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Three pounds in a year

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Speaking of regular exercise, James Fell takes us for a tour of the pros and cons of treadmill desks:

The average weight loss after a year was a paltry three pounds after $126,000 worth of treadmill desks were placed in a Minneapolis office.

Only three pounds in a year? I could sneeze that much weight off. What’s going on?

What’s going on is that it seems that people in the study didn’t use them much, as it increased their daily number of steps by fewer than a thousand. In other words, the treadmill desks made them walk an extra half-mile each day. To me, this says they barely used the things.

No kidding: there is a list of practical problems with these things, nevermind the aesthetics, and the potentially bogus premise. (Contrary to what we’ve all been hearing for the last three years, sitting may not be “the new smoking,” harmful no matter how much exercise you get. I don’t want to alarm you, but that trope might be alarmist.)

Fell quotes a scientist who seems much too sure for my comfort that it’s all worth it:

“The benefits of being active on a treadmill are going too far outweigh a little bit of low back stiffness,” Ferber said. “What’s the alternative? Sitting in a chair, perhaps with bad posture, for hours on end? This is just as bad if not worse because you’re not expending any energy.” In other words, Ferber’s says the cost-benefit analysis of the treadmill desk is positive. “In the long run, you’re going to be better off.”

Let’s be clear: that conclusion a wild guess. No one actually knows (or possibly can know) how the pros and cons will balance.

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