Treadmill desks don’t hinder thinking but can hamper memory
If you’ve ever tried to recall a recently learned phone number while using a treadmill workstation, you know it can be tough. That’s because working memory isn’t as efficient when using a treadmill workstation as when sitting or standing, a new University of Michigan study found.
But other types of thinking, such as switching tasks and checking immediate impulses, also called inhibition, are the same whether sitting or standing.
In the study, researchers at the U-M School of Kinesiology assessed response time and accuracy of three components of executive function during sitting, standing and walking at two different speeds. The results showed that only working memory was slightly negatively impacted when walking, but inhibition and task shifting didn’t vary across the workstations.
“We think treadmill work desks are a feasible solution to promote employee health by reducing sedentariness during the work day,” said lead author Zhanjia Zhang, a doctoral student in the lab of Weiyun Chen, associate professor of Applied Exercise Science in the School of Kinesiology. “We’re not saying that employees should use a treadmill desk all of the time, but that employees should choose the right type of task so walking won’t impair efficiency.”