Benoit Pereira da Silva spends his working day walking. He isn’t a mountain guide, nor is he a waiter in a café. He’s a computer programmer. Normally that is the kind of work that is done while nailed to a seat for hours, eyes fixed on a screen, hands hovering above a keyboard with an area of a few square centimeters.
Benoit Pereira de Silva enjoys playing with data and discovering preposterous correlations. That’s how he came to the realization that he had gained weight in line with the progress of new technology. Once he’d reached 107kg, he finally decided to stop denying reality. His weight gain was not so much the core problem as it was a symptom of a wider issue experienced by much of humanity – a lack of physical activity. At heart, we all know that our lifestyle, eating mountains of candy with our fingers stabbing at the remote control or squeezing our butts into our cars, is bad for our health. Our slovenly lifestyles are the result of another uncomfortable truth: we have abandoned our bodies, and worse, we deny that we have done so. By remaining seated in front of a screen for hours, motionless, we reject our own reality and mold ourselves to that of the computer. We let ourselves be shaped by our tools. In essence, human beings are bipedal animals that need to move.
Ask yourself: how long can a child remain seated and still?
Benoit Pereira da Silva isn’t the kind of person to sell you a ready-made solution, but nor is he the kind to give up when faced with a problem that is as complex as it is massive. He takes what he considers to be a gradual approach: it is better to reduce the imperfections in a system than to try to perfect it. That’s how he came to follow the advice of the endocrinologist, James Levine: he raised the surface of his desk at work and installed a treadmill instead of his chair. He has already walked 6,333 kilometers. He walks 20 to 30 kilometers daily, at an average speed of 3 km/h, which equates to a working day of seven to eight hours spent walking. He is now in a position to calculate his turnover per kilometer. This has resulted in productivity gains alongside a loss of 25 kilos in weight. Above all, he has learned to live in his body once again. Moreover, walking gives his days a regular pace and causes him to experience a healthy fatigue, of a kind that sleep conquers with relish. In short, everything is better than it was.
We could build our towns and cities around the idea of walking
He is of course conscious of how ridiculous it is to walk and work at the same time. The treadmill is a heavy, noisy and restrictive tool, but it has helped overcome a problem and could inspire architects, office designers, managers and even politicians to achieve better things. We may see walking corridors appearing in the workplace alongside meeting tracks, breakout areas with treadmills or outdoor walking areas for freelancers, and so on. We could build our towns and cities around the idea of walking – around pedestrians walking for themselves rather than relying on others for transportation. His outlook on life and his belief that consciousness can be contaminated led him to break out of his cubicle.
With the support of Withings, he designed a prototype mobile office and walked out, literally, taking his desk with him. It was a challenging experience but one which provided ample opportunity to meet new people. It was nothing if not dramatic – and that is what was needed to grab our attention. The transformation continues apace.
This article was published, in the N°34 , December 2014, of the French smart revue “office ET culture” , and translated to english for WalkingWorking.
Benoit Pereira da Silva is an indie Ultra Mobile Software Developper and a Movement Activist, you can contact him via pereira-da-silva.com