I’ve now been using my treadmill desk for about six weeks, and the concise update is that I love it. I find it easy to work at and much more pleasant than sitting in a chair all day, and I’ve also found that I can do almost all of my translation and related work while on the treadmill. Here are a few specifics:
For most of my work time, I walk on the treadmill at about 0.8 miles per hour and I find that I can translate (either from a PDF/hard copy or using a translation environment tool), talk on the phone, read and respond to e-mail, read web pages, do accounting, etc. while on the treadmill at this speed. The one task that really doesn’t work for me while in motion is proofreading. I proofread from a hard copy, and I think it’s just too much motion for my eyes to scan between the two documents (or maybe I’m one of those thirtysomethings in denial about needing glasses?). So, when I’m proofreading I work at the kitchen table, but otherwise I spend most of my work day on the treadmill, and I really enjoy it.
A few questions that people have asked me about working at a treadmill desk:
–Is it noisy? Not really. I don’t have a high-end treadmill, it’s a ProForm Crosswalk that I bought off Craigslist for $125 and even so the noise factor is not bad. For example, my husband and I work in the same office in our house, and he isn’t bothered by the noise level although (since he sits at a traditional desk), the motor is a lot closer to his ear level than to mine. In addition, no one has ever said “what’s that noise?” when I’ve been talking on the phone while on the treadmill.
–Do you get tired? If you’re used to a very low level of physical activity you would probably need time to work up to long stretches on the treadmill, or you would need to set the desk up such that you could alternate between walking and sitting. I’m not in Ironman shape but I’m fairly active to start out with and enjoy walking, and I find it to be a pretty pleasant level of exertion.
–Does it get you in shape? It depends on how you define “in shape.” A treadmill desk isn’t going to train you to run a marathon, but it’s more exercise than you would think. Even if you walk 5 hours a day at 0.8 miles per hour, that’s 20 miles a week, and I’m betting that most of us don’t walk 20 miles a week to start out with. In my case, I used to believe that I gained 10 pounds when my daughter was born, and now I realize that I gained 10 pounds when I started sitting at a desk all day.
Another good use I’ve found for my treadmill is taking “fast walk breaks” during the day. When I’m feeling tired or struggling with a difficult passage to translate, I turn off the computer monitors, put on my iPod and walk at about 3 miles per hour for 15-20 minutes. This really clears my head, and it’s another good fitness boost.