Joy Hahn, administrative support associate in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at ECU, tries out a new mini exercise bike that allows users to pedal while sitting at a desk. The bikes are part of an ECU research program on ways to offset the negative effects of sedentary work. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU STUDY: Employees pedal while they work

ECU News Services

For 50 ECU employees, work time will also be exercise time this summer.

They will be pedaling under their desks, helping research ways to offset the effects of sedentary work.

The Pedal@Work project, in part funded by an award to Dr. Lucas Carr, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, College of Health and Human Performance, will test whether intermittent physical activity reduces individual risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Participants will get mini exercise bikes, which they will use to pedal at their desks while they work. They will get a pedometer and access to a web site which will help them keep track of their daily physical activity.

“This study will be among the first to test whether introducing several breaks from sedentary time, as opposed to exercising at a moderate to high intensity, is effective at reducing risk for chronic disease,” said Carr.  

The idea appealed to Joy Hahn, an administrative support associate in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science.

“I love physical activity but felt that I could not really do anything during my working hours that would be routine,” said Hahn. “Walking the hallways and stairs just isn’t exciting or interesting to me.”

Hahn’s goal is to pedal an hour each day in the beginning and increase that amount weekly. On her first day, she pedaled in 10-minute increments for a total of an hour’s workout. She recorded a distance of 13 miles at an average speed of 15 miles per hour and calculated she burned 479 calories.

Carr expects the study to yield information that could improve intervention and support a larger study. The long-term goal, he said, is to provide some guidance to employers who might want to invest in health promotion resources and equipment to improve employee health.

“If we find that introducing short breaks in the day is effective at reducing our risk for disease, this may be a more feasible option for many that are unable to exercise for long periods on a regular basis,” Carr said.

Carr won a $5,000 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Affiliate Universities to underwrite the research. That's being matched by a $5,000 ECU research grant. He’s one of 30 junior researchers in the nation to receive the Powe award. ORAI includes 98 universities. It promotes partnerships with government, national laboratories and private industry.

Carr began teaching at ECU in 2010. He holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science, a master’s in exercise physiology and a doctoral degree in physiology. He completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.