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It's really all in the title...

I'm looking for ways to incorporate a bit more exercise into a desk-worker's life, and I recently stumbled over the idea of building a treadmill desk.

Wikipedia:

A Treadmill Desk is a working desk built around a treadmill. A person using the treadmill desk walks slowly on the treadmill while continuing to perform office tasks at the desk. [...]

The aim of a treadmill desk is to integrate movement and gentle exercise into the working day of an otherwise sedentary office worker. Rather than sitting all day in a chair, a treadmill desk allows desk-based workers to stand and take a slow walk while working.

A treadmill desk is not typically used for a cardio workout, as most users find walking at a speed of 1.0 - 2.0 mph the ideal range. At slower walking speeds, most able-bodied people can undertake desk-based tasks such as typing or talking on the telephone. However, even at these slower speeds, a person may burn 100 - 150 calories per hour, which may result in increased fitness and weight loss.

Being able to walk for a substancial portion of one's workday sounds promising, but I'm wondering if there are any downsides with the use of treadmill desks in general, or maybe things to look out for.

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Falling is probably an issue for some :P –  Matthew Read Oct 24 '11 at 19:06
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I think some research is in order, specifically around the areas of weight loss which doesn't necessarily revolve around caloric intake. (i.e., this may be fun to build, but may not yield further usefulness) –  Rafael Rivera Oct 24 '11 at 19:43
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One problem. A treadmill desk is not as cool as a sit/surf desk youtube.com/watch?v=rSaCYX7WXoM –  bentayloruk Oct 24 '11 at 19:50
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I'm so tempted to try this myself for our blog! –  Ivo Flipse Oct 25 '11 at 22:24
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Just noticed a similar question about cycling desks over on Bicycles.SE –  Lauren Nov 29 '11 at 15:08
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8 Answers

I found this website where the author has the exact same question, and then goes about a rather scientific method of finding out the answer.

It's: www.treadmilldeskdiary.com

After reading it, it sounds like ergonomics is a key problem to look out for, also possibly reduced productivity from walking too fast, but the author seems to think you can get used to that. Anyways, it seems really relevant to your question, hope it helps!

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I've had one for several months. It's great for my circulation and posture problems. I have not lost weight, because my appetite has increased accordingly, but I feel so much better with no leg swelling and increased oxygen to brain, skin, etc.

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Interesting, do you have any way of estimating the distance traveled, number of steps or estimated burned calories? It would be nice to have some data to support your answer. –  Ivo Flipse Jul 10 '12 at 18:15
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I have been using a treadmill desk for the past 6+ months. As Jesse pointed out above, I do have more energy during the day than when I was in "Thinker" position all day. And yes, I have tripped once or twice, but in those cases I prolly would have even without the mill; I am the living incarnation of Jack Tripper. Some notes:

  • My goal was not to lose weight but to alleviate posture issues and repetitive motion injuries from sitting at a desk all day. An additional goal was just to get moving a little, since hip and knee problems had sidelined me from all of my regular sports activities.

  • So, no weight loss, since I up'ed my intake along with the additional output.

  • I had tried a standing desk, but that failed in no time. I could not stand and work for that long. I found that the walking actually made it easier to be upright than just standing. I had no problems with the treadmill, and today I can walk or stand all day with no issues.

  • Biggest difficulty with my setup is that I leave my desk frequently to talk with others => constantly starting and reprogramming the mill is annoying; I tend not to walk as much (just stand on it) due to that. I have a controller circuit designed to deal with that, but haven't gotten around to building it...(it didn't give me infinite energy).

  • Second biggest issue for me is the reduced usable desk space. You can have a lot of desk but while walking, you are limited to using ~ the forward 90-degree arc.

  • Writing/drawing is a little more than I can manage while walking, so I tend to go to the break room whenever I need to do more than a little of that.

For me, the setup is a clear win. The reduced pain and extra energy easily make up for the inconveniences.

I hope this information is useful to someone.

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+1 definitely useful, thanks! :-) –  Jan Oct 27 '11 at 8:08
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All other things being equal you'll burn more calories walking than sitting (assuming average sitting behavior...?), so you'll lose weight.

Beware falling down--if you get too engrossed and forget you're moving you'll get thrown off the back end: wear your kill-switch to avoid entertaining tread burn as you lay crumpled in a heap at the end of the track.

I look at it as the physical manifestation of white noise. Your co-workers will think it's the noise manifestation of white noise.

I'd also get a nicely-programmable one (preferably that you can hook up to the network) and run programs that vary incline and speed in subtle ways. If your co-workers are adept at hackery, keep it off the network, or risk random bursts of 12mph/10% which will almost certainly ruin your day.

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Author Trevor Corson has an office setup that incorporates a treadmill. You can see a video of it in action here. I think it's kind of the ultimate solution because it incorporates a variety of positions to work from. Standing or walking all day will be just as bad for you (though perhaps for different reasons) as sitting all day will. The key is to change it up throughout the day. Also, I have to say, the chair Trevor is using in that video is kind of insanely great.

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I have been using a treadmill desk for over two months now. It's been a terrific experience, and I can already say that I recommend it highly. I walk at 1.5mph and looking at the display right now I've crossed 700 calories burned today. I've lost about 10lbs, and I don't see that changing.

I wrote a blog post about my setup and the benefits I see from it. I'm a believer! Just be sure to take the occasional break, and start slowly.

A.

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A treadmill desk may be a large investment that will get bored fast. A few months ago I got caught up in the standing desk hype so I built one - it wasn't hard, just required separating my Ikea Galant desk and using some spare legs I had. So this gave me a standing desk and a sitting desk each with a 24" monitor. Anyways, it didn't last.

I also have a high-end gym quality treadmill near by that just happens to hold my 15" MacBook Pro at the perfect height, at least for my arms. I often set it at around 3.5km/hour and walk for a few hours while doing lighter work loads and then will go back to my proper desk.

I find this much better than a standing desk, and it breaks up the day a little.

I am looking into some sort of stand where I can use a spare 24" display I have here while at the treadmill, but its not very high on my priority list - the work I save for treadmill time is usually fine on the smaller monitor and I don't find my neck angle to be a problem.

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I am currently sitting two cubicles away from a co-worker who uses a treadmill desk. He says that it gives him a lot more energy throughout the day. He has tripped a few times though.

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could you get him to post his thoughts on it here? –  Jeff Atwood Oct 24 '11 at 19:59
    
I just sent him a link. We'll see. –  jessegavin Oct 26 '11 at 22:01
    
Perhaps you have to send him the link again ;-) –  Ivo Flipse Feb 22 '12 at 18:25
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