One of the things I really enjoy about working at a university is feeling like I’m connected in some way, and often supporting, education and research through my work in IT. Sometimes, however, I get the chance to actually actively participate in education by taking a class or, as is the case right now, in research by volunteering to be part of a research study.
Several weeks ago I volunteered to take part in a research study with the goal of determining the impacts on weight and health of regular short walks during the work day. I met the initial age and activity requirements, and went through an initial screening to make sure I didn’t have any health problems that would make participating in the study dangerous for me. I was weighed and measured, including having my body fat measured in a claustrophobia-inducing device called a Bod Pod. After that, the folks in the Kinesiology department had me walk on a treadmill for a heart-rate / fitness test. I also had some blood work done at a local lab company. All of this was to establish a baseline set of data for me.
After going through all that, I was randomly selected to be in the group of participants who would wait an extra 8 weeks before beginning the active portion of the study. Since the other folks began taking extra short walks immediately, I guess that makes me part of the control group.
But today I completed my second fitness test and received my equipment for participating in the study. The equipment includes a Fitbit Zip to measure my steps, which is kinda funny because I already wear a Fitbit One of my own. I also have to keep a log of the time I arrive at work, the time I leave work, and the times I remove the Fitbit.
I have also been provided with a watch that is configured to remind me with an alarm once every hour between the hours of 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM to get up and take a walk. I’m not planning on wearing the watch, since I haven’t worn a watch for over 20 years – I’ll just keep it next to my monitors on my desk at the office.
Since the focus of this study is to determine the positive health benefits, if any, of taking regular short walks during the work day, I’ve been encouraged to walk for 5 minutes per hour, but no longer. The researcher I’ve been working with said they have plenty of data on the benefits of walking for 10 minutes or longer, but they’re trying to see if frequent short walks people could incorporate into tiny breaks can be helpful too.
I’m really looking forward to being part of this study, and also to using it to kickstart my own focus on fitness and being healthier. Given how often I eat out each week, working in more frequent exercise is a good idea.