One professor’s unique approach to daily fitness

By Brittany Muldoon, Staff Writer

January 23, 2013Treadmill Desk

Do you often find yourself making resolutions to try to lead a healthier life? Maybe you planned out an exercise schedule, tried to make better choices about food, or set an athletic goal for yourself. However, chances are you never actually followed through with your plans. You may have had too much work to do one night so you couldn’t go to the gym. Maybe you decided to indulge in that giant piece of chocolate cake after dinner “just this once.” Whatever the excuse, you just weren’t able to reach your health goals because other things kept getting in the way. So, have you ever wondered if there was a way to be healthier that didn’t interfere with your regular day-to-day routine? Well, one professor here at High Point University has found one: the treadmill desk.

Professor Daniel Tarara, a professor in the School of Health Sciences at High Point University, has set up a treadmill desk in his office. All of his office work takes place at this desk, as his computer and other work supplies are there.

This unique idea came from a student he taught in one of his classes. A student showed him an article from the New York Times that highlighted the treadmill desk as a way for office workers to become more active without interfering with the work they have to do each day. Tarara did more research on the idea and found an abundance of positive information, so he decided to take action and build one for himself to use at HPU during the time when he isn’t teaching classes.

Tarara says that he put the desk together to “combat the doldrums of sitting in an office.” When sitting at a desk for a long period of time, he says he often gets tired and that constantly walking or standing at his desk greatly improves his mental function and blood flow and keeps him from feeling groggy.

Aside from keeping him alert during the day, the treadmill desk offers an abundance of other health benefits. “To go from sitting to standing,” says Tarara, “burns an extra 20 calories per hour, and to go from sitting to walking burns an extra 100 calories per hour.” Basically, the treadmill desk evokes a small change in one’s metabolism. If a person makes walking on the treadmill desk a habitual part of his or her day, that person will probably find that his or her weight is more stable. However, the treadmill desk alone is not for someone who wants to lose a large amount of weight fairly quickly.

Tarara says that usually when people first see the desk, the reactions are varied: people are most commonly confused, surprised, or impressed. In reaction to the desk, others may wonder how Tarara stays motivated to use the desk all day long. After all, that’s a lot of time to be standing and walking rather than sitting down and relaxing.

“It’s my only choice,” says Tarara. Since it is his only desk, he can’t do his work anywhere else. He says that it helps that he isn’t in his office for more than a few hours at a time, and sometimes he will just stand and not turn on the treadmill. He also added that it’s usually easier for him to walk than sit and he has a greater mental focus when he’s moving.

Since most students aren’t able to incorporate a treadmill desk into their everyday lives, Tarara offers this tip to keep your resolutions to stay fit: “It isn’t enough to resolve to do something. You have to put it into action, make a plan or schedule that you’ll actually stick to.” Tarara also says it is helpful to make concrete and tangible goals to stay motivated.