Please share experiences with treadmill desks
July 3, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Should I consider a treadmill desk?

Like many people, I've been inspired by discussions of the dangers of sitting to consider re-jiggering my workspace. (I also read Stephenson's Reamde last week, which is admittedly fiction but jives with the admittedly only-anecdotal account of James Hill.) However, it looks like an expensive and generally difficult change to make, and I already have a very nice (seated) setup.

I'm looking for folks with experience of treadmill desks to help me consider the pros and cons.

1. Can I kludge this together or do I need a top line desk/treadmill to make it workable? (I've heard vibration and general unsteadiness of DIY/budget hardware may make it impossible to work.)

2. Does the treadmill make sustained attention difficult or does it make it easier to stay on task?

3. Did you lose weight? How much? Have you kept it off?

4. Did you make other changes at the same time that might have contributed to the benefits?

5. How long did it take you to get used to the new setup and able to work a full day walking?
posted by anotherpanacea to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a kludged together treadmill desk: a nice treadmill with some plywood clamped on it for keyboard and trackball (much better than mouse) and my monitors just elevated on stuff behind. A friend is going to help me build a custom platform to fit over the housing a bit closer but this has been a great way to start with no cost (about 7 months now).

I still don't walk all day. Today it's been about 2 hours. I stand a part of the time and when I'm really tired I have a stool. For standing/sitting, something to use as a footrest is good.

I have lost weight, etc. but have not controlled for other factors.

For me, i'm a lot less bored by boring tasks if I'm moving, so I'd say it's a help with concentration.

It takes some getting used to typing while walking so you might plan to try some different keyboards. I'm doing 1.5mph right now at 2degrees of incline and typing quite quickly.

I find it's useful to do some walking while actually concentrating on walking form--I'm trying to forefoot strike, etc.

Definitely worth trying, in my opinion, and you can probably do it for little money and effort to see if you like it.
posted by Mngo at 2:07 PM on July 3, 2012

A.J. Jacobs' recent book Drop Dead Healthy has an account of his treadmill desk, what happened when he started using it, and what he felt it did for him. (What I remember: he lost weight, learned to work on it fairly easily, decided to keep it at the end of his experiment, he was also trying all sorts of other stuff at the time, some of which he kept and some of which he chose not to keep afterwards.)
posted by telophase at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: I've used seated, standing, and treadmill workstations, and the standing workstation is by far my favorite. I absolutely love standing while I work: I have more energy all day, I feel more engaged with what I'm doing, my posture is better, my hips don't get tight, and according to every infographic ever produced I'm killing myself less slowly than if I were sitting.

Treadmill desk on the other hand... as noted above, it takes a while to get used to walking while you work. No matter how accustomed to it you are, you'll always be walking pretty slowly. Walking that slowly while typing/mousing/writing changes your gait. Within a couple of weeks of using a treadmill desk, I had terrible pains in my feet, even though I was wearing my normal walking shoes, which I can comfortably walk all day in at a normal pace. My working theory is that it was from having a strange gait for the reasons mentioned above, but it may have to do with walking on the treadmill surface itself as well.

I think there are great benefits to standing while working, but if I want to get the exercise benefits of walking a few miles, I'd rather do it outside at a brisk pace.
posted by telegraph at 4:32 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

sorry, MORE slowly
posted by telegraph at 5:22 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: I haven’t tried a treadmill desk but I very much enjoy my standing desk. I have an Anthro Elevate Wrap desk. It has a powered lift function so you can change from a standing to a seated height in just a few seconds. I have noticed that working while standing makes me feel more energized.
posted by TeknoKid at 7:25 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: I use a standing desk with a mini-elliptical in front of it -- one of these, in fact -- and I like it quite a bit. It's much cheaper than a treadmill, and if nothing else, it's a good way to try out the set up on the cheap and see how you like it.

I had previously tried a standing desk and had to give it up; it was killing my knees. With the elliptical, I don't have that problem.
posted by genehack at 8:14 PM on July 4, 2012

Response by poster: I'd appreciate any more advice, but what I'm seeing suggests that treadmill desks:

a. aren't sustainable all day
b. may force an unnatural stride which leads to pain
c. are inferior to standing desks (which could be supplemented with a mini-elliptical)

posted by anotherpanacea at 6:33 AM on July 5, 2012

Just to follow up, I think treading and/or standing are sustainable all day for some people, but they definitely take getting used too. Even just standing is exercise, and you can build stamina over time.
posted by Mngo at 1:59 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Hmm.... I need more data!

