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It can be a real pain to sit behind a desk day after day. No, literally. According to a 2017 study, “long sitting times were associated with exhaustion during the working day, decreased job satisfaction, hypertension, and musculoskeletal disorder symptoms.” 

Enter working on a treadmill desk. Could this be the answer to your aching back and sluggishness? Although it likely won’t be a panacea for everything that ails you, it can be a great tool to help you stay engaged during the workday and get some extra steps in. 

What is a Treadmill Desk?

Invented in 1999 by Dr. James Levine, the treadmill desk has since become an office staple for those who can’t stand (pun intended) sitting all day. Although treadmill desks have been around for over two decades, they gained a lot of popularity during the pandemic. Since many of us were forced to work from home, more people looked for ways to get moving during the day, and using a treadmill desk fit the bill. 

Like regular treadmills, there are a few different types of treadmill desks. Options like those from LifeSpan are the traditional treadmill desk––a normal treadmill deck with a standing desk attached. Others (like the GoPlus 2-in-1) don’t have a standing desk attached, but they are meant to be used underneath your own standing desk. These can be a more affordable option, as the LifeSpan treadmill desks are upwards of $2,000. 

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 on 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 treadmill desk, 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.

If losing weight is a goal of yours, a treadmill desk may help you achieve this objective when combined with proper diet and sleep. For further questions about if a diet or exercise routine is right for you, please contact a licensed medical professional or registered dietitian. 

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, but generally getting movement throughout the day is key to good health.

Coop walking on the Goplus treadmill.

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.

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. 

Who Should Buy a Treadmill Desk?

Treadmill desks can be a great addition to your workspace, but they certainly aren’t the best choice for everyone. Check out who I think should look into buying one and who should pass.

Great for:

  • Fidgety people
  • Those trying to lose weight
  • Individuals looking to hit a daily step goal
  • People who are frequently in meetings

Not recommended for:

  • People with balance issues
  • Individuals who have injuries
  • Those with very detail-oriented jobs

Tips for Working at a Treadmill Desk

When you purchase an under-desk treadmill, you’ll likely need a few tips to get started. Luckily, I’m here to save the day (as always) with some of the most important things to remember before using your very own treadmill desk.

Set Up Your Treadmill Workstation

There is truly nothing worse than getting all cozy on the couch with your snack and blanket and realizing the television remote is halfway across the room. Okay, plenty of things are worse, but this is one of my ultimate pet peeves. Similarly, you’ll want to set up your treadmill workstation with everything you need ahead of time to avoid frustration. Laptop? Check. Water? Check. Pen and paper? Double check. Let’s get this show on the road. 

Coop moving the Goplus treadmill.

Safety

Treadmill safety is incredibly important in order to avoid any feet (or fluffy paws) being crushed and unnecessary injuries. Although it is always important to pay attention to what you’re doing, it is even more critical to do so when you’re working and walking at the same time. It can be easy to get engrossed in your work, but make sure you’re keeping your safety in mind at all times. If you need to step off of the treadmill for any reason, make sure to turn it off. I also recommend going at a very easy pace––you’re trying to get some steps in while on a conference call, not win the Boston Marathon.

Ergonomics

Remember when you were a kid and your mom would always tell you to sit up straight? Yeah, me, too. Unfortunately, she wasn’t wrong. Bad posture can lead to a host of issues like unnecessary strain on your back and neck, plus, decreased blood flow. When using your treadmill desk, make sure to walk with a straight back rather than hunching over your computer like a gremlin. Your body will thank you in the long run.

Stay Hydrated

For the love of all things cardio––please drink lots of water. Your work life is likely already stressful enough without adding a dehydration headache into the mix. Please invest in a giant water bottle to keep on your treadmill desk––I like my giant Yeti––and refill it frequently. 

Coop walking on the Goplus treadmill in his office.

Wear the Right Attire

Whether you’re using a treadmill desk in your home office or inside corporate headquarters, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing the correct attire. Obviously, wearing sneakers or running shoes is critical, as you don’t need to break an ankle wearing heels on a treadmill.

RELATED: How to Choose Running Shoes

However, when it comes to your clothing, you’ll have to use your best judgment depending on your work environment. If you’re in the office with other employees, you may want to opt for breathable work pants and a simple, sweat-wicking top. For those at home, wearing actual athletic clothing is probably best.

Start Gradually

Although it may be tempting to go full steam ahead with your new treadmill desk, it isn’t advisable. Start with using it in smaller increments (like 10 minutes at a time) and see how it works for you. Everyone is different, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to walk half of the day.

Find What Works for You

Not everyone can type and walk at the same time (calling myself out here), so it is best to find what works for you and stick with it. If you can’t write well when using your treadmill desk, consider taking phone calls or meetings while walking. I’m zero percent surprised that typing and walking at the same time isn’t my jam, as I could barely rub my tummy and pat my head as a child. 

If you’re like me, find other ways to utilize your treadmill desk. You could watch television, listen to a podcast, or jam out to music while getting your heart rate and step count up. Heck, you can check LinkedIn for all I care. Make your treadmill desk work for you!

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.

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.

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