When my photographic work transitioned from standing in a darkroom to sitting at a computer for much of my day, I felt the impact on my body. Particularly with video editing. I would avoid starting on a project because I knew it would mean hours of immobility. My legs would ache, I'd get listless and I wouldn't be able to focus. I'd take a break to do a vigorous bike ride, but an hour later I'd be back at the desk, immobile for the rest of the day. When an actual photo assignment came around, when I could run around all day, I'd feel great. After a week on the road I'd feel fantastic. Then I'd have to go home and process all that work for the client. Sitting down.
Sitting is the new smoking, in terms of impact on your health. When I read Susan Orlean's New Yorker article this summer on treadmill desks, I wanted one. Immediately. I found a decent site, workwhilewalking.com. I bought a Lifespan treadmill and a variable height desk, and started walking.
Instantly I felt more energetic. The desk lethergy was gone. This is going to change my life, I thought.
Everyone wonders how hard it is to actually do deskwork while walking. That, actually, was the easy part. Typing, using a mouse, Photoshop, Final Cut--no problem. In the beginning I would slow down the treadmill when I needed really fine motor control, but now I rocket away at 2mph no matter what. But there are problems and adaptations.
The first is sea legs. For the first few weeks I would stagger a little drunkenly for a minute whenever I got off. Then, I started hurting in new and different places than before. My neck hurt a lot. My hamstrings were getting even tighter. My feet ached all the time. I was visiting the chiropractor weekly now.
I saw my doctor in the middle of this transition, and told her about the new regime. She pointed behind her--there was her treadmill desk. "Have you found anyway to stop your feet from hurting?" She asked. "No, have you?" "Not yet."
I made three trips to a running shoe store, trying out different solutions. I think I've settled on a cushy Saucony with bright green trim and with a serious arch support insert. When I went back to my doctor, she showed me the shoe she had found--it was the exact same model.
I got a professional ergonomic consultation to tweak my desk and monitor height. She made some adjustments, and made me get a foam keyboard wrist rest and a smaller mouse. And told me to only use my computer glasses at the desk, not my progressive trifocals. She was somewhat helpful, but it's hard to find anyone who's encountered this setup and has direct applicable experience.
There are tasks that you just can't do at a treadmill desk. Paying bills and filing paperwork don't work for me. And really, you can't put in an 8 hour day at a treadmill. I rarely put in more than 3. I set up a separate sit-down workstation with my old computer, and I use the Shared Screen function to access files from the work computer. After three months I'm starting to get balanced with how much work I do on and off the treadmill, and my body is gradually adjusting.
Oh, and the cat loves the treadmill. Or loves me when I'm on the treadmill. She demands to be picked up and held while I'm walking.