Written By Stephanie Burns of Chic CEO
Getting a treadmill desk has made a significant impact on my daily productivity. I actually get a little sad when I sit down after walking for a few hours and that naturally made me curious. I got a treadmill desk because I knew that sitting at my computer wasn’t healthy for me, but I wasn’t expecting my productivity to rise so much. My output of work is remarkably higher when I’m walking, which was an unexpected benefit.
I reached out to the CEO of RebelDesk, Kathleen Hale, to dig deeper into how a treadmill desk not only makes you healthier physically, but the improvements it makes on general productivity.
What inspired you to create Rebel Desk?
I was inspired by the transforming power of the treadmill desk. I experienced first-hand how a treadmill desk can make your day awesome and literally change your life. I wanted more people to feel as focused, productive, and energized as I did when using a treadmill desk. As I learned more about the benefits of being active while working rather than being sedentary, I was driven to give more people the ability to transform their day, improve their health, and live better.
What did you do to get Rebel Desk off the ground?
A lot. Rebel Desk is the second business that I have started but the first physical product business, and that brought many new challenges. We did significant market research and financial analysis before deciding to give it a go. When we were convinced of the opening in the market, we worked on the designs and specifications for the treadmills and the desks. Then we sourced manufacturers both domestic and overseas by visiting factories, meeting with company representatives, and testing prototypes. At the same time, we were building out the website, putting our e-commerce integrations into place, and getting photos and videos of the products ready to go. Several months before our products were ready for sale, I began sharing content on our blog and social media sites to help build momentum. I also took care of many of the less exciting aspects of getting the business off the ground, such as insurance needs, trademarks, and registering with the appropriate government agencies.
Why do we need to be on our feet more during the day?
So we can feel better, be healthier, and live longer! For a long time, research focused on the importance of getting a certain amount of exercise each day. What the research overlooked was how we were spending the rest of our day. For most of us, even those who are physically active, we spend a lot of time sitting. The average person spends over nine hours per day sitting.
More recently researchers began to study the effects of inactivity on the body. What we’ve learned is that inactivity takes a huge toll on health and wellness, even if you exercise regularly. In studies with sample sizes ranging from 4,500 people to 240,000 people, researchers discovered that sitting all day can increase your risk of early death and developing cardiovascular disease. Women in particular are at risk. A 13-year study that followed women’s activity levels found that women who sat for six or more hours a day were 94% more likely to die during the study than those who sat for three hours or less a day. Women who sat the most also were three times as likely to die from heart disease as women who sat the least.
Your body’s metabolic processes nearly shut down as soon as you sit down. Almost immediately after sitting down, the rate at which you produce fat-burning enzymes drops by about 90%. On average, the body burns one calorie a minute when you are sitting. That is not good news, especially if you are like me and sitting at a desk makes you want to snack away! Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been linked to all kinds of other bad outcomes, including depressive symptoms, blood clots, and back pain.
How much does being on your feet or walking increase your productivity? Do you have any statistics reflecting the increase in productivity?
Based on my own experience and hearing about the experiences of many standing and treadmill desk users, being active while working significantly and noticeably improves productivity. People report feeling much more focused, and when they are more focused, they are checking things off that to-do list at a nice rate. I have spoken with adults who struggle with attention deficit problems and they claim that they could not work if not for their standing desks. Being able to stand and shuffle your feet may help engage a part of the brain that otherwise would be distracted and a drag on productivity.
In one study where standing desks were introduced into an office, 66% of participants reported feeling more productive after seven weeks of using the standing desks. A relatively non-scientific study conducted by the online news magazine ReadWrite found a 10% increase in productivity for employees using standing desks. One study of treadmill desk use among people at a financial services company found that while initially productivity declined for the users (perhaps because they were adjusting to walking and typing), ultimately their productivity exceeded the baseline goals.
What do you think the benefits of physical activity are to our work?
There are so many! Where to start? I like to think of active working as the catalyst for making every day great and then ultimately helping you feel great long into your life.
When you work standing or walking, you feel more energized and healthier than if you were sitting in a chair. When you are feeling good, you’re less likely to engage in those bad habits that you might otherwise and more likely to be ready to conquer the world (or at least your to-do list). We all have mundane aspects of our work life. Research suggests, however, that as long you are focused while doing even the mundane, you will feel happier than if your mind is wandering. A standing or treadmill desk can help you achieve the level of focus.
Working while on your feet also can make you feel empowered. You are standing tall with your shoulders back and head up rather than slouched over in a chair. Your posture can effect hormone levels that in turn help you feel empowered. I have heard from people that they deal better with stressful situations and difficult co-workers when they are standing as opposed to sitting.
In the long run, active working can help you live longer and healthier. You can help to avoid back pain, blood clots, weight gain, chronic diseases, certain cancers, and even strokes.
How much has this product improved your life?
So much that I quit everything else I was doing and started a business around it! I used to sit nine to twelve hours a day for my job. It was taking a toll even though I am a pretty fit person. Using a treadmill desk or just standing up for most of the day improves my mood, keeps lower back pain at bay, boosts my productivity, and allows me to look forward to working.
What are some other ways to increase physical activity during the work day if I am stuck at a desk?
There are a few apps that you can download to help remind you to take a break and stand up. Two that I have tested are StandUp! and StandApp. StandApp also gives you a short exercise to do, like the water bottle arm lift, which is kind of fun.
You also can try to add more walking into your day by taking the stairs or going to the restroom or break room farthest from your office.
If you have a meeting with other folks, see if they are willing to turn it into a walking meeting or at least a stand-up meeting. Stand-up meetings have the added benefit of taking less time than meetings where everyone sits. Who doesn’t like that?
What’s next for Rebel Desk? Or, what should we be keeping a lookout for?
Rebel Desk will have a 2014 model of the Rebel Treadmill 1000 out soon. We also are working on an e-book that will have everything you wanted to know about active working.
What’s your favorite mistake?
This is tough because I’ve made a lot of mistakes! Related to Rebel Desk, one of my favorites is trying to design the control console for the treadmill without asking for advice until pretty far along in that process. Only then did we learn that a close advisor had significant experience designing electronic interfaces. I like this mistake now because it taught me that my network is only as powerful as I ask it to be.
Stephanie Burns is the founder and CEO of Chic CEO – a free resource for female entrepreneurs looking to start a business. You can follow her on Twitter at @StephanieABurns or Chic CEO at @ChicCEO.