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You probably already know the dangers of sitting too much and not getting enough physical activity, and we’re willing to bet there are more than a few of you who are thinking, “I don’t have enough time to exercise.” What if we told you the solution was just as simple as setting up a treadmill desk?

This ingenious cardio hack was once seen only in executives’ offices or those who worked from home before everyone else did, but it’s since gone viral.

Hashtags such as #treadmilldesk and #wfhhacks have accumulated over 110.7 and 399.5 million views on TikTok, all showing clips of people getting their steps in or even walking half a marathon while taking part in Zoom meetings or writing up emails.

We absolutely recommend working on a treadmill desk for people looking to increase their step count or liven up their work-from-home routine, though, like anything you see on the internet, there are a few things you need to know before being influenced.

RELATED: The 7 Best Under-Desk Treadmills

How to Use an Under-the-Desk Treadmill

Under-the-desk treadmills are much easier to set up than standard running or walking treadmills, as most just require being taken out of the box and plugged in to get them started. You should position the treadmill with 40 inches of space behind you and at least 20 inches to your right and left.

Have you ever been told that you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time? While we’re sure you can do that, it’s much more difficult to work and walk at the same time.

Luckily, we have an expert on staff: certified personal trainer, competitive powerlifter, and Garage Gym Reviews staff writer Lauren Strong, who’s frequently spotted on her treadmill desks during staff meetings (she also frequently writes treadmill reviews while using one).

Tips for Walking While Working

Lauren admits it took her a while to master the craft of walking and typing. Here are her tips for people who are interested in using a treadmill desk during their next virtual meeting.

“I started by walking through just meetings, which was a super easy way to start,” Lauren says. “By the second week, I made a routine of walking when I first got to my desk in the morning while I planned out the day and drank coffee. The third step (which is still hit-or-miss) was adding a short bout of walking at the end of the day to wrap things up.”

Ultimately, she adds, the best way to get better is just by walking more often. “It’s only after months of all this practice that I now have the ability to write pretty effectively and walk at the same time,” she says. “I’ll stop and start the treadmill several times throughout the morning, but most days I try to remain standing or walking until lunch.”

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind if you want to walk and work at the same time.

Tip #1: Set Up Your Treadmill Workstation

There should be 40 inches of space behind your treadmill desk and at least 20 inches to your right and left.

working on a treadmill desk

You should be able to reach your computer at all times and the screen should be at eye level. This might require stacking it on top of a thick book to elevate it, but you can always remove it when you’re done using your treadmill desk.

Tip #2: Eliminate All Distractions

Before you even consider turning the treadmill desk on, set up everything that you’ll need for the next few hours. Is your phone at 30 percent? Start charging it now. You’ll probably get thirsty from increasing your step count, so fill up your water bottle or have a sports drink nearby. Basically, you want there to be no reason for you to have to step off the treadmill.

This also includes things like making sure your pet is fed, charging your laptop, and taking care of all laundry that might be in your machines.

Of course, if you have to go to the bathroom or answer the doorbell then by all means step off your treadmill safely, but getting on and off it every few minutes is going to make it harder for you to get into a groove and take a meaningful amount of steps during the day.

Tip #3: Find Your Ideal Speed For Walking While Working

Have you ever put your car on cruise control? You essentially want to do the same thing here and find a Goldilocks speed—not too slow, not too fast, but just right.

You don’t want to be crawling but you also don’t want to be moving so fast that you’re out of breath when it’s your turn to give a presentation.

Things like your stride, athletic ability, cardiovascular endurance, and more will impact what speed works best for you.

Tip #4: Take Breaks—Don’t Forget to Go Outside

Unless it’s raining or otherwise miserable outside, you should carve out some time to get some actual steps outdoors.

Not only will the Vitamin D from the sun support your physical and mental health, you also might become more proficient at your job. No, really.

The American Psychological Association in April 2020 found that people who spent more time in nature had “improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”

“But I’m too busy to step away from my computer,” some people might say, and trust us we’ve all had days when we’ve felt like that. Our recommendation is to take a meeting from your phone (maybe one during which you don’t have to do a lot of talking), take some phone calls outdoors, or take your laptop to a coffee shop a few blocks away (if you work at an office, try to schedule a lunch meeting at a nearby restaurant).

Tip #5: Store it Properly

Many treadmill desks can fit easily underneath…well, your desk. Or they can also fit under your bed or in your closet. If it can’t, make sure you place it in a safe place away from children and animals and make sure it’s turned off.

Coop moving the Goplus treadmill.

Treadmill desks can be pretty heavy, so they might injure someone if it’s stored improperly and ends up falling on someone. Plus, children are smarter than we give them credit for and they will find a way to turn it on.

On top of that, this is a piece of machinery that you paid good money for so you’ll want to take care of it to protect your investment.

How to Create Your Own Treadmill Desk Work Station

If you don’t have a treadmill desk yet and really want one, here are a few ideas on how to get started.

See If Your Company Will Help Pay For It

This, of course, depends on where you work but many companies have started offering generous wellness benefits that might include stipends for fitness equipment.

Consider a Treadmill Mat

Treadmill mats can prevent scratches and dings from showing up on your floors and reduce the amount of noise made when walking on a treadmill.

Have a Treadmill Already?

