Need to Know
  1. A study examined how treadmill walking affected productivity
  2. Walking workers were worse at typing and thinking tasks
  3. It's possible these effects would decrease with practice

Most of us have heard by this point that “sitting is the new smoking” — in other words, that our desk-bound, sedentary lifestyles are having negative effects on our overall health. That’s led to a push to moving and standing more in the workplace, and some have even combined those virtues by working at treadmill desks.

But what does walking consistently at a slow speed at work do to our abilities to, you know, work? According to a new study, extended treadmill time may not be the best way to ensure productivity. When researchers compared seated workers with those using a treadmill desk for the first time, the walking workers performed worse on nearly everything — including tests of typing, memory, and concentration. (Not drastically worse — they wouldn’t literally forget how to spell or do math — but noticeably worse nonetheless.) As the New York Times put it, “there may be unacknowledged downsides to using treadmill desks if you need to type or think at the office.”

That said, these were first-time treadmill workers, so the effects may decrease over time as people “get better at walking, typing, and thinking simultaneously,” according to the Times. And the health benefits of not sitting may still outweigh the declines in cognitive processing over the long term. This is one of the first studies looking at the work side, rather than the health side, of treadmill desks, so there’s a lot of research still to be done.

However, if this has you pushing pause on the idea of walking while working, perhaps you could consider one of our more subtle ways to keep moving at the office.

Photo Source: Flickr user realestatezebra