"A hamster wheel with e-mail": the treadmill desk

As one of those translators who’s always said, “I love everything about my job except sitting at a desk all day,” I’ve been intrigued for a while by the idea of the treadmill desk. Exercising while you work has been in the news of late, ever since Dr. James Levine, an obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic, posited the idea that most desk-based workers would lose about 50 pounds a year if they walked at a very slow (1 mile per hour or less) speed while working, rather than sitting in a chair. Levine’s research also showed that most people can do normal office work such as reading off a computer screen, typing and talking on the phone while walking slowly on a treadmill. Here is an article about it from USA Today.

Here in Boulder we’re always looking for new ways to exercise; not surprisingly the Treadmill Desk blog is written by a guy in Boulder, and after reading it I got inspired. I fall into the category that fits many home-based office workers; the flexible schedule allows me to exercise enough to stay in decent shape, but on many days, my run or bike ride gets pushed from before lunch to after lunch to the end of the work day to “now it’s time for dinner” and either never happens or is radically abbreviated.

Since I don’t have $6,000 burning a hole in my pocket, the commercially produced Steelcase WalkStation wasn’t an option. Based on the advice from the Treadmill Desk blog, I bought a used treadmill for $125 off Craigslist and with the help of two old shelving boards we had in the basement (one to hold my monitors at treadmill eye level, one to put across the treadmill’s arms to hold my keyboard, mouse and day planner), I was in business in about half an hour.

So far, I like it. Although the treadmill I bought, a ProForm Crosswalk LS, doesn’t get high ratings for snazziness, it is constructed really well for use with the treadmill desk. For me at least (5’7″), the treadmill’s arm rails are exactly the right height for use with the keyboard, and the treadmill works well at a very slow speed, 0.7 or 0.8 mph, which I turn up when I’m talking on the phone and don’t have to look at the computer screen. On the Crosswalk, I can put my cordless phone in the MP3 player holder and a cup with pens and pencils in the water bottle slot, and it has wide side rails that I can stand on if I need to stop walking for a minute. And it’s amazing how the distance adds up; even at 0.8 miles per hour, if you do that 5 hours a day, you’re already at 4 miles.

Anyone else out there using one? Here’s a photo:

28 Responses to “"A hamster wheel with e-mail": the treadmill desk”
  1. Dr. Andi O'Conor May 7, 2008
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  26. Helen Mason (@Helenedit) June 14, 2012

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