Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Exercising on the job would be unhealthy

January 9, 2014

So it turns out that having a job in which you sit all day is almost as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes or eating drive-thru food. Since I’ve chosen to be a writer and not a figure skater, I find myself in a bit of a jam.

Except for the nine hours a week when I stand in front of a university class and talk, my work happens at a desk, in a chair, in front of a computer. When I’m not writing columns and scripts for stories on public TV, I’m preparing class lectures and answering student emails. Every bit of it happens with my rear end planted in a chair. As a writing professor, I grade a lot of papers, a task I sometimes do while seated in an overstuffed chair with my legs on an ottoman. It’s a nice change of pace.

Except for the actual teaching part – which, during a three-hour class, feels as though I’ve run a marathon – none of it is aerobic.

Which brings me to the latest fitness craze: the treadmill desk. Seems that upper-management types are not taking their jobs sitting down any more. They’ve swapped the digital control panel on treadmills with computer desks, and are multi-tasking in a ridiculous-looking but probably heart-healthy manner.

I am not considering this for my own office. My home fitness machine of choice these days is the elliptical, which provides a circular-marching motion. If I were to attach my desk to the machine, I’d be in constant danger of clobbering my computer with my hands as they churn back and forth on the handles. As it is, I have trouble using the remote control to change TV channels while I’m on the thing – how the heck am I going to use a mouse?

Is this a different breed of worker who walks while they work? In movies, the big bosses always have spacious corner offices with huge, flat desks devoid of any clutter. Female bosses – magazine editors and such – have nothing on their desks but a tablet, a smartphone and a vase of fresh flowers. These bosses would be the perfect candidates for working treadmills.

If I were to upload the essentials of my desk to a treadmill, there would be coffee mugs, jars of red pens and stacks of paper sliding off in all directions. Also, I would veer off the belt at about mile 0.5 and impale myself on a letter opener.

It’s not that I’m not able to multi-task. I can do all sorts of combinations of things: drive while listening to the radio, walk while listening to my iPod, swim while compiling a mental shopping list, knit while listening to a TV show. But writing while walking is probably out of my reach.

When my son was a baby, I got my exercise by strolling him around the lake at a nearby park. Every day, I would pass a man who read a book while he walked. Once, I slowed down as I passed to see if he actually turned a page, and he did. The embarrassing thing was, he walked a lot more quickly than I did. And probably read faster, too.

As I write this, I’m aware that it’s been two hours since I planted myself in this chair. After all these years and semesters and columns, the chair is shaped like me. And it occurs to me, I might be shaped like the chair. But every so often, I get up to refill my coffee mug. Next time, I’ll run out to the kitchen. That counts as exercise, right?

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



blog comments powered by Disqus