Staying Productive While Staying Active

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of Americans who are overweight is…are you ready for this… a staggering 69%. Let me repeat that, 69%. As in over two-thirds. As in nearly seven out of 10 people.

Note to Self: Remember to workout. I’m one of the 69%.

New Note to Self: Make time to work out. Of course I would work out more often if I had the time.

Question to other workaholics: How do you make time to exercise in a schedule that you can’t always control?

There are many answers to this dilemma that almost all of us, in one guise or another, deals with. But one remedy comes in the form of the changes that are happening in the workplace. I’m detecting an increasing buzz toward reinventing the workplace—in part to promote health and wellness. People want to break out of traditional office designs that restrict mobility and are centered on the idea of a desk and a chair. That’s so last century—and it feels exactly like the walled gardens that I worked in earlier in my career.

I had a tour of Motorola’s new headquarters facility at Chicago’s iconic Merchandise Mart, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. For one, they don’t have landline phones. Everyone was walking around with Bluetooth headsets on and our tour guide said that employees pretty much use Google GOOGL +3.05% Voice for their work number. I also saw a ton of flexible work space, cushy pillows, lots of food—junk and otherwise—and one of the nicest decks you’ll ever see (on top of the Merchandise Mart). Of course they wouldn’t let me take any photos (on my Samsung Galaxy S5), and as you can see from this authorized photo spread, the workspaces are not at all traditional and one guy has a treadmill desk so he can walk while working.

This Forbes article from last year shows 10 exercises you can do at your workplace with just a typical desk and chair—no gadgets, software or contraptions required.

Studies have shown that an alert body and active lifestyle boosts not just productivity, but also happiness and satisfaction levels. Typical office workers spend more than six hours a day sitting at their desks and staring at their computer screens. There is now an explosion of research studies that demonstrate the harmful effects of sitting all day.

Not surprisingly then, a number of startups are focusing on developing products and gadgets that get at the sedentary nature of traditional work. That is, sitting.

If you don’t have time to work out, then why not adapt your workspace so you can exercise while working? At the largest office furniture trade show in the U.S., Neocon, held last month also at the Merchandise Mart, many exhibitors were showing off creative new solutions geared toward health and wellness in the workplace. At Neocon one could see treadmill desks, standing desks like the Stir Kinetic desk (similar to desks which I first saw at Argonne National Laboratory a few years ago), bike desks and innovative and much lower cost solutions like the Cubii from Chicago-based start-up FitnessCubed. Cubii is an under-desk elliptical trainer, that does not require any change to existing furniture, which allows office dwellers to stay active while they sit at their desks. Cubii comes with its own mobile app, but also syncs with existing fitness trackers. “A number of companies were making fitness trackers, but we wanted to make something different, so we created a source of exercise to complement fitness trackers,” says Arnav Dalmia, FitnessCubed’s CEO.

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