Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome to the Hamster Wheel

By Beth Terrell

In my recent quest for relief for my ailing back, I came across several references to a study released by Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Levine advises the use of a "treadmill desk" instead of a regular desk chair. It's exactly what it sounds like. You walk slowly on the treadmill (about 1 mile per hour), while doing your regular job. Typing, talking on the phone, checking your Facebook page...hey, that's work, right? How else are we going to promote our books to all our many friends and the people who "like"--or may eventually like--us? Here's an interesting article, "Your Office Chair is Killing You," about the dangers of sitting and the health benefits of the treadmill desk. I don't know about you, but my day job involves working on the computer much of the day, and the part that's not spent on the computer is largely spent sitting behind a desk doing paperwork. Add to that the time I spend on my own writing and the time I spend online promoting my book and helping to organize the Killer Nashville Crime Literature Conference, and it comes out to a lot of sitting. Turns out our bodies weren't made for that.

But what's a writer to do? If you can't afford to give up the paycheck and you can't bear to give up your writing, are you doomed to lives of lower back pain? Indications are that the treadmill desk can help. Here's another article that describes how to make one of your own (a more affordable option than the $5000 plus Treaddesk designed by Levine) and further explains the rationale behind it. Seems there are some compelling reasons to walk while you work, not the least of which is that exercise--even low levels of exercise--improve brain function.

It also promotes weight loss and better health. Jonathan Fields describes the treadmill desk he made and the 600 calories a day he burns while blogging. He got that number from Levine's study.

Best of all, I read posts from a number of people who say working at the treadmill desk has relieved their back pain.

Now, I'm not the most graceful creature on the planet, but I'm intrigued. Turns out my mom has a treadmill she doesn't need, so I went over tonight to see if it would work (e.g., it will go slowly enough, and the belt is wide enough). It seems to fit the bill. The next step is to get my brother to deliver it to my office for me, and then to find something to use for the desk itself. It has to be strong enough to hold my computer and stable enough that I can hold onto it for support if I lose my balance. I'm thinking of seeing if Mike can make me one of these. It may be like running--or walking sllllooooooowlllly--on a giant hamster wheel, but I'm willing to give it a try if it means no more rationing my computer time.

Next, there's the question of what to do at home. I didn't want to go the treadmill route there. First, I will have already been walking for eight hours. Second, I'm afraid my little dogs would find some way to hurt themselves on it. I've read that sitting on an exercise ball is good for building core strength and relieving back pain, so we ordered one. No worries about hurting the dogs there! It just arrived today, and you're only supposed to use it for a few minutes at a time to start with, so it's too soon to tell how it will work.

I'll keep you posted.

Anybody out there using either of these methods in lieu of ye olde office chaire? I'd love to hear about your experiences.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I've read about the treadmill desk and wondered how hard it would be to write while walking. Keep us posted, Beth.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how this works out. All this sitting is the pits.
Pat Browning

Mark W. Danielson said...

Several years ago I went to the Better Back store and invested in a great office chair. It's really helped. My back is so screwed up from nineteen years flying tactical airplanes that the pain never goes away, but this chair makes it tolerable. Good luck, Beth.