Is Multitasking Bad for You? (And More Treadmill Desk Questions…)

Friday Jan 25 | BY |
| Comments (13)


Jonny 5 doing quite the opposite of multitasking…

As promised, I want to answer some of your questions about the treadmill desk article that I wrote here.

There were a few nuts-and-bolts questions like “is it quiet,” and “what about typos” — I’ll get to those at the end of this article — but the most interesting comments were about multitasking, taking breaks and walking vs. standing.

I’m going to address these now…

Walking vs. Standing

A few of you wanted to know why I wouldn’t just stand at a desk or what the added benefit of walking while working actually is.

As I mentioned in the article, I had considered a standing desk way before I heard about the treadmill desk. So I think it’s a great idea.

Here’s where I think, for me, the standing desk isn’t enough: I’m always on the move.

I have to walk, I have to fidget, I have an extremely short attention span. I can’t meditate. I can’t sit still.

My meditation comes when I run (or walk.) So for me, this is a perfect tool to use to keep myself moving and keep myself focused. To back this up, I’ve noticed that I’m more able to focus on one task at a time when I’m on the treadmill desk than I ever was able to do before. The walking seems to quell my need to jump to another thing long enough for me to be uber-productive in one sitting… or, I guess, walking.

Health-wise, the other benefit of walking instead of standing is that you are — for however long you’re on the machine — moving the lymph system. This will help with the removal of toxins from the body. You won’t get the same action while you’re just standing.

Ultimately, I think it’s up to you, what type of person you are, and what your budget is. Some of you wrote in saying that you’ve rigged your own or bounce on a rebounder. These two are viable options. I’ve also had friends ask me if there is a stationary bike desk, and there in fact is. You can find it here. I’ve never tried it, but it’s much more affordable than the treadmill desk. With any or all options, remember, the key is to eliminate or greatly reduce the time sitting. All of these do that.

The Dangers of Multitasking

Yes, it can seem like a great thing to get your exercise done while working on your computer — don’t forget you can also eat your breakfast, text to your friends, and listen to music at the same time. But this is just expanding on the ever increasing “shoulds” and adding MORE stress to our modern lives instead of relieving it!

Great point! There must be separate time for breakfast, talking to friends, listening to music and many other things. The multitasking buzz of the 90’s and 2000’s that we’ve grown accustomed has taught us some pretty powerful lessons. The most evident is that most people don’t get more done while they’re doing more than one or two things at a time. Multitasking — depending on who’s doing it — can also certainly create stress. So these factors definitely do come into play when deciding how to spend your day.

So yes, multitasking — for your production, your relationships, and your sanity — is dangerous in many ways, but I do say this with a caveat.

I don’t view walking on the treadmill desk and working as multitasking in it’s truest sense. Multitasking, to me, is attempting to get multiple things done at once while setting unrealistic goals of your time and mindspace.

Walking on the treadmill desk and working doesn’t fit that definition.

Here’s why…

I don’t consider sitting and working multitasking, so in that same line of thought, I don’t consider walking and working multitasking.

My time spent sitting has just been swapped out with a different (and more healthy) activity — walking. I guess if I was substituting my workout with my walking then you could classify that as multitasking to some degree, but I’m still running and exercising outside of the time I spend in the office.

The bottom line is that I’m still going to be working at the computer 4-6 hours a day — it’s the nature of having a blog and a skin care business that does most of its sales online — so it was my goal to find a way to be more healthy while still doing what my job requires.

So, yes, eat breakfast without your iPad. Hang out with friends and don’t check your text messages. Keep the TV off when you’re reading a book. I think all of these are great ways to reduce overload — and when it comes to working on the treadmill desk I see this as a health upgrade, not a downgrade.

Does the Treadmill Desk Make Noise?

My question is that is it quiet?

It’s fairly quiet. Just about the noise of any regular walking treadmill — which is more quiet than a running treadmill.

The noise is soft enough to not be picked up when I’m recording an interview on the phone, but you can hear it slightly outside of my office when the door is closed.

Can You Power Your Own Computer?

