Why I Built A Treadmill Desk

One day at work, 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.

My treadmill desk setup when it was first completed.

My treadmill desk setup when it was first completed.

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 about my plan 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.

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 at the wrong height.  I had simply laid a 4′ 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.

A closer look at my work surface and shelving.

A closer look at my work surface and shelving.

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!)

Wednesday I tacked the new addition 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.

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 average 15-20 miles of walking and working each week.  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.  I am very pleased 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.

One happy dude on his homemade treadmill desk.

One happy dude on his homemade treadmill desk.

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