Video: Weight loss office

NBC News with Brian Williams
By Kevin Tibbles Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/7/2005 6:38:57 PM ET 2005-06-07T22:38:57

You'd be forgiven if, at first glance, you thought you'd wandered into a gym. But these treadmills are part of a fully functioning office that's battling America's obesity epidemic while on the job.

"I think the first thing you need to realize is the scope of the problem," says Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic.  "It's now normal to be overweight in America."

The National Health Policy Forum determined that 64 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. That's a prescription for anything from diabetes to heart disease and stroke.

The Mayo Clinic says obesity is linked to more than 300,000 deaths each year.

So Levine set out to redesign the one place where millions spend at least eight hours a day sitting — the office.

"People with obesity are seated two-and-a-half hours a day more than people who are lean," says Levine.

So it's out with the desk and in with the treadmill or stationary bike. Gone, too, is the conference room. Meetings are now held on the walking track.

The concept of moving while you work has all but disappeared from the modern workplace. Levine's program hopes to revolutionize that by changing the way America conducts its business, one step at a time.

The curious at first find it dubious, but not for long, after they're told research shows they could lose between 30 and 50 pounds a year. Even fidgeting at your desk has been measured, and yes, it burns calories!

But can companies afford all this equipment?

"There's no cubicles here at all," says Levine as he gives NBC News a tour of the office. "Everybody still has their own space, and yet units cost half the price of what a cubicle costs."

With skyrocketing health costs, Levine adds, a healthier workforce would save billions.

"This kind of concept could really help America off her bottom!" he says.

In an era when many career-conscious Americans can't find the time to exercise, it's a new way to keep both the business and the body in good health.

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