4

These might be the characteristics of a decent treadmill for running:

  • powerful motor
  • max speed. The more, the better.
  • hydraulic incline adjustment
  • weight of the device. 70kg unit will be, on average, more durable than 30kg flimsy toy.
  • price. In general, the higher the MSRP, the better the unit
  • user reviews

Initially, I wanted to browse my local 'Craigslist' and pick a treadmill for a Walking Desk by applying above evaluation scheme.

However, I came across an article on workwhilewalking.com, which states that all those parameters are irrelevant, or even misleading. The reason being, treadmill-base of a Walking Desk is used…:

  1. …for walking:

    When running, you’re kicking the belt backwards and are in the air part of the time. When you’re walking at 1-2 mph, the belt is pushing your entire body weight while overcoming friction between the belt and the deck.

  2. …at low speeds:

    Any motor specifications other than the torque of the motor when running at speeds of 1-2 mph is utterly irrelevant.
    […]
    When walking at 1-2 mph, the motor will only produce a fraction of its rated horsepower. […]
    When you need the most horses to pull the belt along, the motor delivers the fewest.

  3. …for much longer periods of time than, say, running 5x1h / week

All these combined lead to overheating and premature death of, allegedly, any treadmill that was not designed specifically for walking:

We’ve seen 2.5 HP motors used in high-end running treadmills burn out every few months under the strain of daily walking at 1-2 mph for hours at a time.

In the article, instead of grabbing a sweet second-hand deal on Craigslist, they advise either:

  1. Splurging on a walking-dedicated treadmill.

or:

  1. Finding a rehab-dedicated treadmill:

    We’ve seen 1.5 HP motors in low-cost treadmills originally designed for rehab applications (typically topping out at 4 mph) last forever with constant use in a treadmill desk application.

or:

  1. Buying an inexpensive running-dedicated (aka 'regular') treadmill with a long warranty period on the motor. One'll have couple of warranty replacements, and, after the warranty period is expired, one will buy another unit.

I don't like approaches 1. and 2. above, because of a) limited availability of those high-end units in my country b) their insane price as for a treadmill with no incline, no heart rate sensors, etc. - I feel like I'm overpaying.

What do you think?

  1. Perhaps there are some other ways to tell if a running treadmill will be suitable for walking ?

    While the arguments in the article sound really wise, I've seen positive feedback on regular treadmills coming from users, that used them exclusively for walking.

  2. Maybe I should look for a different type of treadmill?
    Magnetic, Manual ?
1

One more note here: I experimented with manual treadmills and magnetic. They are NOT well suited for a treadmill desk, again because the speeds are so slow. It is a very difficult mechanical challenge to produce smooth quiet movement at SLOW speeds. It's almost opposite to making a good running treadmill. For a manual treadmill to work it would need to be at a very steep incline which is very awkward for doing desk work.
ALSO NOTE: Horsepower largely meaningless when it comes to treadmills because there has never been a standardization of horsepower ratings. Manufacturers put all sorts of misleading HP ratings on their treadmill motors. What matters is the number of copper windings and weight of the flywheel and gearing.
Again, try a cheap used one from craigslist to make sure you like treadmill desks in the first place, then look at getting one designed for the job.

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  • Have you tried different magnetic and manual models? Were they properly looked after (belt lubricated)? Still, a sound remark. Thanks! I guess for a manual or magnetic treadmill to be suitable for the task, it would have to have enormous flywheel. Never seen such product. – vucalur Jul 9 '17 at 9:29
  • Additionally, all magnetic/manual treadmills tend to have really narrow belt - Never seen wider than 40cm and it often gets even narrower. In the article they advice 50cm or at least 45cm. After testing 40cm, 45cm, and 50cm; I can confirm that 40cm is bit too narrow. – vucalur Jul 9 '17 at 9:41
  • Because you need to walk VERY SLOWLY most of the time on a Treadmill Desk a manual or magnetic can not perform very well. There are some really good ones in the gym and the perform nicely at running speeds but because of the laws of physics, a manual is never going to perform well at slow speeds UNLESs it's on a VERY STEEP incline. As an example, I am walking at 7/10ths mph right now while typing this. Above 1mph it's hard to type well. I do take it up to 2mph sometimes when talking on the phone or watching a video. – Rob Jacobs Jul 10 '17 at 15:27
  • Regarding belt width, I would not want anything less than 50cm (20 inches). The treadmill I developed is 76cm, (30 inches). – Rob Jacobs Jul 10 '17 at 15:27
  • I see that you're a co-creator of UnSit, so you must have done some prototypes and/or solid research when developing the product. Regarding manual: Have you tried manual treadmill but with a massive flywheel? I think that would have resolved the problem with low speeds. – vucalur Jul 17 '17 at 14:35

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