Health & Fitness

Workouts at your workstation

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You don't need to be a Mayo Clinic researcher to figure out that being glued to an office chair all day makes people fat, but that's what it took to start a revolution. A few years ago, the clinic's Dr. James Levine theorized that raising one's metabolism through low-level, daylong movement could burn at least as many calories as a conventional workout at the end of an inactive day. He proved it by grafting a treadmill to a desk — his test subjects got healthier and walked off dozens of pounds without breaking a sweat at a 1 mph pace. Naturally, that led to the Levine-designed $4,199 Steelcase Walkstation, followed by a host of lower-cost, move-while-you-work accessories, some of the best of which are reviewed below.

Walk calories and aches away

TrekDesk Treadmill Desk: Four-foot wide, adjustable-height, stand-alone platform that fits over the front end of a treadmill and has space for a computer, phone, printer and other objects.

Likes: When combined with a cheap treadmill suitable for low-speed walking, it's an effective, economical alternative to the Walkstation. The desktop doesn't block access to the treadmill control panel, and there's room to walk at an incline. An Irvine lawyer who uses one told me that walking at 0.8 or 0.9 mph while answering e-mail and working the phone keeps her fresh all day and eliminated the backache she'd often get from sitting for hours. The simple act of standing up and moving keeps her sweater-free on cold days when her co-workers are bundled up.

Dislikes: None.

Price: $479. (877) 449-8588; http://www.trekdesk.com

Bike trainer entertainer

FitDesk Pro bike computer platform: A molded foam elbow-rest and desktop that fits over a standard handlebar on a road or mountain bike that is connected to a stationary trainer.

Likes: Keeps forearms steady, allowing for surprisingly stable typing in a conventional cycling position. Includes a pocket on each side for water bottles or energy bars. The unit is held in place with straps and a post that lash to the top tube and the front wheel. Disassembles quickly to free your bike for normal use. Great for watching a DVD during a hard training session. Non-cyclists satisfied with a mild workout may prefer the all-in-one, fold-up FitDesk bike ($289.99).

Dislikes: You'd better develop a super-smooth pedal stroke or you might get seasick trying to read the screen, which vibrates with your motion.

Price: $129.99. (615) 669-9004; http://www.fitdeskbike.com

Web runner, biker, ellipticizer

SurfShelf treadmill desk and laptop holder: Clear polycarbonate strap-on shelf and bracket that holds a laptop computer over the display monitor of a cardio machine.

Likes: Very simple and effective. In three minutes, I had it on my elliptical machine. One strap lashes it to the monitor; the other holds the computer to the shelf so securely that it didn't budge when I exercised at normal speeds. It installs so quickly you could bring it with you to the gym.

Dislikes: Laptop blocks the machine's monitor. Typing through the moving arms of an elliptical machine is probably not as easy as doing it from a treadmill or recumbent bike, but it's doable at low speeds.

Price: $39.95. (800) 854-3079; http://www.surfshelf.com

Active sitting

Via Swopper: A backless, padded, unstable barstool on a spring that spins, compresses and tilts, forcing you to move all day to maintain balance and a straight-backed posture.

Likes: A great conversation piece — funky, artsy and oddly classy — that keeps you moving without disrupting your work. It's fun; I enjoyed bouncing on it like a mini-trampoline and spinning around like a drunk on a turntable. The height and instability level are adjustable.

Dislikes: I missed being able to relax. It's heavy, and the base model doesn't come with wheels, so it's a hassle to move. At this price, you could outfit all your co-workers with inflatable Swiss balls, which accomplish the same thing

Price: $599. (800) 433-6614; http://www.viaseating.com

Office exercises

The Desk Athlete DVD: A series of 10-minute exercise routines designed to reduce repetitive strain injuries. These occur when muscles are overworked, causing pain in areas such as the lower back, shoulder, neck and the dreaded "BlackBerry elbow."

Likes: Easy and direct. Using your body weight, a golf ball, a tennis ball and an exercise band, New York City trainer (and former German national swim team member) Maik Wiedenbach demonstrates how to massage problem areas, stretch strained muscles and strengthen opposing muscles. Anyone can do it.

Dislikes: Laying on the floor in your office may appear odd to co-workers.

Price: $29.95. (646) 801-1774; http://www.thedeskathlete.com

Wallack is the author of "Run for Life: The Breakthrough Plan for Fast Times, Fewer Injuries, and Spectacular Lifelong Fitness," and "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."

roywallack@aol.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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