Americans sit. A lot. According to one estimate, sedentary jobs have risen 83 percent since 1950, and now account for 43 percent of American jobs.
To combat the ill effects, some have taken to standing desks. Others may try to squeeze in some exercise by biking or even running to work (only really an option for those who have showers at the office). And others yet are trying to combine the two: bike desks.
Now, a study confirms: This is a good idea.
“Sitting all day at work is really bad for us,” says Lucas Carr, an assistant professor in health and human physiology at the University of Iowa and co-author of the study. “Research has found excessive sedentary time to be a risk factor for many physical and psychosocial health outcomes including mortality, obesity, cardiometabolic-disease risk, cancer, stress, depressive symptoms, and poorer cognitive function.”
Moreover, Carr says that research has shown that this relationship cannot be “exercised off”: The negative effects of sitting all day aren’t cured by regular exercise. To that point, Carr believes that office gyms can’t solve the problem caused by the sedentary nature of work.
Carr and a team of researchers recruited 54 employees at ACT, a company in Iowa City, to test whether they could encourage a treatment group to use pedal machines under their desk during work hours. Over 16 weeks, 27 participants in the study pedaled an average of 50 minutes a day—with heavy users pedaling as much as two to three hours. To Carr’s delight, 70 percent asked to keep their pedaling devices at the end of the study. The study found that those who pedaled more reported improved concentration at work, suggesting there are productivity gains to being active at the office.