Is It Better to Walk, Run or Treadmill Desk?

The health benefits of walking and running are undeniable, but which one is better for you?  This question has been the subject of a number of studies over the past few years.  The biggest of the studies is the National Runners and Walkers Health Study being conducted by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.  This study included 15,237 walkers and 32,215 runners.  It’s not clear how many of the walkers were pounding out miles on a treadmill desk.

walk run or treadmill deskA number of researchers have taken the data from this large study and used it to test various hypothesis about walkers and runners.  If you are wanting to lose weight, you have got to get out and run.  That is what the researchers for Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine found in a study that was released in April 2013.  The study was aptly titled “Greater Weight Loss From Running than Walking.”  So much for the fine art of suspense among researchers.

There is great news for walkers, and that would include those of us who are walking and working on our treadmill desks.  A study published in April 2013 in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that walkers decreased their risk of heart disease by more than 9 percent while runners only decreased their risk by 4.5 percent.  The findings were based on running for an hour a day or walking that expended the same amount of energy.  That is a lot of running or walking for a day.  However, a walker at a treadmill desk can easily expend the same amount of energy during a typical work day.  One factor for the increased heart benefit is that people who begin walking are often more unhealthy than those who run.

Over the past year there seem to have been a ton of walking and running studies being published.  For me, the studies with the most impact were the alarming studies about the dangers of sitting all day.  This Lifehacker article provides a great overview of the various studies.  The most sobering part of the studies is the timeline given for the effects of sitting:

  • Immediately after sitting the electrical activity in your leg muscles slows down which can reduce calories burned to as low as one calorie per minute.
  • After two weeks of sitting for more than six hours a day your triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (the bad ones), and insulin resistance are all impacted.  Your body is more challenged to process fat and sugar levels are going up.  Oxygen consumption is also reduced which will make it harder to climb stairs, etc.
  • After one year of sitting for more than six hours a day the long-term effects start to subtly emerge.  These can include weight gain, high cholesterol, vision issues and in woman a 1% loss of bone mass each year.
  • In the long-term, researchers have concluded that sitting can reduce overall life expectancy by 7 years.  The risk of prostate or breast cancer also increases by 30 percent.

If you’re not a big fan of reading scientific studies you can also check out this infographic that was put together by and was based on data from various studies.  You should also check out this excellent article in the NY Times Well Blog by Gretchen Reynolds.

Do I still look like a crazy fool for building a DIY treadmill desk?  Maybe.  At publication I have been walking and working on my treadmill desk for six months.  Based on averages I have walked and worked at least 500 miles so far.  I haven’t had a massive weight loss but my body is noticeably leaner and I don’t huff and puff when running after my children or working in the yard. Walking and working on a treadmill desk isn’t really about weight loss, it is about getting up out of the office chair and moving.

The stress relief benefits of walking and working and creative boost are undeniable.  I am more productive at work and I am a lot more fun to be around after work too.  A few weeks ago I added this 7 minute workout routine to my day and I have already seen big benefits!  If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to run.  If you want to maintain and improve health, you need to walk.  If you want to live to survive your job, you need a DIY treadmill desk.   OK, that last statement was a bit extreme, but for just under $150 my DIY treadmill desk has been a great investment!  You can learn how I built mine here.



Is It Better to Walk, Run or Treadmill Desk? — 2 Comments

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