Treadmill Desk (or) How Computer Nerds Live Long and Prosper

Treadmill Desk

My homemade treadmill desk in the office.

Update: My DIY treadmill desk has been so popular that I now have a site dedicated to it.  You might want to check out DIYTreadmillDesk.com for ideas on how to build your very own treadmill desk.

A few weeks ago, in a marathon day of sitting at my computer, I realized that sitting at my computer was slowly killing me.  I can’t tell you how many articles I have read in the last year that talk about the dangers of sitting for long stretches of time at work.  So I decided to do something about it…I built a treadmill desk in my office.

I felt oddly embarrassed to tell anyone I was thinking about putting together such a strange concoction of exercise equipment and high-end Apple hardware.  I ran the idea by my wife since I would be spending our money on this experiment.  She was supportive, as she is of most of my ideas, especially the ones that will keep me healthy.  A few others who I told had quizzical expressions on their face but were generally supportive.

I watched Craigslist (CL) for a while and kept missing out on treadmills that were cheap and nearby.  Who knew that so many people wanted a large piece of equipment that often becomes a clothes rack???  Eventually I landed a $75 entry-level unit on Saturday.  Sunday afternoon I ran to Lowe’s to grab adjustable shelving and some lumber so I could get to work.  With no one at the church office that afternoon, I was able to quickly and quietly build the desk that I had envisioned in my head.

Working at my Treadmill Desk

Working at my treadmill desk.

Monday was my first day to get on and give it a solid work experience.  I found 1.2mph to be my ideal speed for strolling while still being able to maintain control of my hands for typing and clicking.  Working at a treadmill desk is not about working up a sweat or getting the pulse rate up, its about not sitting.  I quickly discovered that my keyboard and mouse were in the wrong place.  I had simply laid a 12″ board across the treadmill handrails which put the input devices too low and at a weird angle.  After just an hour or so my right wrist was hurting…and I’m not the type to hurt too easily.

Monday was also the day that my grand experiment was discovered.  I am a youth and family minister for a church that I have a wonderful relationship with.  My office is on the other side of the building from all of the other offices, so other staff members have to make a special effort to come down my way.  Once the new addition to my office was discovered I was “on display.”  Everyone approved and a few even tried it out.  Several posts I had read about treadmill desks warned that you would spend the first week feeling like people were watching you, because they are.

Tuesday I added a bit of height to the board that holds the keyboard and mouse by adding a strip of wood under the front edge.  It helped but was not enough.  Tuesdays are a heavy computer use day for me, so I wound up finding a 6″ tall box that was big enough and sturdy enough to work on.  The box sitting on my existing platform provided the perfect height for my keyboard and mouse.  That night I built a 24″ wide, 6″ tall platform to add onto my setup.  I even tried my hand at a router for the first time to round off the edge of the board where my wrists would be resting.  (I still have all my fingers!)

Treadmill Desk Closeup

A closeup of my work space.

Wednesday I tacked the new addtion into place and had found the perfect fit for me.  A perfect fit that allowed my hands and wrists to be in the correct position.  The adjustable shelves on the wall allowed me to raise the Macbook Pro and second monitor to eye level.  I was now standing up straight, walking and working.  (I have also managed to chew gum while doing all this 🙂  The new setup also provided lots of space for any papers I might be working with or books I am using.

It has only been one week and I am loving this new style of working!  I have found out that I don’t work at my computer near as much as I thought I did, but every week seems to vary in my line of work.  I’ve logged about 10 miles of walking at the treadmill desk from Monday through Thursday.  I find that I jump right into my work in the mornings and get through tasks in a quicker manner than I used to.  I haven’t had any problems with the afternoon lull that often follows lunch.  I can read an amazing amount of text without getting drowsy like I sometimes do when I’m sitting.  I feel more creative and have had ideas popping into my head all week.  When I leave for the day my legs feel a bit tired but my body feels energized.  I have been able to accomplish a lot more at home after work and feel I am generally in a better mood when I get home…even if traffic is horrendous.  And my wife is very proud of me 🙂

Good shoes are a must.  I usually go to work in a pair of Merrell Olmec shoes that have Vibram souls.  They are pretty expensive but are the best shoes I have ever worn.  Having a secondary work surface is also a must.  I still have my big desk and can unplug the laptop and head over there to work if I need to, but I haven’t done that yet.  I am blessed with a supportive church that allows me the flexibility to work in whatever manner I am most productive.  When I am at home working, I miss my treadmill desk.

