Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hey Fellow Writers...Extend Your Life With A Treadmill Desk!

I'm writing this blog while walking on my treadmill desk -- the newest trend in office accessories, or should I say office necessities. At a speed of one mile per hour, I comfortably stroll and write and, according to Dr. James Levine,  extend my life.  I've had my treadmill desk for less than a week and so far I love it.  An article in the May issue of The New Yorker called "The Walking Alive", inspired me to get one after reading some alarming statistics about the health hazards of sitting at a desk. As a writer, I easily sit six hours or more a day often ignoring the aches and pains that my body sends as cries that it's had enough. "Shut up, you wimpy, whiny body! I must keep writing and finish this scene!" Does this sound familiar to any of you? I know I'm not the only one into this type of self torture.  And then after a long day of writing, what do I do? Relax in front of the TV. Who's with me on this? And even on those nights when my body protests at being forced to sit on the couch in front of the TV,  I still do it because, as an entertainment writer, I consider it "research", right? I've got to keep up with the current shows so I know what's out there. It's work! So what does all this sitting amount to?  Well, there's the obvious back aches and weight gain, but there's even more going on under the surface.  Dr. Levine has discovered some frightening facts about sitting that I want to share so that you know what's really going on when you sit at your desk innocently tippy-tapping out your scripts.

Sitting a lot, even if you're in good shape, is bad. Even if you go to the gym 3 times a week, you might feel fit, but you won't be metabolically healthy. According to Levine, "Sitting puts muscles into a sort of hibernation, cutting off their electrical activity and shutting down the production of lipoprotein lipase -- the enzyme that breaks down fat molecules in the blood. Your metabolic rate drops to about one calorie a minute -- just slightly higher than if you were dead."  Pause to let this sink in.... Okay. Moving on.

Even sitting for two hours a day is harmful. Sitting for more than two hours a day (hello, that's 2 dramas a night) causes the presence of good cholesterol to drop and, in time, insulin effectiveness plummets. This can lead to cardiovascular problems, certain kinds of cancer, depression, deep-vein thrombosis and type-2 diabetes.  (gulp)

A one-hour hard workout a day won't cut it.  Contrary to popular belief, going to the gym once a day for a hard one-hour work out may not cancel out the damage done by sitting for six hours. (Well, I wasn't even doing that much activity)

For women, sitting is especially unhealthy. While studies show that men who sit for six or more hours a day have an over-all death rate  20% higher than men who sit for three hours or less a day, women have it worse. (of course) Studies show that women who sit for more than six hours a day die at a rate that's 40% higher than that of women who move more. This is the statistic that got me to run out and get my treadmill desk. 

The answer is walking. It's been tested and shown that walking can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% and the risk of dying by 32%.  

The Treadmill Desk.  No need to spend thousands on a new treadmill desk - you can make your own! I found a cheap treadmill on Craigslist last Thursday, my husband rigged up the "desk" part on Friday and by Friday evening I was emailing all my friends, bragging that I was writing them while exercising. If you decide to go for it and DYI a treadmill desk, here's what to look for in a treadmill:

- 2.0 horsepower motor minimum - most treadmills are built for one-hour workouts at higher speed as opposed to 6-hour continuous use at a low speed. So this size motor is recommended.
- 18 inch wide belt - You're going to be working so a wider belt is recommended so that you don't step off the side. 
- Speeds of 1mph and lower - Setting the treadmill at .8 mph is recommended for work.  I set mine at 1 mph and that feels comfortable. You just want to make sure that you have slow options. 

Before getting my treadmill desk, I really didn't have enough hours in the day to do my work, my daily chores, AND exercise. Now I work and exercise at the same time! Who doesn't love multitasking?! Fellow treadmill deskers -- I'll call them "treaders" -- claim that they have more energy and more focus while working. It's too early for me to make those claims, but maybe I'll check back in a few months and tell you how it's been -- hopefully 5 pounds lighter!  My next goal -- get my dogs on it with me!

Oh, BTW, while writing this blog, I just walked 2 miles and burned 204 calories!! Yay!

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