A number of employers apparently are willing to let their workers walk. Steelcase Inc. says many companies have expressed interest in its newest product, which combines an office workstation with a treadmill so workers can burn calories while earning a paycheck.
The nation's largest office furniture maker will begin taking orders for its Walkstation beginning Nov. 19.
''What we have done is taken science from the lab to a product that could potentially help millions and millions of people,'' Walkstation developer James Levine told The Grand Rapids Press for a story published Thursday. ''I think it's the next iPod. Everybody is going to want one.''
Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who has spent the past 15 years studying energy expended during daily activity, collaborated on the Walkstation with Steelcase.
He approached staff members of the Grand Rapids-based company with the idea while they were doing research at the renowned medical facility. Within a month, a prototype was built that combined a height-adjustable workstation produced by Details, a Steelcase subsidiary, with a treadmill from the company's fitness area.
The final product, which will sell for about $4,000 and be the first product of Details' new FitWork line, incorporates a specially designed treadmill by St. Louis-based True Fitness Technology Inc.
The quiet-running treadmill is designed to offer a user a low-impact slow stroll rather than a sweat-inducing run-walk. It operates at a maximum speed of 3.5 mph instead of a more typical 10 mph.
Walking regularly, even at a slow pace, can improve a person's health, said Steve Glass, a fitness expert who is a professor of movement science at Grand Valley State University.
''How hard you work to burn calories isn't as important as burning those calories from the standpoint of long-term health,'' Glass said.
Levine said his research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle is unnatural. The key to fighting obesity and many other health problems is to keep people from spending their days desk-bound.
''Over the last 150 years, we've become chair-imprisoned. We are behind a screen all day at work. We are in a car or bus getting to and from work. And in the evening, we are in a chair watching television or surfing the Internet,'' Levine said. ''We've gone from being on our legs all day to being on our bottoms all day.''
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