Unintended Consequences of Offices

There was a nice piece in the N.Y. Times earlier this week concerning a recent Science paper on obesity. The upshot: People tend to be sedentary because they are overweight, not vice-versa as many people had long thought/hoped.
While that is perfectly straightforward stuff, there are some good “Why things bite back”-ish factoids in the piece, including this:

…in 1920 before cars were common, people in Rochester [N.Y.] walked an average of 1.6 miles a day to and from work, which burned about 150 calories a day.

Perhaps needless to say, most people today don’t walk that much in a week.
The best bit in the story, however, is how the lead researcher has taken his own research to heart. He stands instead of sitting at meetings, he paces the office while on the phone, and his office computer set up is kinda unusual:

“My computer is stationed over the treadmill,” he said. “I work at 0.7 miles an hour.”
A stand-up desk might seem simpler, but he prefers the treadmill.
“Standing still is quite difficult,” he said. “You have a natural tendency to want to move your legs. Zero point seven is the key. You don’t get sweaty, you can’t jiggle too much. It’s about one step a second. It’s very comfortable. Most people seem to like it around 0.7.”
He has installed a second treadmill alongside his own, and he encourages visitors to hop on and stroll while they talk to him.

[Update] After being reminded a couple of times by posters here, I fixed the closing sentence in the first para of this entry. I had things scrambled to the point that even I wasn’t sure what I originally meant. Thanks folks.

Related posts:

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  2. The Unintended Consequences of Affirmative Action
  3. IPOs and SarbOx’s Unintended Consequences
  4. Offshoring’s Unintended Consequence: Perma-Work
  5. NatPost Column: Email — Truth and Consequences

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    >>> He has installed a second treadmill alongside his own, and he encourages visitors to hop on and stroll while they talk to him.

  2. Dan Moore says:

    “The upshot: People tend to be sedentary because they are overweight, not vice-versa. While some people may not be as active-minded as others, people tend to be obese because they don’t do enough.”
    I’m sorry, don’t these two sentences contradict each other? Perhaps the second read:
    “…people tend to be obese and therefore they don’t do enough.”
    Or am I missing something?

  3. Carey says:

    “My computer is stationed over the treadmill…”
    I love people that come up with the most difficult solution for the easiest problems. I have an idea; get outside at lunch or after work for 45 minutes and actually get your HR over 100 bpm.

  4. Anonymous coward says:

    Actually, it’s the first sentence that should be flipped around. The point of the article is that people are overweight because they are sedentary, not vice versa. Paul, maybe an update is in order? It’s kind of a key point…

  5. Paul K. says:

    Thanks for reminding me. Have now shamefacedly fixed it.