Would you trade your office chair for a treadmill? That’s what 22 Winnipeg office workers have done in an effort to be healthier and get more work done.

The move is part of a study undertaken by University of Manitoba researchers and Misericordia Health Centre.

Treadmill workplace

Lorraine McPhail walks on a treadmill while she works at the Provincial Health Contact Centre at Misericordia Health Centre in Winnipeg. (Alana Cole/CBC)

The project has seen four treadmills installed in the health centre’s Provincial Health Contact Centre, which is essentially a call centre for people who need health information.

The treadmills are being shared between workers who take turns walking on them for two to four hours per shift.

Lise Timmerman is one of them. “I feel better, yes,” she said. “You’re getting out of your chair, and I find that ultimately when you spend all day in a chair, it kind of zaps your energy.”

Researchers said they expect the treadmills to not only improve the health of participants but also increase their productivity in the office.

Researcher Danielle Bouchard said even if office workers are spending time at the gym, spending all day at their desks can have negative effects on their health.

“If you’re sitting more than six hours a day, you still have risk of health diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” she said. “It makes sense for me, doing something [to] get people to sit less.”

Participant Lorraine McPhail said regardless of what results the study yields, she knows she feels better.

“I sleep better, and you know, sleep is everything. It makes for a healthier person,” she said. “First day or two was a little awkward, but you get used to it and everything is good”

The group has been at it for about three months now, and all of them have adapted pretty well to walking while working.

“I’ve heard of one woman who had a little bit of a mishap but that was it. Everyone else was just fine, and she got right back on and has been fine since,” said Timmerman.

Bouchard said her team expects to know more about the potential benefits for the workers in a few months.