Combating Sedentary Lifestyles in Universities With Treadmill Desks and Bike Desks

November 6, 2014

Universities and their faculty are fully aware of the current landscape of health. Pioneers of research and intellectualism, educators have full comprehension of what constitutes healthy lifestyles and what poses the greatest threats to healthy living. This knowledge has led to a paradigm shift in the collegiate setting, with a growing number of educators moving towards a more active workplace through treadmill desk and bike desk implementation. Analysis of the motivations of university faculty and staff can provide valuable insight into the emerging world of active institutions. LifeSpan, the global leader in the active office movement, is dedicated to providing insight into this fascinating development.

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Hitting the Books

Empirical evidence has never been more present, or condemning, of the health issues associated with prolonged periods of sitting. Research has repeatedly shown associations between sedentary routines and higher levels of obesity, presence of preventable chronic disease and higher rates of injury.

As pioneers of these studies and promoters of alternative healthy lifestyles, academic professionals may possess the greatest insight into achievable methods of reversing the deadly trend of inactivity. Through research conducted by LifeSpan, the trends of university educators and administration are now available to help set the bar for other academics, industries, or individuals seeking healthy lifestyle alterations.

LifeSpan was dedicated to determine the current landscape of treadmill desk and bike desk activity in the higher education workplace. A 13-question survey was sent via email to 117 collegiate professionals working in higher education institutions across the United States. These professionals had purchased LifeSpan active workstations (treadmill desks and bike desks) in the past 18 months. Though it was announced that participants would be privy to comprehensive responses after survey completion, no additional incentives were offered to potential respondents. In response to these 117 surveys, 44 unique responses were collected, representing 38% of all contacted individuals.

By analyzing the results of this examination, insights can be found in the growing trend of institutional activity and movement. Information such as typical user profiles, motivations for purchase, style of implementation, benefits of use, and more can be gained from exploring this effort.

Survey Participant Profile

education survey participant profile pie chart

Who in higher education are actually using treadmill desks and bike desks? Survey results displayed that professors are primarily the ones walking the talk. Of all those surveyed that had purchased active workstations, the majority identified as professors or lecturers. Universities as institutions are also making the change to a mobile workplace, as a third of all responses were from facilities managers, college deans, and other administrative positions. Free-response survey answers displayed that when institutional funding is unavailable, collegiate employees are willing to provide the capital themselves to acquire a LifeSpan product.

Primary Motivators for Purchase

Why are educators using active workstations? Respondents were asked to comment on their primary motivations for their purchase. The results displayed a group dedicated to an increase in overall health and daily activity. This should come as no surprise, as copious amounts of research have recently displayed the value of activity in health and reduction in disease susceptibility. Specifically, analysis performed by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association states that “because of the relation between physical activity and health, persons who wish to improve their personal fitness, reduce their risk for chronic diseases and disabilities or prevent unhealthy weight gain may benefit by exceeding the minimum recommended amounts of physical activity.”

Similarly, however, purchase motivation was commonly attributed to desiring a reduction of chronic pain in the low back, hips, knees and ankles. This finding complies with the discoveries of multiple research projects investigating low back pain (LBP). LBP is the fifth most-common reason for all physician visits in the United States and is experienced by upwards of 80% of all adults.

education survey motivators for purchase chart

Daily Usage and Location

Those who utilize treadmill desks or bike desks use them frequently. It was discovered that half of all participants who use their desk between 2 and 8 hours a day, with some users operating their desks for greater than 8 hours a day. Once purchased, participants were found to keep their desks close by, reporting that they keep their equipment in a personal space, typically an office environment. This was slightly different when equipment was purchased by the institution, with some hardware being placed in a common area for simultaneous staff and student use.

1. Almost exclusively single owners/users
2. 20% of those surveyed claimed that users share their hardware with colleagues
3. Occasional placement in common areas for universal use

education survey active workstation hours of usage chart

Benefits of Use

Multiple studies have reported that noticeable benefits that accompany active workstation use, such as weight loss and increased work performance. To determine whether or not these findings would be consistent with educators, participants were asked if they personally experienced any benefits of use, and if so, what precise benefits they gained.

education survey active workstation benefits chart

According to the majority of participants, active workstations were beneficial additions to the higher-education office environment. Almost 90% of all who were surveyed claim to have seen personal improvements from using their treadmill desk or bike desk. All respondents selected at least two specific areas of unique improvement, with some selecting up to 3 or 4 total benefit areas. Fittingly, the original motivations for purchase were frequently represented as areas of perceived benefit, specifically with improved activity, health, and reduction of assorted lower body pain.

education survey active workstation list of benefits chart

Continued Advocacy

When asked if their experiences would prompt them to endorse activity in the workplace, participants overwhelmingly stated that they would recommend LifeSpan products. With 95% of contributors stating that they would endorse treadmill and bike desks, it can be expected that secondary educators will continue to advocate for better health through activity in the workplace.

education survey participant recommendations graphic

Based on the information collected by the LifeSpan survey, it is clear that higher education professionals find active workstations to be a worth-while remedy to the sedentary workplace. Professors, lecturers and university office faculty are using active desks, often for extended periods of time. Benefits of use are common and multiple, with users stating that their increase in activity has shown remarkable improvements in energy, productivity, and creative thinking. Of significant importance is the revelation that use of LifeSpan active workstations has decreased chronic lower body pain in almost 50% of all professionals. Finally, it was discovered that these professionals find active desks to be of such value that they deserve recommendation to colleagues and personal contacts. When viewed compositely, these conclusions display a progressing trend towards mobile workplaces in the higher education environment.

Full Infographic

education survey active workstation full infographic

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