Treadmill desks: A place for physicians to work and work out

Dr. Gauthami Gondy works at a treadmill desk. Max Lee/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — When patients come to Valley Health Endocrinology and Internal Medicine, they’ll occasionally notice an unusual aspect to an otherwise traditional doctor’s office setting: small treadmills.

Since shortly after the Front Royal office opened on June 30, the office has had “treadmill desks” in place for its doctors, where they can work and work out at the same time.

According to Tracy Norris, physician practice coordinator at the Valley Health facility, the desks started out as a way for the doctors to work in a healthy environment, instead of having to sit for large portions of the day.

“It makes it so much better than just sitting still for eight hours, which is so unhealthy,” Norris said.

But since the desks first came to the office, Norris has found that they have also helped the patients.

“It is actually quite a conversation piece because the patients hear the walking,” Norris said. “Or they’ll ask.”

Once a patient does ask about the desks, Norris said, a conversation can start that quickly pivots into a discussion about the patient’s health.

“It gets them thinking, ‘We can park out further, we can take the steps,'” Norris said. “Just that little change in your every day – it can help.”

The treadmill desks consist of a small treadmill that sits below a monitor and a dictation device so that doctors don’t have to type while they’re walking.

Norris said that the office first decided to have the desks installed when one of the doctors got wind that someone in another office had one.

“[The doctors] thought this was a great idea, for themselves as physicians,” Norris said.

Since then, most of the doctors are using the desks.

Dr. Gauthami Gondy has set up competitions where the doctors can compete to see who can walk the most miles in a day.

“They all want to compete,” Gondy said. “They all want to compete more than the others.”

Gondy said that the amount of walking she gets in depends on how many patients she has coming in. Some days, she’ll spend two hours walking; others, she’ll walk for 30 minutes.

Since the treadmill desks first came in about a month ago, Gondy said that enthusiasm hasn’t waned.

“Maybe if you come a year or so later, it’ll be something different,” Gondy said.

But while health fads often wind up with people resorting to bad habits, Norris thinks that the environment at Valley Health Endocrinology is particularly suitable for something like the treadmill desks.

Many people at the office have devices attached to them to track the exercise they get throughout the day, and the office has annual weight loss competitions, Norris said.

The doctors at Valley Health Endocrinology were also eager to get the treadmill desks, something Norris said is not true of other doctors.

“They’re like, ‘Ooh, I wouldn’t like that,'” Norris said.

Gondy said that it does take a little bit of time to get used to the desks. It took her about a week.

“But I like it,” she said. “I actually love it.”