If you’ve ever spoken on the phone to Ola Bovin, San Luis Valley Regional Epidemiologist, there is one thing you probably didn’t know about your conversation. He was walking on a treadmill during everything you said.
Living an Active Life in an Inactive Job
Even though Bovin, who has been the Regional Epidemiologist since 2010 and a Public Health Nurse for Alamosa County since 2007, hasn’t always had a treadmill in his office, he has always been active. “I try to get exercise every day, but it used to be really hard. I didn’t feel like I had the time.” Bovin’s job, like 80% of jobs in the United States, requires only light activity; some days the only activity that it requires is typing on a keyboard and staying alert in front of a computer screen.
Doing such little activity, Bovin found himself getting increasingly tired in the afternoons. “I used to work 4 day work weeks, with a half hour lunch each day.” By the time his work day was over, Bovin said he was “too tired to do anything.” Taking his health and his happiness in his hands, Bovin changed his work schedule to five day work weeks, giving himself an hour lunch.
“I got a membership at the Rec Center and would run most days during lunch. It really broke up my day. When I would come back to the office after lunch, it would feel like a new day.”
Researchers Agree: Walking Works
Scientists agree with Bovin. Americans, who are less active at work, are packing on the pounds and losing some of their happiness in the process. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts measured the effect of physical inactivity by giving a group of healthy young men heavy platform shoes with 4 inch heals for their right feet. The men were instructed to hobble around on their right feet with crutches for two days, leaving their left feet dangling. After 48 hours, the scientists biopsied both legs and found multiple genes being expressed differently. The inactive left legs had lower insulin levels, slower metabolic activity, and disrupted DNA repair in comparison to the right.
In mid-January, Bovin decided to again transform his work life. After getting approval from his supervisor, Bovin purchased a TreadDesk, a treadmill specifically designed for office use. With the help of County Maintenance, he raised his desk up so the treadmill would fit underneath. “I have no problem typing or reading. It’s something with the brain. After I’ve been typing for a bit, I don’t even think that I’m walking.”
Bovin regularly sets his treadmill to between 1.5 and 2 miles per hour. He can go faster if he is just reading, but slows down to .8 or .9 miles per hour when he is on the phone. Even though he averages between six to seven miles per day, Bovin wears sandals. “I used to wear regular shoes, but my feet got too hot. They still get hot sometimes. I’m thinking about getting a fan to face my feet.”
6.5 Miles Per Day and Still Counting
Since starting in January, Bovin now averages 6.5 miles per day.
To keep himself motivated, Bovin logs his miles on www.dailymile.com, a web-based tool that helps people track their workouts. “It’s healthy to compete against yourself,” says Bovin. As a Public Health Nurse, Bovin feels it is his responsibility to set a good example and be a model for healthy living.
Now that he is used to walking, Bovin plans to run more on the weekends and weekday nights, explaining that he needs better cardiovascular workouts. “My heart is not going so hard while walking on the treadmill. My resting pulse is better than it’s ever been.” Still, he says it is important that people not just focus on the scale. Since beginning, Bovin has gained four pounds. “I don’t like to talk about it because I don’t want to discourage people. Most people lose a lot of weight when they start, but weight doesn’t matter as much as other things.”
“There are a lot of ways people can be healthier at work.” says Bovin. “You just have to choose to do it.” And, as his experience shows, you might find a lot more energy and happiness along the way.