Here’s a thought: I wonder if you could hook up your treadmill to your computer in a way that would allow your computer to use the energy you generate by walking. I saw some bicycles up at Real Goods that harness the energy one generates by peddling and thought I would like to try this some day.

Great idea! It was actually one of the first things that I thought when I set it up.

While Lifespan doesn’t have an option for this yet, I imagine that some company will eventually make this possible. With all the walking I’ve done, I may even be able to sell the energy back to the power company, LOL!

Also, I would love to experiment with multiple desks and see how much of the office we could power.

Anyone know how to set something like this up? If so, send us an email.

Typing and Walking…

How did you find the degree of spelling typos though?

Ha ha… If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that spelling and proofreading isn’t my strong suit.

So for me, it’s just the same. Luckily, I have spell-check in Google Drive and WordPress editor to help me out — at least to some degree.

On a more serious note, the desk does have a nice padded edge that allows you to rest your hands on it while you walk. This enables you to keep moving and your hands to stay put. Without this edge, I have a feeling it would be much more awkward to type and walk at the same time. Again, like I said in my previous post, I’m extremely pleased with the construction and quality of this machine. They put more than just a desk and a treadmill together. There are some design elements that are very smart — though only a few — incorporated into it that make the experience seamless.

Your Question of the Day: Do you multitask? Does it work for you?

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. elaine says:

    Can you show us a photo of the walking treadmill desk?

  2. Ed Pickus says:

    I love the articles and I think it’s great how you explore new things. Just wondering about the exposure to EMR from the treadmill. I read articles of some people who are EMR sensitive that they can’t use treadmills at the gym due to the radiation exposure. Do you know how much EMR is emitted by the machine?

  3. I admit – I have so much energy, I often multitask. A few nights ago, I watched Game of Thrones with a friend (using the French subtitles to practice my French), and worked on making a quilt. At the end of the season, I’ll have a quilt!

  4. Kevin,
    I made the comment on your blog that you used for the topic of this most recent eNewsletter, and you used my exact quotation. Since you have a link to a website above, I would appreciate if you had given me credit for the quote you used, and inserted a live link as is done in other newsletters, when someone makes a pertinent comment.

    To continue the subject of multi-tasking, you might be interested to learn this: Doing conscious, focused mental activity takes so much energy for your brain to process, that if you were walking up a steep slope at the same time, you would have to stop doing one or the other activity.

    Maybe that’s saying that either you aren’t using your brain intensively enough in the work that you are doing, or the moving of your legs on the treadmill isn’t really intense enough to be actually exercising your body enough. There are other possible contraindications of putting in so many miles, and that can have to do with your harming your metabolism, lowering your body temperature, which can lead to a whole host of problems (including lose your hair).

    Walking can be used as a wonderful stress reliever, when done mindfully. It helps you to do your other work better as well. And it’s great to get up from your desk after an hour or so, and do some stretching, and breathing exercises. Perhaps doubling up on your output is going to have unforseen consequences on your insides!

  5. Vee says:

    I wrote this comment once but was told that I did not put in a valed e-mail address so must type it again. this time I will copy what I write so alll I have to do is reprint it instead of typing it in all over again, in case my comment is rejected again.

    Since I have not been able to read your posts lately, this is the first I have heard of a desk and walker combined into one. Very interesting.

    I use to rebound on a rebounder for one hour a day since 1980 when I purchased it. But in the last few years I use it but not as often as I should.

    I watch Dr. Oz and use it as a class, as often as I can–at 6am and 4pm. I sometimes rebound at that time but am off and on it as I take notes and rebound during the commercials or if he is talking about something that I do not have to write down.

    However, I do not agree with him on some things. Such as:

    Getting the flu shot–or any vaccines for that matter–using canola oil, using agave–but hopefully he will become educated in these matters also. He is really growing in the natural health department. That is something for a Heart Doctor.


  6. Thomas says:

    I guess it depends what you consider multitasking. I sometimes fall into a routine in the ceramics lab that is structured but very scattered at the same time. For example sometimes I will be listening to a lecture from David Wolfe, Truth Caulkins or listening to a book on audio while I am throwing pots or coil building a large carboy, fermenting crock, Kombucha vessel or anything of substantial size. There is a lot of drying time involved so Im often jumping from one pot to the next and sometimes taking a break while they are stiffening up and work on some math problems, write e-mails or just to get a drink and snack on something.

