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Fitting fitness inside the cubicle

weights on computer

Whether your office is in the business district or on the dining room table, sitting immobile for hours in front of a computer screen is at odds with the fit body.

So fitness experts and entrepreneurs are thinking outside the box to transform the cubicle from sedentary prison to multitasking work and workout space.

"We've made Americans fat by putting them in cubicles," said Steve Bordley, CEO of TrekDesk.

His solution is a workstation designed to fit over a treadmill.

"There's an obesity issue in every developed country, including China. Anywhere they're sitting," said Bordley, from his treadmill desk during the telephone interview.

Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Bordley said he developed TrekDesk after a leg injury in 2008 crimped his active lifestyle.

"I couldn't run anymore so I started experimenting with a treadmill," said Bordley. "An epiphany occurred: Walking is a pretty powerful exercise. My back problems went away, I lost 26 pounds (11.8 kgs) and I slept great."

The daily goal for healthy adults in a walking program is 10,000 steps, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Most sedentary adults walk less than 5,000.

Multitasking work and workout is in our genes, according to Bordley, who said he's already sold thousands of his product around the world.

"We've evolved over millions of years to be moving through the wilderness while hunting game. Our body was designed around that movement," he said. "It's the people who sit all day who have to fight lethargy."

When it comes to doing her paperwork, Minneapolis-based personal trainer and group fitness instructor Chris Freytag prefers to stand.

"I'm totally in love with my standing workstation," she said. "The treadmill desk is a great concept, but it's large. I would probably put mine in my basement and I'm not going to work in the basement."

As chair of the Board of Directors for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), Freytag is acutely aware of the need to move, even while forced to spend a lot of time at her desk.

For her the beauty of the standing workstation lies in its mobility.

"You can pull it into the family room or wheel it around the house," she said. "It's user-friendly and accessible and it literally changed my life."

She said just standing keeps her motivated and burns an extra calorie a minute.

For those on a tight budget, Dr. Cedric Bryant, ACE's chief science officer, has another solution.

"Invest on a headset," he said. "I handle all phone calls while standing or pacing."

He said getting outside the building is a growing corporate trend, and he holds as many standing, walking, or off-site meetings as he can.

"Another strategy would be to set your scheduling device to remind you to get out and move for five minutes on the hour," Bryant said.

Personal trainer and wellness expert Shirley Archer, the author of "Fitness 9 to 5," recommends stashing light dumbbells under your desk, or keeping resistance bands in your drawer.

"Anyone who sits at a computer is going to have issues over time," said Archer, a former Wall Street lawyer. "Life used to be more challenging. We don't even push doors open anymore."