Walking while I work has been a big step forward

Roger Highfield
Thursday 28 February 2013 00:00 GMT

Yes, the head of an august science institution and senior BBC science journalist have almost fallen off it. Yes, it does tend to raise eyebrows when people see it in my office. But it is gratifying to hear that my treadmill desk is not only helping me to keep trim but also reducing my risk of diabetes.

I first came across the idea of a treadmill desk around seven years ago, when I covered the research of Prof James Levine, a Briton working at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He had done studies to show that weigh loss was not just a matter of diet and strenuous exercise but the calories we burn as we go about our lives, whether walking up stairs or strolling to chat with a work colleague rather than emailing them. Lack of activity, more than fast food, marks the major change in modern life, he argues. So the answer is simply to raise our activity levels.

One way to do this is to work on a treadmill, not a seat. Why didn't I give it a go? he asked. I did back in 2006, while working at a national newspaper. Little did I realise that this would lead to being teased endlessly, offer a source of constant amusement for colleagues. But I lost weight, and felt toned (well, a bit) and energised too.

When I took over the editorship of New Scientist, the idea of a treadmill desk proved too radical for the publisher. But not for Ian Blatchford, the boss of the Science Museum. My treadmill, with a phone and desk with my PC, dominates the office: if anyone pays a surprise visit, I am always towering above them, providing a psychological advantage. But the real plus is I feel so much friskier. I have seen the future, and, yes, it is a hamster wheel.

Roger Highfield is the director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group

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