Office work isn't good for our health, sitting for long stretches of time is killing us all. Treadmill desks offer a unique solution to those of us who are desk-bound for the better part of the work week. But can we continue to work productively while we walk? Tom Jacobs from Pacific Standard writes on a research team, led by Elise Labonte-LeMoyne of HEC Montreal, that have found that we can. The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. The lead author writes:

“While the health benefits of this new practice are indisputable, it will only be adopted if users feel they can accomplish their work as well or better than with the use of a traditional desk.”

“Our results suggest that workers not only perform better on a recall task, but they also perceive themselves to be more attentive to the task at hand.”

The small-scale study included 18 students split into two, equal groups. One was set with the task of reading a document for 40 minutes while seated, while the other group was asked to do the same exercise on a treadmill desk on a 2.5 kilometers per hour (that's 1.55 miles) setting.

The participants had to retain as much of the information as possible within the 40 minutes while also responding to emails. Researchers were attempting to mimic the daily routine of workers. Also some of the emails contained pertinent information to the text they were reading.

After a 10 minute break, researchers then gave the students a true/false quiz, testing them to see how much information they had retained. The participants were also hooked up to an EEG machine to measure brain activity for increases in activity that's involved in memory.

The researchers found that the walking group was 34.9 percent more likely to answer a question correctly compared to the sitting group. As for their brain activity, the researchers noted:

“Previous studies have shown that good memory performance is correlated with a decrease in theta power and an increase in alpha power. We observed significantly more theta activity in the seated group, and more alpha activity in the walking group.”

Perhaps it's worth while for desk-bound workers to start walking around the office. We already know how horrible sitting is for us. Recent studies even show that exercise can't make up for sitting at a desk all day. So, if you can't afford to mod your workspace with a treadmill desk, maybe consider taking your Blackberry out on a on a stroll—answer some emails while recovering from your stretch of sitting every 30 minutes.

Read more at Pacific Standard

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