Treadmill desks that are manufactured start at around $350 for a desk and then you have to buy your own treadmill.  Treadmills with a built-in desk start at around $900 and the most popular one is around $1400.  I spent $75 on the treadmill and $65 on wood, shelving brackets, and wall anchors.  After one week I am SUPER happy with my investment.

What do you think?  Could you ever picture yourself strolling and working?  Do you have any questions about what it is like to use a treadmill desk?  I’d be interested to hear your questions or comments.

Thanks to all of you who are seeing this post after searching “treadmill desk” on Google or another search engine.  I have had a ton of traffic for my treadmill desk posts.  Please consider subscribing to my site via email or RSS to receive future updates.  And if you’re on the fence about making a treadmill desk…just do it!

DIY homemade treadmill desk

One happy dude on his DIY treadmill desk. Total cost approximately $140.

Comments

Treadmill Desk (or) How Computer Nerds Live Long and Prosper — 11 Comments

  1. Your resourcefulness is to be commended. I would think of that set-up as both impossible and maddening for my use. That said, if it works for you, outstanding ! I do admit though, I can NOT see how I could ever adjust to it, even if my knees weren’t killing me, but then again I used to jump when someone whould suddenly pop their head over the top of my cubicle, so lost in concentration, but $200 versus $1800 sounds pretty smart to me, especially if you didn’t know if it would be good. ….and router use as well, 1 up on me !

    • Thanks Ted! You know me, always trying to be thrifty. There are a lot of people who think the walking workers are a little crazy…but life is pretty boring if you’re not at least a little bit weird.

  2. Jon,
    Incredible, inventive, creative and downright clever and good for your heart! Who knew? Congrats on a great idea! And I thought all you computer jocks only exercised your eyes, brains and fingers.
    This was fun to read about. God bless! Earl

    • Thanks Earl! I thought you would like the idea. I have really been enjoying walking while I work. I did 21 miles during the last work week.

  3. Great idea! I love the concept of a treadmill desk, but those dedicated ones just cost far too much for my budget.

    Please keep us updated over time. I’d love to see how this impacts your weight and health over time!

    • Thanks Alex! I’ll be posting updates on a dedicated page I added to my site – http://www.dadislearning.com/treadmill-desk/. I get a ton of searches everyday about the treadmill post. I can already tell a big difference. I did 26.22 miles of walking at work last week.

      I really like the concept of your page. Looks like you are having a ton of fun with you happiness experiments. I’m following your RSS feed so I can keep up with your future experiments.

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  5. Hey Jon, check out this one-upsmanship of the treadmill desk concept: http://xkcd.com/1329/ (Yes, this is a real link, not spam or a virus, and yes this is David Blackstone that you went to high school with and haven’t seen since your wedding I think.)

    • Hey David! You know the blogging world oh so well…first thing I think when I see link in comment is spam. But obviously not this time! That is a hilarious cartoon. Haven’t strapped my laptop to a living animal….yet. Hope things are well with you!

      • Going absolutely fantastic … we moved to East Texas and are expecting our seventh child this April. 🙂 I’ve been serving as a bilingual song leader at church and staying extremely busy and happy. I looked you up at some point last year and enjoyed reading through your blog, seeing how you guys are doing, listening to a couple of your recorded messages at Bridgewood. Even though I haven’t seen you in ages, you guys are still in our minds and prayers.

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