A few years ago, the Mayo Clinic's Dr. James Levine theorized that raising one's metabolism through low-level, daylong movement could burn at least as many calories as a conventional workout at the end of an inactive day. He proved it by grafting a treadmill to a desk. Naturally, that led to the Levine-designed $4,199 Steelcase Walkstation. Here are some lower-cost solutions. — Roy Wallack, Los Angeles Times
TrekDesk Treadmill Desk
What: 4-foot wide, adjustable-height, stand-alone platform that fits over the front end of a treadmill and has space for a computer, phone, printer and other objects.
Likes: When combined with a cheap treadmill suitable for low-speed walking, it's an effective, economical alternative to the Walkstation. The desktop doesn't block access to the treadmill control panel, and there's room to walk at an incline. A lawyer who uses one told me that walking at 0.8 or 0.9 mph while answering e-mail and working the phone keeps her fresh all day. The simple act of standing up and moving keeps her sweater-free on cold days when her co-workers are bundled up.
Price: $479. Toll-free 1-877-449-8588; trekdesk.com
FitDesk Pro bike computer platform .
What: A molded foam elbow-rest and desktop that fits over a standard handlebar on a road or mountain bike that is connected to a stationary trainer.
Likes: Keeps forearms steady, allowing for surprisingly stable typing in a conventional cycling position. Includes a pocket on each side for water bottles or energy bars. The unit is held in place with straps and a post that lash to the top tube and the front wheel. Disassembles quickly to free your bike for normal use. Great for watching a DVD during a hard training session. Noncyclists satisfied with a mild workout may prefer the all-in-one, fold-up FitDesk bike ($289.99).
Dislikes: You'd better develop a super-smooth pedal stroke or you might get seasick trying to read the screen, which vibrates with your motion.
Price: $129.99. (615) 669-9004; fitdeskbike.com
SurfShelf treadmill desk and laptop holder
What: Clear polycarbonate strap-on shelf and bracket that holds a laptop computer over the display monitor of a cardio machine.
Likes: Very simple and effective. In three minutes, I had it on my elliptical machine. One strap lashes it to the monitor; the other holds the computer to the shelf so securely that it didn't budge when I exercised at normal speeds. It installs so quickly you could bring it with you to the gym.
Dislikes: Laptop blocks the machine's monitor. Typing through the moving arms of an elliptical machine is probably not as easy as doing it from a treadmill or recumbent bike, but it's doable at low speeds.
Price: $39.95. Toll-free 1-800-854-3079; surfshelf.com
What: A backless, padded, unstable barstool on a spring that spins, compresses and tilts, forcing you to move all day to maintain balance and a straight-backed posture.
Likes: A great conversation piece — funky, artsy and oddly classy — that keeps
you moving without disrupting your work. It's fun; I enjoyed bouncing on it like a mini-trampoline and spinning around like a drunk on a turntable. The height and instability level are adjustable.
Dislikes: I missed being able to relax. It's heavy, and the base model doesn't come with wheels, so it's a hassle to move. At this price, you could outfit all your co-workers with inflatable Swiss balls, which accomplish the same thing
Price: $599. Toll-free 1-800-433-6614; viaseating.com
'The Desk Athlete' DVD
What: A series of 10-minute exercise routines designed to reduce repetitive strain injuries. These occur when muscles are overworked, causing pain in areas such as the lower back, shoulder, neck and the dreaded "BlackBerry elbow."
Likes: Easy and direct. Using your body weight, a golf ball, a tennis ball and an exercise band, New York City trainer (and former German national swim team member) Maik Wiedenbach demonstrates how to massage problem areas, stretch strained muscles and strengthen opposing muscles. Anyone can do it.
Dislikes: Lying on the floor in your office may appear odd to co-workers.
Price: $29.95. (646) 801-1774; thedeskathlete.com