Walk this way: OR looks to buy treadmill desks for state workers

By   /   May 1, 2013  /   News  /   6 Comments


TAKE A WALK: A model poses on a treadmill desk. Photo courtesy of TrekDesk, a company that sells treadmill desks.

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

PORTLAND – Lawmakers want state workers to do more walking, and they’ll probably use taxpayer money to get the workers off their chairs and into shiny new treadmill desks.

Given the importance of exercise and the expanding problem of obesity in America, most Oregonians would no doubt like their own walking station, which, when set at no more than 2 mph, makes it possible to stay active while working.

But the question is whether $50,000 in taxpayer money should be used for a pilot project in Oregon to test whether the treadmill desks actually improve workers’ health. Pending legislation would make that happen, and the bill’s sponsor, a Republican, says the project has a good chance of moving forward.

Oregon State Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas

Oregon State Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas

State Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, said money for the project is minimal, compared to what the state could save in health-care costs.

“In real money that’s a lot of money,” he said. But in government funds, he said, “it’s chump change.”

Thompson said House Bill 2767, which would direct the Public Employees Benefit Board to buy no fewer than 10 treadmill desks for employees, is in the budget review process, also known as the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

But if state funding falls through, it’s possible the walk-while-you-work project could get money from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The new federal health law includes grant funding for “health innovations,” Thompson said. “This is an innovative approach that’s worked in other places,” he said, referring to treadmill desks in the private sector.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the longer you sit in a given day the more likely your chances of experiencing health problems.

Thompson said the desks cost about $500, less than his office desk, which he estimates at $1,200.

That’s all too much for taxpayer advocate Jason Williams.

“Taxpayers are running out of money while the state is running up the cost of government with their luxury office equipment plans,” said Williams, executive director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon. “Instead of thinking of ways to make state services more cost-effective, the politicians are inventing ways to waste our tax dollars as if they just won the lottery with other people’s money.”

Buying high-tech desks for public employees sits uncomfortably with spending watchdogs. U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, gained national media attention when he blasted the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation for buying workers’ expensive treadmill desks.

Thompson fashioned his own treadmill desk at home to make sure working while walking is feasible. He insists it’s a good investment of public dollars, and if the government does nothing the same problems would remain. He said he sits more than four hours a day in committee meetings and while on the phone with constituents.

“Perhaps I should be on a working walk station listening to people,” he said.

“When do we start moving people to do something different?” he added. “We have the same obesity problem in state government that everybody else has.”

Contact Shelby Sebens at [email protected]

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Shelby formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • landuselauri

    Maybe these devises could be used to generate electricity, then the gov. workers would actually be producing something!

  • Great news! Indeed, stand up desks not only provides us with health benefits; it also helps us function better at work. This is exactly why I have switched from sit down desks and now spend most of my working hours standing up. I used this stand up desk converter http://tinyurl.com/6p844yk that made the transition very quick and easy. I did not have to spend too much plus I get to keep my good old desk!

  • AMG

    If the state is paying $1200 for a regular desk, they are paying too much. If they are paying $500 for a desk, they are paying too much. Ask a mom (me) to buy desks on a budget, I’ll get this state 8 desks for $1200. Let’s get real on the prices here!

    Also, state workers want treadmill desks?? They can buy them themselves.

  • This is great until a worker gets dizzy from trying to type and walk at the same time. I cant walk on a treadmill and read a book, I see others doing it and all I can manage is to slowly meander before I quickly lose my balance. I cant imagine trying to concentrate on work at a computer and data entry while using a treadmill. Production may be impacted since to get the benefit from walking one must go at a nice pace which is difficult if the worker has to focus on work. If they focus on work they must slow the pace down to be low impact on health overall. The cost of the workmen’s Comp claims will offset any benefit. If an employee has their own treadmill that they want to bring to the office under a high workstation then it would be at their own risk and the State or Business should not be liable.

  • Please tell me this is a joke

  • If the state workers need to walk more send them into the public parks an hour a day to pick up trashs and do general clean up, good exercise and you are still getting productivity without new costs.