Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stayin' Alive in 2009 - Gadget 1 - PC workstation on Treadmill

I can see Bart Simpson ordered to write 10,000 times '2009 is going to be a difficult year'. Certainly there are 10,000 plus blog pages that start that way - I've written a couple myself. So how do we stay alive and healthy when we have to work in front of a monitor for years. It doesn't matter whether the stress comes from the next article, or keeping the zombies at bay - Our bodies are designed to be mobile, need to be mobile and clog up like the intertubes on Inauguration Day if we don't keep mobile. So.. how do we do it? Here's the first gadget I built:

A PC workstation on a Treadmill.
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It's really easy to do, and it is fine for emails, twitters and the occasional thought for driving GTD software. The secret is to buy a treadmill that is powerful enough to go really slow - 1 mph (about 1.5 kph). This is a 'natural human strolling pace. People have lost incredible amounts of weight from it (Believe it or not I've lost 22 lbs or about 10 Kilos - I show noone the 'before' picture). If you will read on, I have the Mayo Clinic research references (for those of you unable to accept my clear authority on the matter without confirmation), how I put it together, plus some helpful hints for walking. I also have found some interesting videos on using it for pets to exercise. The secret for cats seems to be to keep it slow.


Improved alertness and productivity at work, the ability to concentrate throughout the entire day, enhanced fitness and weight control without spending hours in the Gym away from work or family – these are all good reasons. Or, as my wife calls it, “bizarre”. It started because of the findings of Dr James Levine
– an obesity and nutrition researcher at the Mayo Clinic.

Activity levels have declined, and he and many other obesity researchers say that decline, more than increases in eating, is to blame for rises in obesity. What has changed is the artificial environment: there is far more opportunity today than in the past to be sedentary. And some people may be genetically predisposed to seize that opportunity. (New Weight-Loss Focus: The Lean and the Restless; By DENISE GRADY, New York Times Online, Published: May 24, 2005).

As you read the following quote, bear in mind that SCRUM Project Management meetings are supposed to be held standing up - serendipity!

"Given an environment that lets people sit for hours and hours a day, they will," he said.
A solution, then, may be to change the environment, to make moving around easier and sitting still less convenient. At meetings, Dr Levine stands instead of sitting. Talking on the telephone, he paces around. In his office he has a treadmill in place of a desk. He got it last year when he saw the data from the study comparing lean people and obese ones. "My computer is stationed over the treadmill," he said. "I work at 0.7 miles an hour."

"You have a natural tendency to want to move your legs. Zero point seven is the key. You don't get sweaty, you can't jiggle too much. It's about one step a second. It's very comfortable. Most people seem to like it around 0.7."
For him, the treadmill has eliminated the afternoon slump, when a lot of people feel sleepy and crave candy bars or caffeine. "I've become convinced we really can generate an office environment where people are on the move and are happier," he said.

Dr. Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University, called the Science paper "great," and added, "I believe the data; it's done correctly and an interesting set of findings."

The NY Times noted that Nonexercise activity (NEAT) can account for a significant portion of the calories burned in a day, anywhere from 15 percent in a sedentary person to 50 percent in someone who is very
active. Standing takes more energy than sitting, and strolling along at just one mile an hour burns twice the calories of sitting.

So this gadget is all about living through 2009 and perhaps even thriving. I encourage the kids to watch their programs while walking on it, and try to do so myself. I keep a stopwatch by it to measure how much time I use it every day.

Next: Constructing the Treadmill, Walking with Friends