The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

June 16, 2013

Stand up and GET TO WORK

More employees stand up for their workplace health

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“Oh, my gosh. I love my desk,” Raedeke gushed. “I was never a fan of working out on treadmills. Too boring. But I’m doing the work I’d normally do, and it’s just great to move while I work.”

Her old desk chair now functions as a storage shelf.

Raedeke and about a half-dozen faculty colleagues began using treadmill desks so that “we practice what we preach,” said Steve Ball, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology. “It shows we care about the value of activity.”

Treadmill desks generally run no faster than two miles an hour, a gentle pace for most people. For fit people, it’s not much of an aerobic activity. They simply see walking as better than just standing and standing better than sitting.

A report published earlier this year in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that death was more likely to occur — for any reason — among the population group that sat the most on a daily basis. It concluded that “prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality.”

Study authors urged public attention, noting: “The potential public health gains are substantial, because in the United States, less than half the adult population meets the physical activity recommendations. ... Shorter sitting times and sufficient physical activity are independently protective against all-cause mortality, not just for healthy individuals, but also for those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, overweight, or obesity.”

As an employment law attorney at Ogletree Deakins in Kansas City, Trina Le Riche sees a legal reason for workplaces to be receptive to different desk and chair options.

Under federal law, employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” for persons with disabilities. An employee with a back injury, for example, might well request accommodation with a stand-up desk if sitting for long periods makes it impossible to carry out the essential functions of the job.

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