Obesity and lack of exercise may have become an ever-growing issue in the United States, but Drexel professor James Herbert has made a unique change in his workday routine as he strives to become healthier.
Herbert, a professor of psychology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has taken multitasking to a new level with a revolutionary device called a TreadDesk. This desk-treadmill hybrid consists of an elongated, narrow desk with a mini treadmill underneath.
Herbert, who suffers from lower-back pain, was looking for ways to decrease the pain.
“For me [using the TreadDesk is] not about losing weight, it’s about getting healthy in general. But concretely, it’s about the back pain issue, so it definitely has helped,” he said.
According to Herbert, a committed runner and second-degree black belt, he has felt less inclined to sit down since purchasing the TreadDesk and is perfectly comfortable using the device whenever he is in his office. Herbert also has a traditional sit-down desk but generally only uses it to eat.
“My typical day consists of a lot of meetings … so when I’m in meetings, I’m sitting. Otherwise … I’m on [the TreadDesk],” he said.
So why not use a regular treadmill? According to Herbert, the speed is an issue., as full-sized treadmills typically start at 4 miles per hour. However, the TreadDesk’s speed ranges from approximately 1.5 to 4 mph, and it is designed specifically for walking slowly for the sake of multitasking.
Herbert believes that the $1,000 TreadDesk is well worth the price and will save him money in the long run on medical expenses associated with missing work .
Herbert is not the only Drexel professor to find unique ways to promote fitness during the workday. R. Andrew Hicks, a Drexel professor of mathematics and associate head of the Department of Mathematics, also uses a standing desk.
Hicks also suffers from back pain and has found that his affliction has diminished since he started using the standing desk. Hicks had originally been using an adjustable bookshelf as a desk since February 2011 until he decided to invest in the standing desk. This adjustable desk cost Hicks approximately $250.
“I didn’t want to invest in the desk until I was sure it would work for me,” Hicks said.
Unlike Herbert, Hicks does not have a sitting desk in his office but has two couches, which, according to Hicks, are not often used.
“The main point is just … changing a lot, not staying in one position. So I try not to stay at the standing desk fixed at the screen … so I generally try to mix it up and move around a lot,” Hicks said.
According to Hicks, he has lost 10 pounds since using the standing desk. Also a runner, Hicks walks roughly two miles to work almost every day.
Another healthy habit that Drexel professors engage in is bike riding. Kirk Heilbrun, professor of psychology and head of the psychology department, rides his bike to Drexel one to two times a week from Chestnut Hill during the summer term.
But one does not necessarily need to be athletic to stay healthy and fit. Simply not sitting all day and staying mobile could make a world of a difference.
Herbert also suggests sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair, which forces the body to use its core muscles for stabilization. Additionally, simply setting an alarm five minutes before every hour and walking around could help people stay fit.
According to ABC News, “[When we sit] the enzymes that are responsible for burning fat just shut down.”
“Right now there’s a tendency that people who are more likely to do this are the people who are active,” Herbert said. “The people that could benefit the most from it are precisely the people who are not active.”
Herbert is optimistic that a health trend will begin spreading at Drexel and perhaps throughout the nation.
“Drexel’s always been a progressive kind of place … very innovative. One thing I really like about Drexel is that it’s always reinventing itself. … I can see something like this catching on quicker at Drexel than at a lot of other places,” he said.