A treadmill desk, walking desk or treadmill workstation is a computer desk that is adapted so that the user walks on a treadmill while performing office tasks. Persons using a treadmill desk seek to change the sedentary lifestyle associated with being an office worker and to integrate gentle exercise into their working day.
Persons with a sedentary lifestyle are at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and lower than average life expectancy. The desk treadmill is an exercise machine which office workers may use to get more physical activity during their work day. On the premise of increasing productivity and health, treadmill desks were designed to help users incorporate standing and walking into their work routine.
The New York Times credits Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, as the popular inspiration for the treadmill desk. He developed the concept as part of his work with non-exercise activity thermogenesis, constructing a treadmill desk by placing a bedside hospital tray over a $400 treadmill. Dr. Seth Roberts, a professor of psychology from UC Berkeley designed a treadmill desk in 1996, and may be the earliest user.
Safety and usage specifications
The recommended speed for walking on a treadmill while working at a computer is less than 2 miles per hour. To prevent injury, treadmill desks require compliance with the same ergonomic safety standards recommended for any computer desk, including placement such that the user's wrists are flat by the keyboard, their elbows form a 90-degree angle when typing, and their eyes may look forward to the monitor.
Users who tested treadmill desks reported advice to retain a traditional desk with a seat and to alternate between sitting and walking at different desks while becoming accustomed to the treadmill desk. Additionally, reading email and surfing the Internet were found to be easier to manage than learning to type or write while standing and walking. Talking on the phone while walking can be disruptive in some cases either because of changing the breathing rate of the user or because of the noise from the treadmill itself.
Benefits of behavior modifications
According to a study by James Levine at the Mayo Clinic, users can burn an estimated 100-130 calories per hour at speeds slower than 2 miles per hour. According to a 2007 Mayo Clinic study of office workers with obesity, "If sitting computer-time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure could increase by 100 cal/h. Thus, if obese individuals were to replace time spent sitting at the computer with walking computer time by 2–3 h/day, and if other components of energy balance were constant, a weight loss of 20–30 kg/year could occur." However, when Levine and associates actually conducted a 12-month trial in 2013, findings showed that subjects lost an average of 1.4 ± 3.3 kg (3 ± 7.2 lbs), with a higher rate of weight loss among obese subjects at 2.3 ± 3.5 kg ( 5 ± 7.7 lbs).
Recent studies suggest that prolonged sitting is linked to an “increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even early death.”
Styles and costs
There are several types of treadmill desks available on the open market. Treadmill desks fall into three categories: a desk that is designed to cover a traditional treadmill, a treadmill that is designed to fit under a standing desk, and desks fabricated by original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and are a treadmill with desk included. In 2013 in the United States a product testing organization tested treadmills priced at $750 and $1500, and recommended that consumers purchase models with safety and personalization features appropriate for the individual users. Various guides to building a treadmill desk are available.
- Rafferty, Ciara (19 July 2013). "Sit too much? 4 tips to using a desk treadmill". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
- Several articles cited suggest that there are health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. This claim is corroborated by various medical articles, including the following:
- Jebb, S. A.; Moore, M. S. (1999). "Contribution of a sedentary lifestyle and inactivity to the etiology of overweight and obesity: Current evidence and research issues". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 31: S534. doi:10.1097/00005768-199911001-00008.
- Manson, J. E.; Skerrett, P. J.; Greenland, P.; Vanitallie, T. B. (2004). "The Escalating Pandemics of Obesity and Sedentary Lifestyle". Archives of Internal Medicine 164 (3): 249–258. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.3.249. PMID 14769621.
- Katz, Mandy (2008-09-16). "Fitness - I Put In 5 Miles at the Office". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
- "Treadmill workstation brings exercise to office, slowly". Tehran Times. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
- "Future workplaces will function best with Stone Age features, UC Berkeley professors suggest" (Press release). UC Berkeley. 29 Aug 2000. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
- Roberts, Seth (17 September 2008). "Treadmill Desks". Seth's Blog: Personal Science, Self-Experimentation, Scientific Method. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- Levine, James A; Miller, Jennifer M (September 2007). "The energy expenditure of using a "walk-and-work" desk for office workers with obesity". British Journal of Sports Medicine 41 (9): 558–61. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2006.032755. PMC 2465387. PMID 17504789.
- Koepp, G.A.; Manohar, C. U.; McCrady-Spitzer, S.K.; Ben-Ner, A.; Hamann, D. J.; Runge, C. F.; Levine, J.A. (April 2013). "Treadmill desks: A 1-year prospective trial.". Obesity (Silver Spring) 21 (4): 705–11. doi:10.1002/oby.20121. PMID 23417995. The energy expenditure of using a "walk-and-work" desk for office workers with obesity.
- HealthWatch: Sitting Vs. Smoking « CBS San Francisco
- Christiansen, Trevor (2014). "Treadmill Desk - The Ultimate Guide". notsitting.com. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- no author listed (November 2013). "Treadmill Desk - Best Treadmill Desks". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Henry, Alan (25 June 2013). "This DIY Treadmill Desk Helps You Stay Fit While You Work". lifehacker.com. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Wilhelm, Eric J. (2011?). "Treadmill Desk". instructables.com. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- 2-minute video product review presented by Consumer Reports
- CNN's Edge of Discovery: Treadmill Desk
- Good Morning America: Walking While You Work
- USA Today: Researcher sees future where people walk at work
- Gelf Magazine: Could a treadmill/desk mashup be the solution to America's obesity problem?
- Forbes: Take Up Thy Desk And Walk
- Can sitting too much kill you?, commentary invited by editors of Scientific American