treadmill-desk-lifespan Samantha King/ Penton Media

What's It Really Like Using a Treadmill Desk?

It's a treadmill. It's a desk. But can it put our writer on path towards healthier living?

It doesn't seem that long ago I could run a six-minute mile. I could still feel the pain in my chest – like a gorilla is giving me CPR – after a run. And the wanting to drink a gallon of water and die part. I remember that, too.

But that was half a life ago, back in the Navy, when I was forced to run. Then I got out and ran less and less, blaming achy knees and an overall hatred of running. Sometime during my wife's first pregnancy, I lost the will to work out all together, though my ability to kill a pint of Ben and Jerry's went up exponentially.

Two kids and 20 pounds later, Lifespan Fitness reached out to me to try their new Bluetooth-enabled TR1200-DT7 treadmill desk. I blamed my desk job and not my proclivity for Netflix and chilling with ice cream as the reason for my increasingly sedentary lifestyle, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The treadmill desk was installed in an empty office and I was ready to get started. I talked to the company beforehand to get a few tips, so I was ready to start with the Active Trac app already on my phone.

It's a fairly simple program that tracks steps, distance, calories and intensity. The trick is to hold your device less than an inch away from the Bluetooth button on the treadmill desk. You have to do this every time. If your company (or spouse) measures health metrics for bonuses, this helps you stay on track.

The desktop, at 38 inches, was bigger than I expected. A 48-inch-wide option is available, but 38 inches is plenty for a laptop, mouse and extra monitor. The height adjustment is 40 to 53 in. I kept it at just below my sternum, because I liked to rest my forearms on the black padded area when typing.

Getting a (Slow) Move On

If you're worried about being able to type while running 8 mph, don't. These only go up to 4 mph max. The one Lifespan provided me only went up to 2 mph, which disappointed me at first. Now after several uses, I can see why they would do that.

Safety obviously is a big component. As with "regular" treadmills, it comes with a shut-off lanyard, but when your mind is focused on typing, answering an IM and talking on the phone – all at the same time – it's not that simple to put one foot in front of the other. Just while reaching into my pocket to grab my phone and change my Pandora station, my left foot landed on the side and I nearly lost my footing. I quickly recovered, but at four times the speed, I probably would have gone into the wall, which is about six inches behind the end of the tread.

The company recommends using tennis shoes, so I used typical slippery dress shoes to see how dangerous it would be. Bonus points for the engineers.

The other reason I could see why the speed is governed is because typing just becomes too difficult the faster you go. Peter Schenk, the president of Lifespan, told me he types at about 1.6 mph, while other people he knows go at about 2.2 mph. This entire story has been written at 2 mph, and I'm really no worse a typist than usual.

Impact on Co-Workers

Because it's a lower-speed treadmill, the motor has more power at lower speeds, becoming whisper quiet. My co-worker in the next office, who routinely hosts webinars, was worried about the exercise machine at first. I kept the door closed, and he had no idea I was using it, so bonus points for that.

I also found that using text-to-speech software isn't at all difficult while using the treadmill because it is so quiet. In fact, I actually typed this sentence with Dragon software. So, if you are having trouble typing at a slower speed, then you use the text-to-speech software.

While writing this article, I burned 221 calories and worked up a bit of a sweat.

This equipment only is intended to be used a few hours a day, and easily could be placed in a medium-sized office (our offices are approximately 15 feet by 11 feet), though you could put it in a common area  so that people could use it at different times.

The unforeseen outcome from testing the treadmill is that I finally found time to get moving again and I feel like keeping it up. I spent a few hours on the treadmill, skipping chips and pop and hydrating with water, and in the end, I felt better. 

We're all asked to multitask at work. This tool helped me work on my health goal to move more and allowed me to stay productive at work at the same time. And I didn't feel like a gorilla was crushing me when I was done.

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