It’s hard to develop “screen apnea” on a treadmill desk

July 20, 2020
It's hard to develop

In a fascinating SmartPlanet interview with Linda Stone the 16-year veteran executive formerly of Apple and Microsoft fame shared very keen insights on her research into the effects of technology on modern-day workers.

“I observed people using technologies –- a computer, iPhone –- and looked at what was happening to their pulse and heart rate variability and what that indicated about their breathing. By early 2008 I came up with the phrases ’email apnea’ and ‘screen apnea’ [which are interchangeable]” says Stone.

“We tend to breath-hold or shallow breathe when we sit at a laptop. The computer becomes animated and we become less animated. Our shoulders and chest cave in, we sit slouched for extended periods of times. And it’s impossible to fully breath in that hunched posture. When you are shallow breathing or breath holding cumulatively day after day, your body goes into a chronic state of fight or flight. You tend to crave carbohydrates and sweet foods because they give you energy to outrun a tiger. Seriously. Our thoughts turn to, ‘I need to get this done! I can’t get this done! Will I get this done?'”

Who among us has not experienced exactly what Stone describes? Well, we pretty much all can relate. Except that those of us who use a treadmill desk may have never before noticed our apparent immunity to developing “screen apnea” while walking. Even at a slow strolling pace of 1 mph walking on a treadmill desk actually helps us to moderate our breathing, possibly why most every treadmill desk user we’ve ever met claims to feel more alert, energized and focused when on their treadmill versus sitting.

The positive effects of this breathing moderation last for a good while after we finish walking, too, reducing our susceptibility to “screen apnea” when we’re back at our “situations.”

Stone continues, “There’s another piece about the physiology of technology that hasn’t been talked about much to date. The effect sitting at computers has on our lymphatic system. Lymph is pumped through our bodies with the movement of our feet and calf muscles. All this sitting is making it difficult for our bodies to do what it needs to do for natural detoxification.”

If ever there was an indisputable health benefit for working while walking this is it. Walking slowly – even more than standing – helps to increase blood circulation and boost the performance of our lymphatic system. This is just another reason that treadmill desks have recently become so popular in 911 emergency dispatch centers, where staying awake and alert during quiet periods is extremely important. Add that to the long list of health benefits you’ve already noted to your friends and colleagues who ask you about your treadmill desk.

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