less (about 700 calories).
The Walkstation, which includes a treadmill, is a tad pricey ($4,199), so I'm willing to settle for something cheaper -- the TrekDesk, an adjustable desktop ($479, including shipping) that straddles just about any residential or commercial treadmill.
The TrekDesk is the invention of Steve Bordley. A gunshot wound in his leg forced the former lacrosse star to seek ways to manage his weight and weave more exercise into his day. He tried pedaling a recumbent bike while sitting at a desk, but it bothered his back.
Then he got another idea: By placing a board over his treadmill's railings, he created a desktop, so he could walk while he worked. He improved the design by replacing the board with the top from a large plastic bin, attached to the railings with duct tape.
"A lot of people thought I was crazy," says Bordley, 55, who lives in Phoenix. "But in six weeks, I lost 25 pounds. My back pain went away, and I started sleeping like I was in my 20s. I decided then: This is something I've got to share." More refinements followed, resulting eventually in the TrekDesk, which Bordley began selling last fall. With it, walking at 1.2 to 1.5 miles an hour, you can burn from 100 to 200 calories an hour (depending on your size and the treadmill's incline), while watching TV, balancing your checkbook, checking e-mail on your computer.
Bordley is giddy about TrekDesk's benefits. Besides enabling you to shed pounds (50 to 70 a year), it will boost your mood and brainpower, improve focus and productivity.
"The magic is not the TrekDesk," Bordley says. "The magic is walking while you work; the magic is movement." He hopes his invention will spark a "movement movement."
Kristin Hoover, 56, of West Chester, began using a TrekDesk at home last April after realizing that her weight and blood pressure had become life threatening. Her father had a heart attack at 58 and died of congestive heart failure at 65. Moreover, a herniated disk caused chronic pain.
Since then, she has dropped 40 pounds.
"I feel better," Hoover says. "I have more energy. My back is better. I was able to cut my blood pressure medication in half. My cholesterol is down, and I have a resting heart rate of 55. My doctor can't believe it.
"Basically, the TrekDesk made me get on the treadmill, and once on the treadmill, I became pretty focused. Why go into the kitchen and blow it after working so hard to burn 350 calories? If you're going to spend so much time in front of a computer, you might as well be getting some good out of it physically." After purchasing a TrekDesk for his home, Gary Baron, 52, of Holland, Bucks County, bought one for the office. He's founder, president, and CEO of Voice Systems Engineering in Langhorne, and hopes his 70 employees will give it a try.