The Long-Run Benefits of Treadmill Desks
Trendy treadmill desks might actually help improve job performance - after employees get used to working while walking, according to new research.
A yearlong study of finance workers at a company in St. Paul, Minn. found that the productivity of 40 treadmill users dropped at first as they struggled to master typing and manipulating a mouse while walking at speeds of up to two miles per hour.
But within four to six months, all three measures of performance-quality and quantity of work, and quality of interactions with colleagues-rose steadily, according to weekly surveys of participants.
At the end of the survey period, workers with treadmill desks rated their overall performance 0.69 points higher than before the project began, on a 1-to-10 scale. Performance ratings given by their supervisors, who filled out weekly surveys rating both treadmill users and non-users, rose for walkers by a full point by the end of the year.
For tasks like solving problems or taking conference calls, 'a little bit of walking is useful because it means there's more blood flow to the brain,' said Avner Ben-Ner, a professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and an author of the study, which was published last month in the online journal PLOS ONE. 'You get more oxygen and it increases the ability to think.'
Treadmill desks have gotten attention amid research findings about the negative effects of sedentary lifestyles and jobs that leave workers sitting all day. But data on the effectiveness of the desks has been relatively scant. Two recent studies have shown that treadmill walking reduced a person's accuracy in fine-motor tasks such as typing and mouse-clicking.
There are other downsides, too, as The Wall Street Journal wrote last year, including the possibility of falls and injuries and, according to some online complaints, painful shocks from the machines' build-up of static.
Mr. Ben-Ner noted that treadmill users need some time to adjust to the ergonomics of walking while working, including the proper monitor and keyboard height. His team provided no training to study participants, and he said that employers who provide such desk should offer help to get users set up and comfortable on the machines.
'This wouldn't be very good for people who thread a needle for their jobs,' he said. 'But everyone who does brain work knows that if you're stumped or need fresh ideas, take a walk.'
对明尼苏达州圣保罗(St. Paul)一家公司财务部门员工展开的为期一年的调查发现，40名跑步机使用者的工作效率在开始的时候出现下降，因为他们很难做到一边以最高每小时两英里（约合3.2千米）的速度行走，一边打字、操作鼠标。<-->纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com<-->
相关论文于2月份发表在网络期刊《公共科学图书馆·综合》(PLOS ONE)上。论文作者之一、明尼苏达大学(University of Minnesota)卡尔森管理学院(Carlson School of Management)教授阿夫纳·本-内尔(Avner Ben-Ner)说，对于解决问题或参加电话会议之类的任务，“适当走走是有用的，因为这会加快大脑的血液循环。你会获得更多的氧气，从而提高思考的能力”。