How and why I upgraded to a treadmill desk, creating a much healthier work/life balance, losing weight, all the while not adding any time to my day for exercise.

After years of back problems resulting in physical therapy, I knew I needed to make a change. The biggest problem for me was the 11 hours a day I spend at my desk, hunched over my keyboard. While I know that good posture could help out a lot, the truth is that as I get in to “the zone”, I stop paying attention to posture and the next thing I know, my body is aching.


The plight of strain caused by sitting at a desk is unfortunately not unique to me. Harvard Business Review did a great article on how Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation. I don’t think the title is an embellishment; like smoking, sitting at your desk is a bad health choice people willingly make every day. CBS News ran a story on how your desk job is making you fat.

After some thought, I decided to haul our unused and dusty treadmill out of the basement up to my second floor (did I mention my back isn’t doing great?) home office. With my wife’s woodworking skills we built some functional (not attractive) tables of the appropriate height out of 4x4s for the posts and plywood for the tabletop.


We then placed the existing tables on top of these new tables, effectively raising my desktop to be about 5 feet off the ground. This allowed me to place my phone (an Avaya Desktop Video Device on the left), three monitors, and my MacBook Pro at a healthy viewing height, with proper spacing and positioning  (verified by OSHA’s website). To make the keyboard and mouse accessible, we built a wood shelf from a 2×8 board long enough to not only go across the handlebars, but also extend further to give me more counter space. This was the trickiest part as my handlebars are slanted, requiring some more creative building to get a shelf mostly level. Below is what that setup looks like.



The results have been great. In the first five months, I averaged six miles a day, with my all-time best being 11 miles in a single day. I typically walk at a pace of 2.0 mph, which is about as fast as I can comfortably go while still being able to type, work, and if on the phone, talk. When on a conference call that I need to speak on, I will reduce the speed to 1.5mph as my treadmill wasn’t really meant for this use and thus is a little loud in the background. I’m also doing more and more video conferencing which adds an interesting wrinkle as I look a little odd to others on the conference. Depending on the situation, I may pause the treadmill until the video call is over.

In the last five months of 2012, I walked 500 miles without adding anything to my already busy schedule as I’m doing my exercising while at work. So far, I have lost 10 pounds and my back issues have all but gone away. I’m embarrassed to say that in the first four months of 2013, my average has dipped below 4 miles a day, due in part to more video conferencing. I’m re-invigorated now and am hoping to rack up some miles soon.
I’m not alone. Susan Orlean of The New Yorker did a story about how much she loves her treadmill desk and how she can’t help but be an evangelist for it. USA Today also recently did a story on how others are using them to get healthy at the office.
So tell me – what are you doing to bring movement back into your office? Anyone else doing the treadmill desk approach? Taking several walks throughout the day? Walking to the vending machine at the END of the hall for your Coke and Snickers bar? Are you a Treadmill Desk pro with your own dance moves? Drop a line below in the comments and share your experience.
Contact or follow me on Twitter @CarlKnerr.