A blog by runners. For runners.

Treadmill desk basics

The seven dwarfs whistled while they worked, and now a group of overachievers is taking office multitasking to a whole new level: they’re working out while they work.

These people aren’t fitness instructors, running coaches, or professional athletes. They’re everyday people who work at a desk. Except they’re not sitting down while they type. They’re walking. On a treadmill. Yes, at their desks.

Not your average treadmill

Treadmill desks (also called “walking desks” or “treadmill workstations”) were created so that employees could add some physical activity into a usually sedentary workday.

Treadmill desks simply consist of a treadmill with a desk securely balanced on top of the treadmill’s console. Your workstation equipment – including your computer, keyboard, and phone – sits at a comfortable height so that you can work and walk at the same time. Users are supposed to walk at a slow enough pace – usually in the 1-2 mph range — so that they can carry out routine work activities without breaking a sweat.

The benefits

Study after study shows just how harmful sitting for long periods of time is for health – it’s been linked with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a shortened lifespan. Couple that with the obesity epidemic and the fact that 80 percent of adults don’t get enough exercise, and it’s no wonder the treadmill desk was born.

James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, is credited for creating the first treadmill desk in 2005. He wanted to help people, including himself, getting extra activity to meet weight loss goals. Dr. Levine estimates that the average work-walker burns 100-130 calories per hour. If you use a treadmill desk for 8 hours a day every workday, you could shed up to 1-2 pounds per week!

Enthusiasts cite more benefits beyond weight loss, though. Users say the treadmill desk can help ease back pain and leg neuropathy, and improve circulation.

Where to find a treadmill desk

People are using treadmill desks in corporate settings and in their home offices alike. While a treadmill desk still isn’t the norm, they are gaining in popularity and several fitness equipment companies make various models – check out the TrekDesk or the Steelecase Walkstation, for example. Prices vary from about $500 to a few thousand dollars. These treadmills are different from traditional treadmills, though – they don’t have an incline, have a lower range of speeds, and are quieter. They’re designed for walking only.

But people are also creating DIY, makeshift versions of walking desks using old treadmills. So, if you go this route, it could be possible to run while you work. Though we don’t recommend it! That would be some impressive multitasking, though.

Treadmill desks: are you intrigued? Has anyone used one? I’d be interested to test one out.

Written by Jen Matz.