    It’s pretty typical for the majority of my day to be full of classes, meetings or other miscellaneous tasks and I rarely eat more then one meal in a day. Do you think this is bad? I also have a hard time eating anything in the morning and I try not to eat anything after 6.

    I usually wake up, start a pot tea, drink about 24oz of spring water, hit a shot of apple cider vinegar then funnel some spring water into liter bottle. Then strain off and funnel whatever mushroom/herbal tea I have for that day into another bottle and grab one my sprouted nut and seed mixture and go to class. I usually drink about a half liter of water then go for the tea and before I know it its eleven a clock and Im just tapping into my raw jar. Then Ill stop by the house at two to refill the spring water and sometimes grad another bottle of spring water and throw some chlorella and ginkgo powder or some other powder and grab a cabbage and some turnips or some other root and head back to class until about five when I go home for my only substantial meal where Ill start off a salad followed by some fermented vegetables often with some cooked sweet potato, wild rice, winter squash or something that will fill me up and help me keep warm in these cold winters, it was eighteen below the other night. Then I fill another liter of spring water and tea and its back to the lab till about ten or eleven on a good night, one or two on a bad one. My life is like a crazy roller coaster right now, I cant wait for the spring and all the wild greens that come along with it!

  7. Kym says:

    Like most people, I thought multitasking was the answer but I gradually realized that it is difficult to do things that require a higher level of concentration at the same time. You are really just switching between them and that creates overlap and stress. I now try to narrow-focus and work on a (limited) project basis. It has made a dramatic difference, at least for me.

    There is some interesting research though that women are physiologically more able to multitask than men due to the way our brains are wired. Obviously “men” and “women” are just points of reference but it indicates, as always, that it important to try different things and see what works best for you.

  8. Michelle says:

    YES, I multitask all the time! It’s funny, just a week ago, I told my husband that I think I came up with an “invention”. I was on my treadmill and watching a webinar replay. I had taken my yoga strap and tied it around my waist, connecting it to the treadmill “handle” so that I could concentrate a little easier without falling! I said, “you need to come up with a desk that straddles the treadmill, so that I can work while i’m on it!” haha! As always, someone beat me to my invention!! LOL

  9. Tonya says:

    Kevin – I appreciate your article more than you can imagine. My email address actually starts with ‘multitasking’ and I choose it in the height of the ’90’s when it was thought that multitasking was a talent and personally I thought I was good at it. Ha … the thing about the post yr 2000 age, is that the truth is, we as humans, really aren’t good at multitasking when there is so much more the way of technology that basically means you are “plugged in” 24hrx7daysx52weeks. We humans quickly land in burn out mode and don’t even know it until it’s too late. I’ve kept my email address as a remindner that, yeah I can get a bunch of stuff done quickly and I’ve learned over the years that focus on a single activity at a single moment in time you’ll get your biggest bang for the seconds spent being present for a given activity …… the results are you’ll actually get more ‘stuff’ done in the course of a daily round. Lastly, nothing can replace moving …. there has been some tag lines out there saying that “sitting is our generations cigarette” …… it’s time to get people out off their duffs and moving their limbs. Thanks for all that you do and contributions to the well being of the rest of us ‘two legged units’. Namaste …..

  10. IdaFish says:

    I WISH I had a treadmill desk – but as a ‘struggling master student’ (don’t feel like I’m struggling at all really, but just don’t have lots of money tied to my name ^^) I don’t have the funds for such a thing. One day though, cause if I’m gonne become a scientist there sure will be lottsa desk work.

    Multitasking is good time allocation when you know your limits. WHen you do all things ‘half assed’ due to multitasking you should stop I reckon. As always: quality before quantity 😀

  11. margaret says:

    What a wonderful idea, we could power whole office buildings with power bikes and treadmills, and improve the health of all who work there.

  12. Ha ha… If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that spelling and proofreading isn’t my strong suit.

    sympathic smile on my face <3

    Comments are closed for this post.