The Amazing Treadmill Desk

As a writer, I spend a lot of time sitting and staring at a computer screen.  I don't think I have to tell you that this is not good for anything, including the width of my behind, my posture, and my attention span.

Enter....the treadmill desk.

A treadmill desk is exactly what it sounds like - a treadmill with a desk mounted on or around it.  You walk at a slow speed while you work.

You can buy treadmill desks or standing desks, varying in cost, but they run pretty expensive. I bought a treadmill and then built the desk for about $100.  Here she is:

Treadmill Desk

Isn't it beautiful?

I absolutely love it.  It's made all the difference in my energy and focus, and I never get tired of sitting all day, because I'm not sitting very much at all!

Since treadmill desks are still fairly rare (though I think everyone should have one), I've answered a few of the most common questions people ask me here:

Isn't it hard to walk and work at the same time?

Nope.  I usually walk between .5 and 1.5 mph while I'm working, depending on what I'm doing. That's really slow.  It didn't take me long to get used to it, and now I don't even think about the fact that I'm walking while I'm typing.  I started at .5 for everything, and now my speed varies depending on what I'm doing.

I find it very difficult to hand-write anything or do detailed work in Photoshop, even at the slowest speed, so I usually stop or hop off when I have those things to do.  My laptop is in a docking station so I can pull it out at any time and go work sitting down if I need to.

How long do you walk each day?

It depends.  Most days I walk between two and four hours.  If I have a lot of phone calls, it's on the higher end, if I've got a lot of Photoshopping, it's on the lower end.  I also find I don't walk continuously, as I thought I would.  I tend to walk for about a half hour at a time, hop off to do some laundry or eat lunch or check my email, and then hop back on for another half an hour.

Do you feel different?

YES.  I have much more energy and focus when I'm on the treadmill desk.  When I sit all day, I find that my energy dips, especially mid-afternoon, and I'm ready for a nap.  I don't feel that at all with the treadmill desk.

How much weight have you lost?

A little.

The treadmill desk is not going to make anyone into a supermodel.  You're walking pretty slowly, and you're unlikely to get your heart rate up (and certainly on phone calls I'm trying NOT to - I don't want to pant in people's ears!).  I do find it's much easier to get to 10,000 steps in a day, and I have lost some weight, but let's just say the folks onThe Biggest Loser aren't quaking in their boots.

This is not a replacement to going outside for a walk if I need to clear my head, and I still go to the gym daily.  What the treadmill desk does is keep me from sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day, which was making me completely crazy.

I have noticed that I have more endurance and can see that my legs are more toned, but the biggest change is the amount of energy I have.  It's wonderful.

Does this drive everyone in your office crazy?

While I work at home, there are plenty of people who work in regular offices who use this. Look on YouTube for news stories or follow the link to the Office Walkers Ning below for info on how it's handled in a typical office setting.

When you choose your treadmill, you'll want to make sure it's pretty quiet at all speeds under 2 MPH, which will take care of the noise factor.

Alternately, if you can't make it work at the office, you can make it work at home - do you use the computer or watch TV there?  A treadmill desk doesn't only have to be used during the workday.

How did you make it?

Probably the most time-consuming part of the process was choosing the  treadmill.  You need something quiet, with a continuous horsepower motor that will function well at low speeds for extended amounts of  time.

Once I had that, I needed two things: a place to put my monitor, and a  workstation for my wireless keyboard and mouse and all my papers.  We did a little research on ergonomics and then measured  while I was standing on the treadmill to figure out how high the monitor  and workstation needed to be (those two things will vary depending on your height and the height of the treadmill).  Luckily, Target had a bookshelf that was  the exact height I needed for my monitor.  $60, some sweat to put it together, and I was done (bonus: extra shelves for storage!). Update: 2014 - we recently moved and I ditched the bookshelf in favor of a monitor mounted on the wall.

The workstation was a little trickier.  We bought some MDF and had it  cut at a local hardware store.  We cut it into three pieces, used brackets to put them together, and then belatedly added a crossbar to cut down on the wiggle (we'd never built anything before - this was a  big achievement!).  Total cost for materials: under $50.

Other treadmill desk resources:

I found these sites helpful when I was considering my treadmill desk.

Fellow writers with treadmill desks: Katie Alender and Joelle Anthony.

The Office Walkers ning forum: Hear from other people considering, building, and using treadmill desks.

Jay's treadmill desk blog: Lots of great links in the sidebar.

If you have any other questions about treadmill desks, leave a comment below!

I was syndicated on