Science says using a treadmill desk can actually make you less productive

Treadmill desk
People who walked on a treadmill desk had a harder time typing and concentrating than those who sat normally. AP

Science suggests that if you want to stimulate your creativity and generally improve your thinking, you should get up from your chair and take a stroll.

So it makes sense that walking on a treadmill desk at work would supercharge your cognitive performance.

Except that it probably doesn’t.

According to a new study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University, walking on a treadmill desk can make you slightly less productive.

Researchers recruited 75 young men and women and assigned some to sit in a chair, while others used a treadmill desk. The treadmill desk was set at 1.5 miles per hour with zero incline.

Then the participants were asked to type words they saw flash on the screen. As it turns out, the people sitting in chairs were faster and more accurate than those walking on a treadmill desk.

The researchers also led a series of tests to measure participants’ cognitive performance. In one test, participants had to remember a list of words; in another, they had to add up a series of numbers. Results showed that participants who walked performed significantly worse.

The study authors say it makes sense that it would be more difficult to type while walking, since you’re moving closer to and farther away from the keyboard.

As for why participants had a harder time concentrating and remembering while using the treadmill desk, the researchers suggest that walking consumes some of your cognitive resources. In other words, you’re so focused on staying balanced on the treadmill that you devote less attention to the task at hand. Most other studies have focused on your ability to think after you’ve taken a walk, not while walking.

Of course, the researchers are quick to note that the walking group’s performance on the cognitive tasks was still within the normal range — it was just worse than the sitting group’s. Moreover, people who use a treadmill desk consistently might get used to it over time, so they would be able to think just as clearly as they would if they were seated.

If you don’t have the leisure to sacrifice your concentration and memory while you get adjusted to a treadmill desk, perhaps the best solution is to take a few walking breaks throughout the day. Not only will you be more productive, but you may also be healthier, too.

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