Treadmill Desks: The Benefits of Walking While You Work

LifeSpan TR 1200-DT3 Under Desk Treadmill

Courtesy of Amazon

Sitting at the computer or office desk all day is bad for you in many ways. More and more, we hear about how sitting and physical inactivity raises our health risks. Is one answer to get a laptop stand for your treadmill and pace the day away as you work?

We looked at the research to find out the benefits of a treadmill desk and how to best incorporate it into your workstation.

Benefits of a Treadmill Desk

Sitting too much is bad for your health and raises the risks of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Many people have jobs that require sitting at a workstation for long stretches of time. It makes sense that a treadmill desk should offset these risks—and research shows it has many benefits.

A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis of 13 studies found that treadmill desks showed positive effects on many factors including blood pressure, body fat percentage—and that those who have prediabetes or prehypertension would especially benefit. Even though researchers said more studies are needed, they found that incorporating walking into your workday helps with weight management and even reduces mortality risk. As a bonus, they found that treadmill desks don’t affect your work-related tasks or productivity. 

Does the Treadmill Desk Help With Weight Loss?

The treadmill desk does have many health benefits, including possible weight loss. How much you lose, however, depends on several factors. Remember, on the treadmill desk you are walking slowly–so although you are burning more calories than sitting, you aren’t burning as many as if you were walking quickly and sweating. You also need to consider your diet. To lose weight, you must burn more calories per day than you are taking in. 

A small study of 15 obese office workers had them walk and work at a vertical computer workstation on a treadmill at the slow pace of 1 mile per hour. They burned an extra 100 calories per hour.

If they used the treadmill workstation for 2 to 3 hours a day, the researchers estimated they could lose 44 to 66 pounds per year (20 to 30 kilograms). That's an extreme estimate, which assumes they didn't make up the calories with an extra snack or calorie-dense drink.

Actual weight loss over a year of using a treadmill desk was studied in a 2013 paper. They followed 36 subjects who used a treadmill desk for an average of an hour a day, losing an average of 1.4 kilograms (3.1 pounds). The subjects who were obese lost more—an average of 3.4 kilograms (7.5 pounds). That's more realistic and shows what is more likely to happen in the real world.

How to Use a Treadmill Desk

Slow walking at only one mile per hour is the key to using a treadmill desk for long periods of time while working. A normal walking pace down a hallway or street is 2.5 to 4 mph. The slow walk can take a little practice.

Those using the treadmill need to have the proper footwear to prevent further problems such as proper walking or running shoes rather than heels, dress sandals, flip-flops, or dress shoes.

It's best to slowly increase your time using a treadmill desk. Start with 15 minutes at a time once or twice a day in the first week. See how you tolerate it. After a few days, add shorter bouts each hour of five minutes, which will break up your sitting time.

If your goal is weight loss, increase the length of time you use it for 20 minutes and 30 minutes twice a day in the second and third weeks. If that goes well, continue to increase the length of time of each use in the third and fourth weeks.

Ensure that your work surface and computer are set up at the right height. Ergonomics is key to preventing shoulder, neck, and back problems, and proper posture is important. If you hunch over the keyboard, you will develop poor walking habits in addition to poor sitting habits.

Buying Options for Treadmill Desks and Laptop Stands 

Treadmill manufacturers have responded with treadmills designed to fit under standing desks as well as treadmills with a desk surface instead of a tilted console.

We reviewed and tested dozens of treadmill desks and found the iMovR Lander Standing Desk  was our top overall pick. For a more budget-friendly option, we found that the  BiFanuo 2-in-1 Folding Treadmill was a great option that is also compact for small spaces.

If you already have a home treadmill and a tablet or laptop computer, you might experiment with slow walking while you work on the computer. If you can't get the right angle with the screen when your computer is propped on the treadmill console, look for a standing desk or table (like a hospital bedside table) that is the right height and will extend over the treadmill. You can also use a laptop stand or treadmill desk attachment, such as the HumanCentric Treadmill Desk.

Consider a Bike Desk

There are other ways to stay active while working besides a treadmill desk, including an under desk bike. A recumbent bike desk is a great option for ergonomics and posture. It also would exercise the muscles most in need of cross-training for someone who was already a fitness walker.

The FitDesk is more of a standard bike set-up with a desk surface for a laptop or other work, while the DeskCycle under-desk exerciser can be used both at home and at work under a regular desk.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Oye-Somefun A, Azizi Z, Ardern CI, Rotondi MA. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of treadmill desks on energy expenditure, sitting time, and cardiometabolic health in adults. BMC Public Health. 2021;21(1):2082.

  3. Levine JA, Miller JM. The energy expenditure of using a 'walk-and-work' desk for office workers with obesity. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2007;000:1-4. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2006.032755

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By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.