It’s not recent information that the majority of us spend an excessive amount of time sitting down. Research from the American Health Association estimates that a remarkable 80 percent of jobs in the U.S. are sedentary. Sitting for extended periods has been linked to various unfavorable health outcomes, from an increased risk of heart disease to weakened muscles, chronic pain, and more.
The concept of a desk treadmill probably appears to be a viable solution to sit less and walk more. However, most of them are quite expensive and can occupy a considerable amount of space. Additionally, can you truly walk and work simultaneously? If you’ve contemplated purchasing a desk treadmill but are hesitant to do so, here’s a helpful guide detailing the advantages and disadvantages.
Understanding Desk Treadmills
A desk treadmill is essentially what it sounds like—a treadmill that allows you to walk while working at your desk. “In comparison to a traditional treadmill workout, which focuses on cardiovascular training, a desk treadmill is designed to enable users to increase their total steps while utilizing a computer,” explains Kelly Borowiec, a CPT, ACE Personal Trainer, and founder of Keebs Fitness. Desk treadmills typically operate at a slower speed and intensity, enabling them to be used for longer periods and more frequently than a typical treadmill.
Desk treadmills are compatible with most standing desks, allowing individuals to slide the treadmill portion directly under the desk to work while walking. Desk treadmills are smaller and slimmer than traditional treadmills—most models only consist of the walking pad portion to fit with standing desks. This also allows for convenient storage when not in use.
The Benefits of Desk Treadmills
Working while walking is a significant advantage of desk treadmills and an effortless way to incorporate more movement into your daily routine. “A desk treadmill provides you with the opportunity to stay active without having to go to the gym or take time off from an important work project,” says Allen Conrad, MD, BS, DC, CSCS. Desk treadmills make it easier to maintain consistency, which Conrad states is crucial in reducing health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. “Establishing a consistent time and commitment to a three to four times per week exercise program helps decrease cardiac conditions like coronary artery disease,” he says.
Using a desk treadmill consistently will also boost your calorie burn. “Walking burns calories, and utilizing a desk treadmill can contribute to an increased energy expenditure compared to sitting or standing still at a desk,” explains Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD. It’s also beneficial for your heart. “Regular walking on a desk treadmill can have positive effects on cardiovascular fitness, including improved heart health, blood circulation, and reduced blood pressure,” says Sabat.
There are also numerous mental health benefits associated with regular use of a desk treadmill. In the wise words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins.
Endorphins boost your mood, confirms Holly Roser, a personal trainer who holds NASM certification. She affirms, “You’ll experience an enhanced state of mind, reduced anxiety, and improved concentration during both exercise and leisurely strolls.” She further adds, “Even a leisurely pace can yield advantageous effects on your mental well-being.
From an ergonomic perspective, Conrad suggests that utilizing a desk treadmill can enhance posture. “A desk treadmill will aid you in concentrating on appropriate posture even while seated, which can help prevent a common neck injury known as tech neck,” he explains. “This occurs due to inadequate ergonomics and leaning forward over the computer, resulting in discomfort and tingling in the neck, shoulders, and arms.” Using a desk treadmill requires you to concentrate on correct posture, which has long-term effects on enhancing spinal movement. Prolonged periods of sitting can lead to persistent lower back pain, which can be alleviated by consistently utilizing a desk treadmill. “Instead of sitting all day, treadmill desks keep you in motion and more focused on proper posture,” he remarks. “Individuals with low back pain notice reduced discomfort after a few weeks of using a treadmill desk.”
Working while walking on a desk treadmill can even enhance your levels of energy. “Engaging in light exercise on a desk treadmill, even at a moderate pace, can provide a steady increase in energy,” states Erik Brown, UESCA-Certified Running Coach. “This heightened vitality and attentiveness aid in boosting productivity.” More physical activity and increased productivity — seems like a victory.
Potential Drawbacks and Considerations
Although desk treadmills are designed to operate at slower speeds, it is essential to be aware that there is still a risk of injury. “This can occur in the obvious scenario of missing a step and falling flat on your face, but injuries can also arise from improper posture,” explains Borowiec. “For example, if the height of your computer screen is too low, you might develop neck pain.” Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that you are utilizing a standing desk and desk treadmill that are ergonomically designed and appropriately adjusted for your height.
There is also a learning curve to walking while typing, which may take some time to master. “Start with small steps, try just 10 minutes per day, and undertake tasks that require minimal effort, such as creating a document or texting a friend,” suggests Roser. “Save the important emails for when you feel confident in typing and walking.”
