Treadmill Desk Turns Writer Susan Orlean into ‘The Walking Alive’

Treadmill Desk Turns Writer Susan Orlean into ‘The Walking Alive’

Posted by Will M on May 17th 2013

Earlier this week, New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean went on NPR’s Talk of the Nation to talk about her latest piece entitled “The Walking Alive,” in which she goes over her struggles to find the right workstation setup and how it led her to a desk treadmill. During this entertaining and enlightening interview, she touches on many issues you’ve seen us write about here at Human Solution blog – how her energy level and focus has improved, how easy it is to walk and still work efficiently, and how several studies have revealed the health risks associated with inactivity.

Callers share their stories as well, including one caller who tells how standing the whole day has both eliminated the “mid-afternoon slump” and cut down on back pain issues, and another who has found her work as a radiologist has even been improved by walking on a treadmill while reviewing images. Her anecdote is especially compelling – after reading a Mayo Clinic study that showed an improved detection of pulmonary nodules when reading a chest CT while on a treadmill, she switched to a treadmill desk. While she’s seen minor resistance from older colleagues who find it unprofessional due to a perceived negative effect on accuracy, her peer reviews have shown this to be unfounded.

Orlean’s article is essential reading for anyone still on the fence due to misconceptions like these about treadmill desks. Her passion for hers (she likens it to the early days of cell phones, when people mostly talked about how cool it was they were talking on a cell phone) will hopefully be so contagious that, much like cell phones, the treadmill desk will soon become ubiquitous and no longer perceived as a niche or luxury item.

And who knows, maybe her article can be adapted by Charlie Kaufman into another brilliant meta film that somehow uses treadmill desks as fodder for a standard Hollywood action flick. Of course, he may not want to write it on a treadmill desk if he doesn’t want to rid himself of the angst-ridden writer’s block that fueled his previous, ahem, Adaptation. As Orlean points out after writing two articles on her treadmill desk:

“Both of them I found very easy to write. I was just relaxed. I felt like my thoughts came flowing very easily, and I didn't get that nervous tension that you get sitting at a desk, trying to think of a lead.”

So maybe Kaufman should stick to a cramped desk in an uncomfortable chair (I have no proof this is his setup, but this is how I picture him writing). As for everyone else, whether they are writing for the New Yorker, writing code or even blogging, a treadmill desk may just be the solution to get the creative juices flowing.

Learn more about treadmill desks at

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