Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Workers take many steps toward healthier lifestyle

Spend time each day working while on treadmill for research project

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Dietitian Lise Timmerman walks on a treadmill while talking on the phone with a client. She plans to keep using the machines after the research project is done.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Dietitian Lise Timmerman walks on a treadmill while talking on the phone with a client. She plans to keep using the machines after the research project is done. Photo Store

Lise Timmerman walked between 10,000 and 12,000 steps on Tuesday without leaving her desk.

She is a registered dietitian with the provincial Dial-A-Dietitian program at Winnipeg's Misericordia Health Centre (MHC) and one of 22 MHC office workers participating in a three-month research project headed up by University of Manitoba researcher Danielle Bouchard.

Bouchard and her team from the Faculty of kinesiology and recreation management are looking into ways of keeping office workers healthier. And one of the options they're examining is having workers spend up to two hours a day performing routine office tasks while walking on a treadmill instead of sitting at their desk.

'It feels a bit awkward to be taking phone calls... and returning emails (while walking on a treadmill)'

-- registered dietician Lise Timmerman

Their three-month MHC project began in mid-August, with the 22 participants sharing four treadmills purchased by the MHC. During that time Bouchard has been monitoring their usage patterns, blood pressure, heart rate, diet, sleep patterns, job satisfaction and productivity.

"The first few days took a bit of getting used to," Timmerman admitted. "It feels a bit awkward to be taking phone calls... and returning emails (while walking on a treadmill). But I'd say that within two or three days it becomes second nature."

They've had to work in their treadmill time around other activities, such as attending meetings. So some days they're able to spend two hours straight walking on the treadmill, and other days they've had to break it up into smaller segments.

She and Bouchard emphasized it's not a fast walk -- only about 1.2 miles per hour. So they're not burning a lot of calories -- maybe 100 over the two-hour period.

"But the goal is not to increase their fitness level," Bouchard said. "The goal is to just not be sitting down as much."

She said studies have found sitting for more than six hours per day increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. So reducing the amount of sitting time should improve employee health and job satisfaction, and maintain or increase productivity.

Timmerman said the biggest change she's noticed is she has more energy and improved flexibility. Although her involvement in the project ends in a few days, she said the MHC is keeping the treadmills and she intends to continue using them.

"We're always exploring new ways to keep our employees healthy," MHC president and CEO Rosie Jacuzzi said, "and that's why we're so excited to participate in Dr. Bouchard's study."

Bouchard said she expects to release the results of their study in March or April of next year.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 20, 2013 B4

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Updated on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 9:01 AM CST: Replaces photo

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