Obesity researchers agree that one reason America is putting on pounds is our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Today's jobs require employees to sit at desks and work at computers. The Mayo Clinic is taking the first steps to develop a "treadmill workstation" that would let us burn calories while working in an office.

The concept was first advanced by the clinic's Dr. James Levine, who said he hates going to a health club but understands the importance of getting regular exercise. Since he works long hours, he decided he needed to find time during the work day to get in a workout. Thus, the "treadmill workstation" was born.

Instead of sitting in chairs, workers stand in front of a raised workstation and slowly walk on a treadmill. Normally Levine keeps to a one-mile-per-hour pace, which requires little effort or concentration, allowing him to focus his attention on work. But the speed is fast enough to do some good, burning an extra 100 calories an hour - 8,000 calories over a 40 hour work week.

Levine is an obesity researcher whose area of specialty is "non-exercise activity thermogenesis," the study of how people burn calories doing everyday activities like getting up out of a chair, walking outside to get the newspaper, or even talking.

Levine says his recent research shows that thin people tend to be on their feet an average of two and a half hours a day more than people who are overweight. Getting office workers up out of their chairs led him to build a prototype "treadmill workstation."

The workstation replaces the traditional office cubicle with a work area combining a computer, desk and treadmill into one unit. The "executive" model also includes a carpeted oval track so that meetings can be held while walking.

Levine says businesses may like the idea of the moving workstations. Not only will be employees be healthier, the cost of the workstation is about $1,000, considerably less than a typical office cubicle workstation. He says Mayo Clinic's technology licensing department is currently considering how to bring the workstation to market.