If you already have an old-fashioned treadmill and don’t have the space or budget for an under-desk version, try to see if your laptop or tablet can fit on the machine’s media stand (most models have somewhere to place your device—how else are you going to binge Love Is Blind as you run?) Just ensure that it’s steady and that the treadmill’s vibrations don’t cause it to fall over.

Benefits of a Treadmill Desk

A study conducted in 2014 shows that treadmill desks have a positive influence on overall daily movement and better execution of work tasks. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of working on a treadmill desk.

Supports Weight Loss

Although weight loss is about your overall calorie intake versus output, regular exercise can be a tool to help in the process. The same study demonstrated that heavier people who worked in offices lost weight when they consistently used their treadmill desks. 

Plus, when you frequently use your under desk treadmill, you increase your NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, value. NEAT is any type of activity you do during the day that isn’t intentional exercise. A few examples would be walking to the bathroom, doing laundry, or lifting a bag of dog food onto a shelf. NEAT accounts for a much larger portion of the calories you burn in a day than purposeful exercise, and getting that step count up can help increase NEAT.

Reduces Sitting

Studies have shown that leading a sedentary lifestyle is associated with obesity, heart disease, and bad cholesterol. Treadmill desk users can reap the benefits of an active lifestyle all while getting their daily work done, therefore avoiding a more sedentary lifestyle. However, don’t feel pressured to use your treadmill desk 24/7. It is okay to sit down and type away at your computer once in a while.

“I will admit that not all work tasks are easy for me to walk and work,” says GGR staff writer and certified personal trainer Lauren Strong, who can frequently be seen using a treadmill desk. “If I’m doing a project where I need to toggle between my two monitors quite a bit, it’s too hard for me to walk at the same time.”

Coop walking on the Goplus treadmill.

Increased Energy

Have you ever run a mile and feel like you could squash your enemies like ants after the fact? That’s the increased energy and endorphins that exercise gives you! Using a treadmill desk frequently can improve your overall mood, well-being, and may even prevent your typical afternoon slump. 

More Steps

Nothing makes people move more than an arbitrary thought that 10,000 steps per day is the pinnacle of health and wellness. Just being snarky, but really, 10,000 steps is not necessarily a magic number, although research has shown that even 7,000 steps per day can make a huge impact on mortality rates. However, getting more steps in throughout the day (whatever that looks like for you) is an important key to staying active and reducing health risks like cardiovascular disease.

What to Look for in a Treadmill Desk

There are dozens of different treadmill desks on the market today, so here are a few of the most important things to look out for if you’re considering purchasing one.

Coop walking on the Goplus treadmill in his office.

Noise

You’ll want to make sure the motor and sound of your feet won’t disrupt your work or your teammates. Treadmill motors with a 2.0 CHP (continuous horsepower) motor are best, though they’re more expensive than those with a 1.0 CHP motor.

Stability

A treadmill desk’s weight capacity will be a good indicator of how stable it will be during use. You should also look for customer reviews to see if anyone has commented on how well it performs on surfaces like carpet or hardwood.

Warranty

You’ll want to make sure your treadmill desk has a warranty of at least 1 year to cover any issues that might come up.

Speed

Most treadmill desks won’t be able to go faster than 10 miles per hour. Find one with a decent starting speed and a max speed that’s challenging but not undoable.

Size

This is self-explanatory. Make sure your treadmill desk fits in your office, whether that’s at home or elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

Using an under the desk treadmill is one of the easiest ways to be more physically active, improve your overall mood, and shake up your daily work routine.

A study done by Stanford University states that 42% of workers are now working from home, so it’s likely that more people are going to become curious about under-desk treadmills. That said, it’s important they be used in a way that doesn’t disrupt your workflow or cause any injuries.

Working on a Treadmill Desk FAQ

Can you really work on a treadmill desk?

Depending on your job, you can absolutely work on a treadmill desk. However, not every type of job is well-suited for working on a treadmill desk. If you have a job where you’re doing Photoshop or anything where your hand must be completely steady, it won’t be your best choice.

Will a treadmill desk help me lose weight?

A treadmill desk can help you achieve a caloric deficit, or when you burn more calories than you consume during a day, which is the key to weight loss.

Is it hard to type on a treadmill desk?

In my opinion, it is hard to type a lot while using a treadmill desk, but that might be my ADD speaking. If you have a writing-heavy job, you may not enjoy using a treadmill desk as much as others.

What are some of the health benefits to using a treadmill desk?

Using a walking desk is an excellent way to burn calories, stay engaged with your tasks, and get steps in. Plus, if you have frequent back pain from sitting too much, a treadmill desk might help alleviate some soreness.

How long should you work on a treadmill desk?

While that depends on factors such as your athletic ability and cardiovascular endurance, we recommend at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a day, five days a week to achieve the federally-recommended amount of aerobic exercise for adults.

How fast should you walk while working at a treadmill desk?

The answer will be different for everyone, but generally speaking, three miles per hour is a good pace to walk while working. Find a pace you can maintain with little to no effort for at least 30 minutes.

Further reading

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You probably already know the dangers of sitting too much and not getting enough physical activity, and we’re willing to bet there are more than a few of you who are thinking, “I don’t have enough time to exercise.” What if we told you the solution was just as simple as setting up a treadmill desk?This ingenious cardio hack was once seen only in executives’ offices or those who worked from home before everyone else did,  » Read more about: Working on a Treadmill Desk: The Hack To Better Health?  » Read more