If you work in a particularly labor-intensive job, you may rely on your feet to walk more than 30,000 steps per day. On average, though, most people walk up to 10,000 steps per day. And if you spend the majority of your waking hours working at a desk, your physical activity level may be even less than that. While some people have the motivation to make good use of their gym membership or that brand new FitBit, the reality is that many workers are boxed into living a sedentary lifestyle due to their choice in occupation and the confines of their office.
The strain of sitting at a desk and working at a computer for hours on end can take its toll, both physically and mentally. Studies have shown that the longer you sit, the greater your risk of heart attack, stroke, and even cancer. Although standing desks are thought to promote better health and productivity at the office, some experts say that this option may not actually be much better for your body.
While sitting for too long can be harmful, standing all day poses significant health hazards, too. It may help you to burn a few extra calories, but it puts much more strain on your back, joints, and veins — especially if you’re already overweight.
Alan Hedge, a design and ergonomics professor at Cornell University, notes that “standing all day isn’t the answer. That’s where we were 100 years ago, and we needed to develop chairs to prevent curvature of the spine, backaches, and varicose veins.” And one author of a recent study stated that “any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.”
So what is the solution? Movement. And the answer may lie in a relatively simple invention: an under-desk swing known as the Hovr.
Funded by an Indiegogo campaign, the Hover looks fairly uncomplicated, but it serves an important purpose. It’s a foot swing that allows desk workers to reap the benefits of low-impact movement throughout their day without distracting other employees. It consists of a metal rod with two footpads and hangs either from a metal stand or from the underside of the desk by a durable strap.
Its creators claim that because the device allows for leg movements similar to walking, the Hovr may help to counteract problems attributed to sitting for extended periods of time. The Hovr purportedly improves blood circulation and increases the individual’s calorie burn rate by 20%. Considering that around two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, this invention may be of benefit to countless employees around the country who need to lower their blood pressure, cholesterol, or risk of heart disease.
It’s not just obesity rates that are up among workers; stress levels are through the roof, too. One study found that the overwhelming cause of stress on the job — attributing to 46% — among those surveyed was due to their workload. Furthermore, according to a study conducted by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 40% of workers said that their job was very or extremely stressful, and 25% view their jobs as the number one source of stress in their lives.
Not only can this high level of stress have a significant impact on productivity and absences from work, but it can also lead to increased employee turnover. Since approximately 57% of organizations view employee retention as a problem, implementing simple ways to reduce employee stress — like a built-in exercise tool they can use while they’re working — may go a long way.
Although some companies have attempted to make larger-scale efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce work-related stress, these efforts have not always been successful. Slate introduced a treadmill desk that allows employees to walk while they type, but even just mastering this new skill takes time away from other tasks (and could actually make employees more stressed in the process).
There are other similar devices hitting the market, too. There’s an under-desk elliptical trainer and an under-desk stationary bike that have found success with crowdfunding campaigns. But the Hovr seems to be the only such product that enables unconscious movement. In other words, it’s designed to make you feel like you aren’t exercising at all. It’s supposed to make you feel as if you’re just fidgeting or jiggling your leg or foot without even being aware of it.
For those who are already prone to nervous fidgeting, the Hovr seems like the perfect invention. And while leg jostling is often distracting in an open-plan office, with the Hovr, your coworkers may not even notice your movements. Even though etiquette experts may not agree on the merits of fidgeting in the workplace, it seems that with help from the Hovr, a little bit of movement could do a lot of good.