I estimate this would probably cost about $1500 to do right the first time, because I don't currently own a treadmill. That's for an Anthro Adjusta and a moderately priced treadmill. That's pretty big bucks for something that I might only use for 2 hours a day or ultimately give up on.

I suppose if I could find a standing desk I genuinely wanted and a treadmill I genuinely wanted, separate from the treaddesk project, I could kind of justify it that way....
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:41 AM on July 6, 2012

It is too bad it costs so much to get started with these alternative workstations. Maybe take Mgno’s advice and get a treadmill that suits you and try attaching a makeshift desk surface to see if that even works for you. I had some trouble using a treadmill in conjunction with other electronic devices.. it seems that sometimes when I am really focused on something I forget to keep walking.. Ensuring treadmill compatibility limits your standing desk options so figure out whether it will work for you before you buy the desk.
posted by TeknoKid at 9:24 PM on July 6, 2012

Best answer: $1500 is way too high of an estimate. Check out my set up here:

The desk is an inverted Fredrik from IKEA ($150)
and the treadmill is hacked apart from WalMart (was $300)

The desk is assembled normally otherwise, but with the table acting as the top shelf. The treadmill was a little more work, namely because I wanted an ultra-sleek solution that would slide under my bed. If you look at this "fancy" treadmill desk model you'll notice a stark similarity to the WalMart one, except $400 more. Armed with that knowledge, I figured I'd buy the cheaper version and see if I could hack it apart. It took some work, since I was largely exploring on my own based on the included schematics, but in the end I managed to unbolt the arms, cut and resolder the computer cable (I couldn't get it out otherwise), added a few minor little tweaks (such cardboard 'skis' so it would slide easily under my bed) and now it works like a dream. I've actually been meaning to post a How-To but I didn't take any pictures during the process (and again, I was fooling around most of the time). My sister is enamored with my set-up and wants me to help her out getting her own, so hopefully I'll have a detailed guide in the next month.

As to the experience, I've always been more comfortable standing than walking. However, once I started working from home more and because my desk isn't adjustable, I found myself standing stationary for upwards of 15 hours some days. That definitely was not comfortable and I actually got a swollen ankle as a result. It didn't hurt at all but it was alarming for sure. As a result, I figured that while standing may be an upgrade from sitting, being stationary for long periods of time is not good for anyone.

I've only been using the treadmill desk for a few weeks now but I LOVE it. Walking pace is generally around 3-4 miles for someone of normal health in the general environment but I find that I can't go too high otherwise typing becomes very difficult and I start getting headaches. I find that a pace of 1.5 mph is good for most activities, such as internet browsing. I usually have to go slower if I'm writing a paper and need more concentration. My favorite way to use is actually playing video games. Because you generally zone out, I can comfortably crank it up to 3 mph and literally not think about it. Two hours later, I just walked 6 miles. It's really quite amazing for that fact alone. So far I've been using it about 3 to 4 hours a day on average, with the goal of increasing duration and speed over time. I alternate between walking, standing, and sitting on a stool depending on what's comfortable at the time. I'm very active otherwise (cycling and weight-lifting) so this was really just a way to add a very easy and passive way to be even more active. I'm not far enough along this experiment to provide any results, but there's no way walking 5 miles a day can be anything but amazing for me.

Oh also, I sought out the treadmill model because it's a "walking" model, meaning it's meant to be used at low speeds for long periods of time. (as an aside, given the intended market, the questions on the Walmart site are somewhat amusing: "is this ok for someone weighing 350lbs??"). The motor is indeed whisper-quiet and barely makes a noise. However, foot steps are somewhat noisy, but nowhere near distracting. I only mention that if cubicle neighbors are a concern. Since I use it at home, I don't know how it would fit in an office setting.
posted by bouchacha at 9:24 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Someone already beat me to a How-To Guide. You can definitely do it cheaper than what's listed, provided you find a suitable used treadmill. Finding one where the computer can easily be detached from the frame would make it a lot easier for you.
posted by bouchacha at 9:32 PM on July 29, 2012

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