Issue: September 2008
Walkin' 9 to 5
A standing desk healed his back pain. Now, David Pauer hopes the cleveland Clinic will invest in walking desks to help employees’ overall health.
David Pauer admits he’s a horrible slouch. The Cleveland Clinic wellness manager’s sitting posture was so poor that he developed chronic back pain. “My physical therapist said, ‘Sit up! It will help your back!’ ” the 44-year-old remembers.
But five months ago, he found an easier solution: Pauer traded his traditional desk for a standing counterpart, an old lab table with an adjustable kidney-shaped laminate top that the department administrator was planning to put in storage.
Pauer’s desk switch was inspired by Dr. Eugene Blackstone, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Clinic who actually had two commercially manufactured standing desks in his office — one with a slanted top for writing and one with a flat top for computer work.
“Of course, he knew about the benefits for your spine,” Pauer says. “With the standing desk, you have no choice but to stand up straight.”
Pauer had no trouble adjusting to being on his feet 80 percent of the day. He noticed an improvement in his back almost immediately, and people began to comment on his better posture.
Now, he hopes to augment his time at the standing desk with work on what he considers the next big thing in office furnishings: the walking desk. It’s a contraption developed by Dr. James Levine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., that marries a standing desk to a treadmill. Even when the treadmill is set at a top speed of 2 miles per hour, workers can perform their usual sedentary duties, including typing on a computer keyboard, without breaking a sweat.
“It’s not aerobic [activity], but you do burn calories,” Pauer says. “Dr. Levine figures he burns about 700 calories a day on his walking desk. Over the course of a week or so, that would be a pound or more.”
Pauer isn’t the only employee who wants to walk while working. The photograph of a walking desk that he included in a presentation earlier this year generated inquiries from a dozen or so physicians, researchers and administrators — enough to prompt the Clinic to consider installing a walking desk in a common area of a new buildingto see how much use it actually gets. The walking desk is admittedly a big investment. The only model currently on the market, a Steelcase-brand Details Walkstation, goes for about $4,100 at Ohio Desk.
“But if it takes off, we’d actually be saving money because we’d be improving employee health,” Pauer says.
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