Like most attorneys, Rebecca Armstrong has a high-pressure job that requires her to spend a lot of time working at a desk. Her specialty, family law, creates an extra layer of stress because in most cases she is working with clients in very difficult situations. A few years ago, Armstrong implemented a unique office setup that not only provides fitness benefits during the workday, but which also helps alleviate stress and enhances her ability to serve clients.
Armstrong is a shareholder with KoonsFuller, the Southwest’s largest family law firm. She lives in Plano with her husband Keith and their two King Charles Spaniels, which they like to take on walks through the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. “We don’t have kids, so our dogs are like children and we love getting outdoors with them to enjoy nature and get a little exercise,” says Armstrong.
For more intense workouts Armstrong visits a local gym to lift weights or uses their Peloton at home. However, her schedule does not always allow her the time to get to the gym, and many nights she just doesn’t feel like working out. In addition, Armstrong often finds herself feeling particularly stressed during the day as she is dealing with difficult cases, so workouts after work, while important, don’t provide stress relief when it is most needed.
A few years ago, Armstrong read an article about treadmill desks and how they can provide health benefits while getting work done. She researched the topic a bit more and found several notable people who use treadmill desks, such as talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Today weatherman Al Roker and author John Grisham. While there are many different models of treadmill desks, the essential design is the same…a treadmill that has a flat work surface built into the front support legs, which can raise and lower the desk to a comfortable height. “We’ve heard a lot about standing desks in recent years, but the treadmill desk adds the extra element of a working treadmill, which not only gets you out of your chair but also gets you walking,” says Armstrong. “I felt this would be a great way for me to get exercise during the day while still working.”
Armstrong installed her treadmill desk about three years ago, angling it next to her regular desk and other office furnishings. While she had to experiment a little to figure out the appropriate pace at which to set the treadmill so she didn’t get out of breath, Armstrong immediately took to her new piece of “fitness furniture.” “It is perfect for when I’m on the phone or having to answer a lot of emails,” adds Armstrong. “In fact, I find I often concentrate even better when I’m walking and talking or answering messages. I probably use the treadmill desk about an hour each day, which is an extra hour my body is moving and maintaining fitness.” Armstrong found the treadmill desk to be such a benefit, she added one in her home office for when she has to work at night or on the weekend.
The treadmill desk works well while she is on the phone and answering email, but Armstrong does still use her traditional desk when she has in-depth paperwork and writing to do. “Some work activities just don’t go well when you are walking!”
Ultimately, Armstrong has found that the real payoff of her treadmill desk goes beyond improved fitness. “The extra exercise is great, but the number one benefit of using the treadmill desk, for me, is how it helps me destress,” says Armstrong. “When I start walking, even if I’m in the middle of a difficult call, I find my mood improves within minutes. That helps me stay focused and enables me to do the best job possible for my clients. I also have found the extra energy and endorphin rush helps with my motivation, creativity and ability to think quickly, which is especially important when I go to court.”
Armstrong recognizes that not everybody can install a treadmill desk at work, but they can make small changes to their everyday routines to improve their health and fitness. She concludes, “Maybe you take a walk around the block while you are on a conference call or walk up a few flights of stairs instead of using the elevator at the doctor’s office. Even simple changes can make a difference in how you feel and perform at work. But, if you do have the room to install a treadmill desk, I wholeheartedly endorse it!”