When I was in school, I biked or walked everywhere. Even when I entered the working world, I walked several miles every day, covering my beat as a police and court reporter. It wasn't until the advent of email and the Internet that my butt seemed to become glued to a chair.
Now I do most of my work online. I joked to my editor that I make sure I drink lots of water every day so that I'm forced to get up and walk to the bathroom more often and get some exercise throughout my day.
Read this latest story I did for Gannett/USA Today and see if maybe it isn't time to change the way you work....
In America, nearly 70% of the adult population is considered overweight.
As you sit with your butt seemingly glued to your office chair for yet another day, could it be that you're about to join that group? Maybe you're already part of it.
If so, you may want to consider what some workers are doing to fight the battle of the bulge.
A University of Missouri employee, Nikki Raedeke, says she lost weight in the double digits since getting up out of her chair as dietetics program director the College of Human Environmental Sciences — and never sitting down again.
Instead, Raedeke spends her day walking while she works. Using a specially designed treadmill, Raedeke walks up to 11 miles each day, all while sending emails, talking on the phone, writing reports or conversing with colleagues. Since she began the practice in January, she says she feels much more energized and even will stand in meetings instead of sitting, as was her previous habit.
Raedeke says she doesn't even notice that she spends her day striding in place although "handwriting is still a bit tricky," she says.
Raedeke says she was inspired to launch her walking routine after observing Steve Ball, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU who also uses a treadmill while he works.
"I just think we've got to practice what we preach," he says. "It doesn't make sense for me to be on my tail when there's a way for me to get moving and be a role model."
Ball says students and professors often stop by to question him about the treadmill, and that gives him an opportunity to promote a message of good health.
The treadmill is designed to reach a maximum speed of only 2 mph, he says. That's slow enough to make working easy but fast enough to burn 100 calories an hour.
If you take into account that adding an extra 100 calories a day can add 10 pounds a year, walking while working makes sense, Ball says.
"For some people, it might be the only exercise they get all day," he says.
Raedeke, 40, says she worked out several times a week walking or running for about 30 minutes, but the continual movement while on the job has made a difference in other areas.
"I think it has also made me more aware of my diet," she says. "I don't want to go and eat back those calories at night."
While Raedeke and Ball use treadmills designed for office work, bestselling author Tom Rath says that while writing his new book he modified his own treadmill and was able to write several hours every day while walking about 1.5 miles an hour. He also walks an additional five to 10 miles every day.
Ball and Raedeke offer tips for others interested in adding more activity to their work day:
• Move more often. Even if you don't have a treadmill desk, you should aim for moving every hour, maybe 10 deep knee bends beside your desk or walking in place for 2 minutes.
Research finds that sitting for more than six hours a day increases your chances of dying sooner than someone who sits only three hours a day, no matter how much regular exercise you may get. Experts like Ball consider it key to schedule regular movement throughout the day.
• Be a leader. "You don't have to be embarrassed for participating in healthy behavior," Ball says, adding that promoting a healthy lifestyle can change the culture of an office and encourage others to join you.
Employers will find that healthier employees are more productive and lower health insurance costs, he says.
• Dress appropriately. Raedeke says she keeps different shoes at work for her needs.
She wears athletic shoes while walking, and slips into other shoes when going to teach a class. She's also learned to dress in layers so she can be comfortable while walking.
• Walk and talk. It's easy to build more movement into the day and it can even help office interactions, Ball says.
For example, difficult conversations between a boss and employee are easier when walking, he says, and meetings can be held while everyone takes a walk outside.
• Track your progress. You're more likely to stick with health goals if you keep track of what you're eating and how much you're moving, Ball says.
Set a timer at work to remind you to move every hour, or try online applications like myfitnesspal.com to track calories and exercise. Another option is FitBit, a watch-like band that tracks your daily fitness.
"A lot of people give up on fitness because it seems overwhelming and hopeless," Ball says. "You see people in magazines with these six-pack abs. Most people won't get to that, and you don't have to. You just need to be active. So make it easy and accessible."