The delayed effect of treadmill desk usage on recall and attention

Posted by: , ScienceDirect    |    Tuesday, February 10, 2015


The treadmill desk is a new human–computer interaction (HCI) setup intended to reduce the time workers spend sitting. As most workers will not choose to spend their entire workday walking, this study investigated the short-term delayed effect of treadmill desk usage. An experiment was conducted in which participants either sat or walked while they read a text and received emails. Afterward, all participants performed a task to evaluate their attention and memory. Behavioral, neurophysiological, and perceptual evidence showed that participants who walked had a short-term increase in memory and attention, indicating that the use of a treadmill desk has a delayed effect. These findings suggest that the treadmill desk, in addition to having health benefits for workers, can also be beneficial for businesses by enhancing workforce performance.


1. Introduction

“Sitting is the new smoking” (Merchant, 2013). Research shows that some fundamentally negative effects stem from sitting for long periods of time (Levine, 2010 and Van der Ploeg et al., 2012), such as increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and musculoskeletal pain (Duvivier et al., 2013, Hill and Peters, 1998 and Højbjerre et al., 2010). It has also been shown that sitting is a risk factor for death. Compared to more active people, the all-cause mortality is increased by 15% for people who sit over 8 h per day and by 40% for people who sit over 11 h per day (van der Ploeg et al., 2012).

Thus, researchers and manufacturers are trying to design new forms of human–computer interaction (HCI) devices that will help workers to sit less and remain healthy while still being productive. One proposed HCI device is the treadmill desk, invented in 1988 (Edelson & Danoff, 1989) but only manufactured commercially since 2007 (Levine & Miller, 2007). As Fig. 1 shows, a treadmill is positioned underneath an elevated desk. A computer is placed upon this desk with its mouse and keyboard. Users walk at low speed with their arms resting on the armrests to stabilize themselves, enabling them to interact with the computer in a normal way. The ideal speed has been identified as 2.25 km/h (Funk et al., 2012).

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