How much does it cost to get started with a treadmill desk?
That can vary based on quality and aesthetic. The minimum setup in my mind is an electric treadmill and an adjustable height desk. The cheapest treadmill I’ve found to work ( and that I’m also using myself) is about $250.00, which is actually quite cheap for a treadmill. (Full review of the treadmill here.) The standing height desk can vary from ~10 bucks (cinder blocks to boost up your current sitting desk), to ~40 bucks for a used Ikea Fredrik or Jerker desk or a “hutch” that can be placed on top of your sitting desk, to ~700 bucks for a super fancy specialty made standing desk that can fit over a treadmill. (Description and links to the various desk options here.) If you’re on a budget, have the time, and want the health benefits, you can probably put together a decent setup for no more than $300 bucks.
How long does it take to see an effect on my health, energy, or weight?
A great question that probably depends quite a bit on the individual person. In my case, it took me ~2-3 months to feel totally comfortable walking every day. After that initial adjustment period, I started feeling much better about standing and I wouldn’t complain about being tired so much when walking around the stores at the mall while friends tried on clothes. After 6 months, I didn’t see a significant change in blood pressure, but then again, I didn’t really have high blood pressure to begin with, so I’m probably not a good example for that. In terms of weight, it seems that the rate of weight loss during my first 6 months averaged out to be ~ 0.07lbs per day. (~12-13 lbs lost over 6 months) The weight loss came in spurts that more or less correlated with higher treadmill sessions, like on the weekends when I have more time to walk at my computer. To see my weight history, visit the home page here. So, the short answer for my particular case: It takes a few weeks to see some weight loss effect and a few months to see some increased energy. But it’s common knowledge that physical activity is better than none in terms of longevity and overall health, so I’d try to consider this new desk a lifestyle choice, rather than a weight loss fad.
How should I start using a treadmill desk?
Slowly and cautiously. I took the “inverse cold turkey” approach in that I used it for more than 6 hours a day for the first couple days I had my desk. This may have been a mistake in retrospect, especially since I hadn’t yet figured out the optimal ergonomics. If I were to start over again, I would start with no more than 2 hours a day for the first week or so because of possible ergonomics issues. For example, I had a very slight incline on my treadmill that was aggravating my ankle, I didn’t have the proper height for my keyboard and it was causing wrist strain, and I hadn’t yet adjusted the depth position of my treadmill to avoid having to reach for my mouse and hurting my shoulder. By diving in right away, I felt all these issues pretty severely right away. If I had eased myself into it, I would have been able to identify these ergonomic annoyances before they really caused any pain. I would also recommend removing the chair from the room. The presence of the chair is much too tempting to steal a little sit. Out of sight, out of mind. Eventually, you won’t even miss the chair.
What items do I need other than a treadmill and a standing desk?
- Shoes: Your feet will hurt. If they don’t right away, they will down the line. (personal experience). Do yourself a favor and use walking shoes starting from day 1 and try not to forget to use them.
- A wrist rest: If you’re ideally coming at your keyboard from straight on, you keyboard is likely elevated a half an inch or so. I’ve found that that causes me to have to strain my wrist to keep it in typing position. When I got a wrist rest, that fixed the strain issue completely and now it feels very nice to type.(My wrist rest is an old towel taped into a rectangular shape.)
- External monitor or monitor stand: Depending on if you are using a desktop or a laptop, you may not need this item. Basically, you want your viewing screen to be elevated relative to the typing and mouse level. This can be accomplished by either having a desk that has multiple levels or using a multi-level desk hutch. If you have a single surface and use a laptop, then you will be forced to either bring your hands up too high or have your head angle downwards in order to use your laptop, neither of which is good ergonomically. (For my conclusion of optimal ergonomics, see here.)
- Bathroom scale: Not essential, but it’s really fun watching your weight go down! Remember to weigh yourself around the same time each day for consistent measurements.
Why should I use a treadmill desk?
Oh, so many reasons. Basically, you become healthier, people think you’re badass and hard working, and you get bragging rights. Additionally, if you are healthier, you can think better, live longer, and live better. If you can think better, you can usually make more money and have more time for friends. If you make more money and have more friends, you will be happier, more successful, and have a higher probability of finding someone to breed with. If you reproduce, you win at life. If you are successful and rich, you win at life. If you have lots of friends, you win at life. If you make lots of money, you win at life. By any measure of success, a treadmill desk will help you get you there, if you really think about it.
Does using a treadmill desk cause any joint issues or bring about any new pains?
Maybe and no. Before I got my walking ergonomics how I like them, I was experiencing some new ankle pains due to the incline of the treadmill, and arm pain due to the position of the treadmill causing me to have to reach out for the computer mouse. After I identified these problems and fixed them, I haven’t experienced any new pains and these new ones went away. I noticed that walking for long periods of time each day works out my lower back. I have some lower back issues from a snowboarding fall and it has acted up every once in a while since. I thought that walking would also strengthen my back muscles and lessen that pain. The walking seemed to be making the pain worse at first, probably because I didn’t ease into the walking routine. I cut back the hours I spent at the treadmill each day and worked my way back up slowly. I’m more careful now, and I believe I can say that my back pain is much better than before. I also used to have shoulder pain from using a computer. (The mouse arm) This pain is aggravated when I have to look downwards to a screen, like when I’m using a laptop on the couch or at my previous sitting desk setup. I’m happy to report that my new treadmill desk setup doesn’t give me this problem.
If you want me to answer any more questions, please ask them in the comments section and I’ll add them to the FAQ!