Wellness & Education

Under-Desk Treadmills Lower Heart Risk

All else being equal, workers who spend most of their days sitting have a 34% higher chance of dying from cardiovascular disease when compared with workers who spend most of their day standing or walking. Occupational Sitting Time, Leisure Physical Activity, and All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality | Public Health | JAMA Network Open | JAMA Network Under-desk treadmills can help even the odds.

What is an Under-Desk Treadmill?

Under-desk treadmills are a lot like regular treadmills, but without the bells and whistles. They tend to have fewer pre-programmed workout options and some models do not have time or distance readouts. In spite of the name, they are also not designed to fit under standard, sit-down, desks. Instead, they fit under adjustable-height, standing, desks.

Desk height needs to be adjustable for two reasons. First, people of different heights need to be able to set their desks at different levels in order to be comfortable, Secondly, few people want to stand or walk for an entire workday. Most prefer to spend part of the day standing and part of the day sitting. This means under-desk treadmills must be able to

  • fit under the desk as needed
  • be easily moved in and out of the under-desk position

As a result of these requirements, under-desk treadmills tend to be smaller, more mobile and less expensive. Many of them also fold in half in order to save space when not underneath the desk.

How to Choose a Standing Desk

Unfortunately, standing desks are still a specialty item. The choice of options is much narrower than for a regular desk. Standing desks tend to offer less storage and a smaller workspace. This can be a nuisance, especially when it results in time wasted hopping on and off the treadmill to get supplies. A variable-height side table can come in handy for those who need more room to spread out.

A standing desktop convertor combines the function of a standing desk with the luxury of a sitting desk. Convertors sit on top of a regular desk, allowing users to move a laptop up and down without having to move everything else.

How Fast is Fast Enough?

The speed setting for the under-desk treadmill is just as important as the height setting. The best way to walk and work at the same time is to forget about walking. For this reason, under-desk treadmills are meant for tortoises, not hares. While some of them can stand up to intense activity, a fast pace will eventually defeat the purpose of a use-at-work treadmill. Once it becomes hard to keep hands steady on the keyboard, it’s time to slow down. A slower pace not only makes typing easier, it also makes it easier to walk further for longer. Regular, sustained, exercise is healthier than rushing through a shorter workout, or, even worse, giving up on the treadmill altogether.

How to Choose the Right Treadmill

Choosing the right treadmill is as important as setting your desk at the proper height or walking slowly enough to forget you’re walking. Here are some things you should take into consideration:

  1. How much do you weigh? Some treadmills top out at a weight capacity of only 200 pounds. If you weigh more than this, be sure to find a treadmill that fits your size.
  2. How much room do you have? If you’re really short on space, look for a folding treadmill. These take up half as much floor space as a single-piece unit.
  3. What is your budget? Unless you already have one, be sure to include the cost of the standing desk. Prices for under-desk treadmills start at $200 and go up.
  4. How often will you move it? The more often you plan to move it, the sturdier your treadmill needs to be. When checking for sturdiness, focus on the size of the motor as well as the quality of construction.
  5. How strong are you? Since under-desk treadmills are moved more often than standard treadmills, it’s important that you be able to move it easily. Look for wheels that help make moving easier. Also, check the weight of your treadmill. If you can’t lift or drag more than 50 pounds, don’t buy a treadmill that weighs 75 pounds.
  6. Do you share an office or have neighbors living beneath you? If so, be sure to get a quiet model. Pay particular attention to reviews when looking for this feature. One person’s “quiet” can be another person’s brass band.
  7. Do you have joint problems? If so, it’s important to find a model with good shock absorption. This will lessen the impact on your joints and help prevent injuries.
  8. How much power does the unit draw? Some models can trip a standard home circuit breaker if they aren’t plugged into a dedicated circuit. If you’re short on circuits, this could be a problem.
  9. Do you want the treadmill to measure your progress or will you be using a fitness watch? If you want a treadmill that tracks your progress, be sure it has a readout for calories burned, mileage and time in both minutes and seconds.
  10. Do you want an incline setting? Most under-desk treadmills do not have this feature. If you want this, be sure to look for it. Don’t expect it to match the incline options of a regular treadmill.
  11. Do you care about built-in training regimens, or do you just want to walk? Remember, built in regimens may increase the price.
  12. How sturdy and convenient is the phone holder? Is there a phone holder? Having a good phone holder is important when working from your treadmill. Be sure to read the reviews.
  13. Is any assembly required? If assembling Ikea furniture is your idea of a nightmare, look for a one-piece, ready-to-use, “out of the box” unit.

Pros of Using an “Under-desk” Treadmill

  1. Using a standing desk and under-desk treadmill helps improve circulation. It helps prevent the “pinching” of blood vessels that occurs while sitting. Walking creates muscle movements that give blood flow a boost. 
  2. People who have ADHD often have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time. Walking while working can relieve these “antsy” feelings and improve focus. 
  3. While work is a well-known source of stress, exercise is a great stress-reliever. Combining the two can help improve work/life balance.
  4. Exercise is a lot like a shot of espresso. It helps combat mid-morning “blah’s” and the “afternoon slump” by improving alertness and productivity.  
  5. Walking, like all exercise, uses blood glucose for energy. This can help regulate blood sugar.
  6. Using an under-desk treadmill cuts back on the time people need to spend working out at the gym. It doesn’t eliminate the need for the gym, but it does decrease it.

Cons of Using an “Under-desk” Treadmill

  1. Because the pace of an under-desk treadmill is slow, it isn’t as effective as other aerobic exercises when it comes to strengthening the heart. Supplemental aerobic exercises will still be necessary.
  2. Strength Training and stretching are important components of every total fitness plan. Plan on spending some time outside of work on these important activities.
  3. An under-desk treadmill requires room to put the treadmill under the desk, as well as scoot it out of the way when not in use. Some offices are too small for this.
  4. Not all work places allow under-desk treadmills and standing desks.
  5. While under-desk treadmills are easy to use, they are not “effortless”. Some degree of self-discipline is required, especially when pushing through the initial learning curve.