Desk treadmills inevitably require space, which may not be the ideal solution for individuals living in small accommodations. Additionally, they can be quite pricey and may not be financially feasible for everyone. They should also not be relied upon as the sole form of exercise. “Desk treadmills are designed for low-intensity walking, so they may not offer the same level of cardiovascular exercise as a regular treadmill workout or other more vigorous exercise routines,” reveals Sabat.
Suitability for Different Work Environments
In an office or co-working space, using a desk treadmill may elicit some disapproval and potentially disrupt those around you. “During operation, certain desk treadmills produce noise and vibrations, which can be disruptive in a quiet office environment,” says Brown. If you plan on using a desk treadmill in an office with an open floor plan, take the time to read reviews to understand the potential implications of noise. You may find the noise distracting even if you use a desk treadmill in your home office. “Noise-cancelling headphones or opting for quieter models could help solve this problem,” suggests Brown.
What It’s Truly Like to Utilize A Desk Treadmill
Purvi Patel, a product manager based in New York who works remotely, acquired her Doufit Electric Under Desk Treadmill in 2022 after observing favorable evaluations and encounters on TikTok. “With the walking treadmill, I feel like I’m multitasking — I can perform my tasks and incorporate some movement,” she states. “I’m certainly not burning as many calories as I would in a spin class, but it’s preferable to remaining seated and immobile.”
One aspect she noticed as a learning experience was the necessity to lubricate her desk treadmill before using it. “It was rather noisy when I initially used it, but once I applied the lubricant, it became much quieter,” she remarks. Apart from occupying more space than she would prefer in her apartment, Patel has been satisfied with her purchase overall. It has improved her posture and endurance and assisted in establishing a routine. “I check my calendar and organize my workday around my walking sessions,” she explains, blocking off her schedule to walk and work without being interrupted by calls or meetings.
Alternative Choices for Active Work Stations
If you desire to incorporate more movement into your daily schedule but are unwilling to commit to a desk treadmill, there are numerous other methods to transform your workspace into a less sedentary environment.
Upright desks. A standing or adaptable desk enables you to work while standing up from your chair. “This substitute encourages better posture, activates your muscles, and increases energy expenditure,” asserts Brown. “By integrating periods of standing into your workday, you promote improved blood circulation, reduce the risk of sedentary-related health problems, and might even experience enhanced productivity and concentration.” Although it doesn’t yield as significant cardiovascular benefits as a desk treadmill, it gets you out of your chair.
Exercise ball. Replace your office desk with an exercise ball to engage your core muscles and encourage better posture. “This alternative introduces subtle movements, such as slight adjustments to maintain balance, which activate your muscles and increase calorie expenditure compared to traditional chairs,” elucidates Brown. Although this provides fewer cardiovascular advantages, it aids in maintaining posture and engaging the core.
Attempt a pedal exerciser. If you lack the space for a desk treadmill, an under-the-desk pedal exerciser is a more compact option that enables you to pedal while you work. Though it doesn’t require as much space, there may still be a learning curve to overcome when it comes to typing and pedaling.
Considerations for Secure and Efficient Use
Having a discussion with your healthcare provider about a new exercise routine is always advisable, particularly if you have pre-existing medical conditions or physical limitations. Here are a few essential safety considerations to bear in mind when starting to walk on a desk treadmill.
- Take it easy. “Commence with shorter durations and slower speeds to allow your body to adapt to the new motion. Gradually increase the duration and speed over time,” suggests Sabat.
- Familiarize yourself with and utilize safety features. Thoroughly read the user guide of your desk treadmill before starting, and make use of the safety features accordingly. “One crucial safety feature is the safety magnet that connects you to the treadmill and disengages if you stumble or fall,” states Borowiec. “When the magnet detaches, the treadmill will automatically halt the belt. You can also manually remove the magnet if you suddenly need to step off the treadmill.”
- Wear suitable footwear. “Opt for athletic shoes or walking shoes that provide sufficient support, cushioning, and stability,” recommends Brown. “These shoes offer the necessary traction and aid in reducing the risk of slips or falls.”
- Avoid excessive exertion. “Always ensure that you’re walking at a speed that feels natural to you,” advises Roser. “If you don’t have handlebars, you should walk on the treadmill at a slower pace than your usual walking speed and always keep the safety clip on.”
When used safely and consistently, desk treadmills can have a significant impact on incorporating more movement into your daily routine. Prior to purchasing, it’s sensible to assess the workspace where you plan to introduce the desk treadmill, as well as your personal requirements and preferences, to determine if it’s the right choice for you. If you’re not ready to purchase a desk treadmill at this time, there are still numerous ways to enhance your daily activity and make your workspace more dynamic.