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Multitasking can be beneficial to your health

Aug. 10, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Employees in the planning division of Western Michigan University's Facilities Management Department are encouraged to take walks on "company" time.

The division's director, David Dakin, had a Walkstation treadmill installed for his employees this past February as part of a 90-day pilot program to evaluate the system's health and relaxation benefits.

The program has been so successful that the Walkstation is being purchased and now is being made available to WMU employees across campus so they can see whether they, too, might like to have the system installed in their units.

"The objective is to get people up and out of their desk chairs and if they want, do a little work at the same time," Dakin says. "You can pop in here and in less than a minute, you're walking. I can just walk or I can also check my e-mail, catch up on a Webinar or make a phone call."

At a maximum speed of 2 miles per hour, the Walkstation lets users walk comfortably while accomplishing tasks they would normally do while seated. It features a specially engineered low-speed, commercial-grade treadmill that is fully integrated with a height-adjustable work surface. Designed by Steelcase for sedentary workers, the Walkstation is the first item in the new FitWork category of the company's Details product line.

"Today's approach to ergonomics is not about static postures and static thinking," a Steelcase brochure says. "It's all about movement throughout the day."

Dakin notes that campus planning added a networked computer to the treadmill's work surface, making it easy for his employees to take care of simple or even complex business while enjoying a casual-to-brisk walk.

He says the treadmill system runs quietly, is easy to use as well as to operate, and features a display console that shows walkers how much time they spend on the equipment, how fast and far they go, and how many calories they burn.

"When I think about the cost of health care, this makes sense. If once a day you take a break for about 15 minutes, you can help control your weight and lower your blood pressure," Dakin says. "Using the treadmill is safer than walking outside while talking on your Blackberry or trying to walk in snow or rain. You can take a break, stretch your legs and you don't even have to change your shoes if you don't want to."

Ideally, Dakin says offices and departments that install the Walkstation should also install Steelcase's RoomWizard, a Web-based room-scheduling system that includes a touch-screen display outside of each linked room. The RoomWizard allows a unit's employees to schedule and reserve such common areas as classrooms and conference rooms in real time via their desktop computers or the individual touch screens.

"Our concept is that additional Walkstations at WMU would be distributed between buildings or groups of offices. Right now, we're trying to introduce the system to people, and we hope the initiative will shift to the Western Wellness Committee and other folks who will expand on it," Dakin says. "I envision having Walkstations scattered all over campus. We can even put them in student areas so people who've been sitting in class all day can stretch their legs while catching up on their notes or e-mails."

Dakin says campus planning decided to test out the Walkstation because it already had a strong business relationship with Steelcase. Incorporating amenities such as a networked computer and the Room Wizard isn't mandatory, but he says many University units will discover that the benefits of incorporating them will offset the added expense.

Any WMU employee wishing to try out the Walkstation may do so by calling Rose Hathaway at rose.hathaway@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8567. Those wanting to learn more about the system's costs or to get advice about how best to install and configure the system for their units may contact David Dakin at david.dakin@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8543.

Visit details-worktools.com for company information about the Walkstation.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400