Treadmill desk and cognitive performance.

Treadmill Desk Distraction Measured

Just how much will walking on a treadmill at your desk… wait, what was I saying? Sorry I was distracted there for a second by my treadmill.

Oh, right: How much does a treadmill interrupt your work? The answer is important because lots of evidence shows that sitting too much shortens your life, even if you set aside some time to exercise.

But if the treadmill prevents you from getting your work done, it’s not a good solution.

So researchers at Brigham Young University compared how well people on treadmills can perform compared to people sitting at desks.

The 37 people on treadmill desks walked at a speed of 1.5 mph. Their cognitive processing speed, attention and working memory dropped nine percent compared to the 38 sitters. The walkers also lost 13 words per-minute in typing.

But the researchers say that’s not much to worry about. “Though statistically significant, we are not talking about major differences between the treadmill walking and sitting conditions,” exercise scientist James LeCheminant said in a press release. “Rather, these are very modest differences.”

And his colleague, neurologist Michael Larson is planning to get a treadmill desk for himself. “The health benefits likely outweigh any slight performance dips you may get from implementing the treadmill desk,” he said in the press release.

Exercise Makes You Smarter

Some other new studies reinforce that. In the long term exercise will make you smarter. One recent study found that people who performed well on an treadmill test of their physical fitness in midlife had bigger brains in old age.

If you can’t afford a treadmill — and don’t have a boss who will supply one — there’s still hope. Another new study suggests that just a couple of minutes of light exercise per hour might counter the effects of sitting.

Exercise is also one of the best ways of preventing brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

So get up and take a short, brisk walk every hour.

In my experience, of working at treadmill desk, the actual walking doesn’t distract me. I do get distractions: like a power cord rubbing against the belt, or changing my foot wear, or opening a window to cool off, or deciding I’ve done enough for a day and need to lower my desk to sitting for a while.

But I’m convinced that the treadmill makes me more alert and more… something. Hold on for a second…

Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU

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