A home-made treadmill desk

An Update on the MacGyvered Treadmill Desk

Geek Culture


A home-made treadmill desk
Photo by Brad Moon

About a year and a half ago, I decided to take the treadmill in my office and make use of some extra Ikea wooden shelving I had lying around, along with judicious applications of Velcro to MacGyver a treadmill desk. It actually worked pretty well, but fell by the wayside when something shiny distracted me and I moved on to the next project. However, a growing pile of articles about the health hazards of sitting all day, combined with a back injury (likely from sitting all day — despite having an excellent, ergonomic chair) drove me to revisit my jury-rigged treadmill desk. I have to say, that after actually sticking with it for a few months, the results have been encouraging.

First, a quick word on what I’m charitably referring to as my treadmill desk. It consists of a decent treadmill, but with what amounts to a one-foot by four-foot chunk of wood (kept horizontal by glueing two triangular chocks to the bottom) that’s Velcroed to the treadmill’s handle bars. It’s sturdier than it sounds but not much to look at.

Sure, I could have sprung for something professional, like this LifeSpan Treadmill Desk, but I already had the treadmill and initially I really just wanted to see if the concept worked. As someone who works from home and spends all day sitting at a desk, writing — when I’m not running up and down stairs, getting lunch for the kids and letting the dogs out — those nonstop articles about the dangers of sitting were starting to freak me out. But not enough to commit to the $1500 or more for a real treadmill desk without proof that it would work for me.

My treadmill desk
Freespirit meets Ikea and Home Depot (photo by Brad Moon)

The setup works very well with my 11-inch MacBook Air. I keep my mouse, phone, iPhone and a glass of water handy, set the pace to 1.5 mph (anything more and I’m too busy concentrating on stepping to get any real work done) and put in an hour each morning and each afternoon. Typing and mousing is smooth and the laptop’s display tilts sufficiently that I have a good viewing angle without having to strain my neck. Eye-level positioning would be better, but since I’m only doing this for an hour a session, I’m willing to take that risk.

It took a few days to acclimatize to the situation once I started trying to make this a habit after the holidays, but now it’s second nature. I can even talk on the phone while walking without disrupting the call. There’s a slight moment of disorientation when I step off the treadmill to resume working at my old fashioned, writer-killing desk and chair combo, but that only lasts for a few moments.

According to my Fitbit, in the several months since I began to make a concerted effort to put in those two, one-hour sessions on the treadmill desk, I’ve been averaging between 3.5 miles and 4 miles of walking daily. The back pain has begun to ease off considerably and it’s done wonders for loosening up the knee I had reconstructed a decade ago after a torn ACL. I’ve also dropped 14 pounds, which wasn’t the primary reason for doing this — but it sure doesn’t hurt.

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