Desks with pedals help workers keep fit

Desks that allowed employees to pedal even as they worked could make them healthier and more productive by countering the ills of a sedentary lifestyle, according to a new study.

Lucas Carr from the University of Iowa in the US discovered that a portable pedalling device placed under people's desks, allowed people who sat all day at work to move without getting up.

The study further reported that workers who pedalled more were likelier to report weight loss, improved concentration at work, and fewer sick days than co-workers who pedalled less.

According to Carr, the key to the findings was providing workers with a pedalling device that was not only comfortable and easy to use, but was theirs alone to pedal.

He said the researchers wanted to see if workers would use the devices over a long period of time, and they found the design of the device was critically important.

Another essential component was privacy. Place a high-end exercise bike or treadmill desk in the hall as a shared device, and very few employees will use them, Carr said.

It was a great idea in theory, but it did not work over the long haul for most people, he said.

Carr and colleagues presented their findings at the 2015 Society of Behavioral Medicine's Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX, earlier this year.

Research had shown earlier that sedentary behaviour could up the risk of numerous health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Medical News Today reported in June that lack of physical activity might even impact mental health, increasing the risk of anxiety.

Office workers were one group at particularly high risk for sedentary-related health problems. A survey of office workers, earlier conducted by the British Health Foundation found almost half of women and nearly 40 per cent of men spent less than 30 minutes walking around at work.

It was recommended that adults get at least 2.5 hours of physical activity each week, however, less than half did.

Individuals who engaged in physical activity tended to live longer and had reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

According to Carr, it was a great idea in theory but it did not work over the long haul for most people.

He added a lot of companies had gone the route of building expensive fitness facilities that typically got used only by the most healthy employees.

The people who needed to improve their health the most were less likely to use worksite fitness facilities.