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March 11, 2013
Can walking on the job improve worker health?

Employees at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) are taking a stand for better health.  A small group of university volunteers has been provided with treadmills and sit-to-stand electric desks in their offices. It is part of a pilot program to determine whether workers can remain safe and productive while moving on the job.

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The research, by Professor Manuel Cifuentes of the university’s Work Environment Department, is based on the belief that it is not enough for sedentary workers to get to the gym. They need to stand and walk throughout the day to keep circulation flowing and deflect health problems.

At the end of a 6-month trial, participants said they liked the new setup and would like the research to continue.  As a result, Cifuentes will track them over the next 3 years.

A challenge for the employees is learning which tasks can and cannot be performed while walking or standing. One of the participants said he found he could be productive on the treadmill while reading e-mail and talking on the phone. But more demanding tasks, like entering information in a database, are harder.

The project is part of the NIOSH-funded Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace at UMass Lowell and at the University of Connecticut.

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