I’m so fat I need a treadmill at my desk

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American workers are fat–and it’s our employers’ fault. According to The Marlin Company’s just-released 2007 workplace poll conducted by Harris Interactive,

just 36% of workers in 2004 said their company was “very active” or “somewhat active” in offering information about exercise and healthy eating, 22% fewer than in 2007. The number of employees whose companies were “not at all” or “not very active” has dropped from 63% in 2004 to 41% in 2007. Meanwhile, it seems that companies have not made the same strides to discourage junk food consumption. In the 2004 survey, 84% of workers whose companies had vending machines said their workplace vending machines were stocked with snacks, such as potato chips, cookies, and candy bars, a difference of just 9% over 2007.

Yeah! I’d be Ashley Olsen if it weren’t for that damn Snickers bar singing an aria at me from the kitchen vending machine. Whoever put that there is the one to blame for my creeping weight gain. If only they’d replace the oily, sugary snacks with a basketful of raw cabbage–well, hello, America’s Next Top Middle-Aged Model.

So what’s the answer, other than planting an IED in the snack-food dispenser? Steelcase and Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic think they’ve got one: the treadmill cubicle.

You read me right. It’s called the Walkstation. From Steelcase:

Designed to encourage more movement by walking slowly at work, Dr. Levine estimates that users of the walkstation have the potential to increase energy expenditure and burn calories even when walking at a 1 mph rate. For some individuals, particularly for obese individuals and those who do not otherwise exercise daily, use of the walkstation may result in actual weight loss. Additional benefits of movement at work can include less stress, increased productivity and improved focus.

Check it out:


Now, you TIME subscribers might remember my “newbicles” article of 2006 (a trend which, I might point out, the Wall Street Journal got around to discovering just this week). You can read my article online but if you’ve got ’em lying around, dig up the July 9, 2006, issue for the terrific graphics. Even those newfangled cubicles, you’ll see, focus more on things like increased privacy, interchangeability and hip design–not on flab reduction.

Would I want to exercise at my desk while, say, interviewing a CEO on the phone and scribbling notes? More importantly: could I pull it off without collapsing in a humiliating heap? I may go check it out myself at the press event; says here there’ll be refreshments. Wonder if I can walk 1 mph, type, and talk on the phone without getting nougaty Snickers crumbs on my dress.