How an Under-Desk Treadmill Changed My Life

Photo credit: Courtesy UREVO
Photo credit: Courtesy UREVO

When we first started working from home, I’ll admit that it felt like a bit of a luxury. But after over a year of spending my days wearing a sweatpants-only uniform and remaining slouched on the sofa for eight-plus hours at a time (and eventually and reluctantly having to admit that I had left a permanent dent in my cushions in doing so), I realised that it was time for a change.

I began by getting a desk to work at, but found it difficult to focus while still sitting at home, frequently finding myself back on the couch or wandering around my flat, forgetting what I got up for in the first place. Obviously, using a standard desk (or the sofa) as a workspace was not working for me. So, with WFH orders stretching into the foreseeable future, I started looking for an alternative option.

I was originally introduced to under-desk treadmills by one of my favourite college professors, who managed to cram one into his shoebox office, and had seen their popularity rise throughout the pandemic. Desperate for change, I decided to give one a shot. I chose an affordable treadmill (this model from Urevo to be exact), mounted a desk on my wall, and got to walking.

How It Went

While there is definitely a learning curve when it comes to using an under-desk treadmill, I found it relatively easy to adjust. In the beginning, I was trying to walk between 3 and 4 miles an hour, which is my average walking pace, but when typing, I found between 2 and 2.5 mph to be the sweet spot that kept me moving, but not moving so much that my work was disrupted.

Though my initial intention with using the treadmill desk was to find a way to get in some steps in and improve my focus, there were also some unintentional benefits that appeared along the way.

Most notably, I noticed significant improvements in both my mood and motivation. I had run cross country and track in college, but after graduation in 2019, I ended up completely burnt out on the sport. When the pandemic hit, that mental strain only grew. Whereas I used to find joy and accomplishment in running and working out, it now felt like a nuisance, and since I was no longer able to complete the type of workouts I did in college, it also seemed like a waste of time. Strangely enough, using a walking treadmill was my first step toward finding the joy in movement again.

The Results

I began with the intention of walking for only an hour a day, and found that when I started my morning with a walk, I was automatically in a better mood, more productive, and had a greater chance of getting outside during the day. This was especially useful in terms of boosting my mood in the winter, when it's especially easy to find yourself feeling unmotivated or affected by seasonal depression.

Having that small sense of accomplishment every morning made other tasks seem more manageable, as well, and encouraged me to better manage my time. I found that starting my morning with some movement often motivated me to work out later in the day, too.

While I didn’t track my weight, I did notice that using my under-desk treadmill made me feel healthier overall and gave me more energy at the end of the day. It also helped solve my persistent issue of developing back aches from hunching in an office chair or on the couch.

Should You Get a Walking Treadmill?

If you're still regularly working from home—or are allowed to use a treadmill in your office—it is definitely worth the investment. While we would all love to get in our 10K steps per day, a sedentary desk job can make that difficult—and, on some days, even impossible. Walking while you work is a great way to multitask without having to sacrifice any of your precious time outside of work. It also helps to ensure that you get in some movement on days when you might not have time for a designated workout.

How to Choose a Walking Treadmill

When looking for a walking treadmill, you will want to think about where you will use it, and how you will be using it. Walking treadmills tend to be smaller and lighter than traditional treadmill models designed for running. This means that they are easier to move, and some can even fold in half. This is great if you plan to put yours under a standard desk or want to be able to store it out of sight when you're not using it. If you do need to move it often, make sure the model you select has wheels and is a weight you can comfortably lift on your own.

Many walking treadmills are available for under $500, and you can easily get away with a less expensive option if you plan to use it only for walking and not more intense workouts. Most walking treadmills can reach speeds of up to 4 mph, which is probably faster than your normal gait, and likely faster than you'd want to move while typing or doing other computer-based work. There are some smaller treadmills that can go a bit faster if you are hoping to get some jogging in, but they still won't be able to go as fast as a standard running treadmill.

When it comes to the desk you use with your treadmill, you also have a few options. You can get one that sits on top of a standard desk, one that mounts to the wall, or one that attaches to the treadmill itself. Aside from attachment style and size, there isn't a huge amount of difference between the various models of desks that will work with your walking treadmill, so choosing the one that's right for you largely comes down to space constraints and your personal preferences.

(And if any of you were wondering, yes, I did write this on my treadmill.)

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