Standing and treadmill desk ideas and experience?

Folks:

Since I failed to keep any of my previous New Year’s resolutions… It is time to set up a standing/treadmill desk in the home office.

The best idea that I’ve seen is the Steelcase Sit-to-Walkstation. Since I am a big Steelcase fan, why not just buy it?

  • the treadmill has a maximum speed of 2 mph, making it unsuitable for getting a little more of a workout when desired
  • the treadmill cannot be inclined like a regular treadmill, again making it tough to get a workout
  • the treadmill is of unknown provenance
  • the product gets a bad review (but from a site that is run by a competitor, without very clear disclosure of the fact)
  • the desk has a plastic top (good for durability but maybe not the best aesthetic for home)
  • the monitor arm costs extra and might not work that well for a serious monitor, such as a 30- or 32-inch 4K display

Some of the advantages of the Steelcase product include treadmill controls that can slide underneath the desk, a great width (78 inches), and presumed sturdiness.

An alternative is to get the treadmill from a company that specializes in treadmills and a separate desk and any monitor supports.

The Human Solution manufactures its own standing desk, the UPLIFT, and puts a LifeSpan treadmill underneath. This is a well-regarded treadmill company. The treadmill costs about $1000 and could be swapped out easily if an improved treadmill becomes available. This treadmill won’t incline but it will run up to 4 mph and the belt is bigger than on the Steelcase (20×56″ versus 18×53″). The desk can be ordered in 80×30″ solid maple or cherry. It doesn’t have the big cross-brace of the Steelcase so it is tough to see how it can be as rigid. I haven’t found any independent reviews of the UPLIFT.

Instead of a monitor that swings back and forth between the treadmill and standing/sitting side I was considering just getting two monitors, two keyboards, and two mice. Hook them all up to one computer and then program in a keystroke command to swap which is the primary monitor (I think Display Changer from 12noon.com will do this on Windows; is it easy to do the Mac as well?).

One idea might be to combine the presumably bomb-proof Steelcase desk with the LifeSpan treadmill. One has to dig a bit but it seems that Steelcase does sell the 78×29″ height-adjustable desk separately (dimensions). And it might even be possible to get the Steelcase base without the plastic laminate work surface (and then get a solid wood desktop of one’s choice?).

What do readers say? Has anyone used the Steelcase or the UPLIFT or some other packaged system that will do treadmill, standing, and sitting?

[Note: IKEA has been playing around with a height-adjustable desk, but it is not wide enough to compete with the Steelcase or UPLIFT products.]

21 Comments

  1. jay

    January 3, 2015 @ 2:29 pm

    1

    I’ve been using the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 for about a year. The treadmill is great (3.5mph for 30 min is about 5k steps for me and gets me sweaty enough to feel like I’ve done something). Sometime I use it as a walking desk at about 1mph but more often I just stand if I am working. The desk is extremely sturdy and has a large work surface, but yes it’s plastic-y so not ideal if that bothers you. The desk is also not easily adjustable—it is heavy so wouldn’t be ideal if two people with very different heights both wanted to use it. Unless you’re using it on concrete, you’ll also want a sturdy mat to go under the treadmill (I bought the official LifeSpan one for $50 because of its perfect size, but there may be cheaper options).

  2. Adrian Segar

    January 3, 2015 @ 2:43 pm

    2

    Philip, I’ve written a couple of posts about my 2+ years experience using a treadmill desk:

    http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/personal-effectiveness/2012/08/walking-to-work-loving-my-treadmill-desk/

    http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/personal-effectiveness/2012/10/my-treadmill-desk-some-follow-up-observations/

    My approach, which I recommend, was to buy the treadmill I wanted and couple it with a separate desk that fit my requirements. The latter can be something as simple as a $40 plastic shelf (all I needed) or something more elaborate that holds more stuff, which seems to be your preference.

  3. Allen

    January 3, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

    3

    I also used a LifeSpan 1200 and enjoyed it. The treadmill was surprisingly quiet, and I regularly used it for 2-3 hours/day, in 1 hour sessions.

    I use a Mac laptop, a ‘normal’ desk, and a second monitor, keyboard, mouse for the walking desk. Because I used a laptop, switching between the sitting desk and walking desk is easy.

    Switching desk heights on the Lifespan is cumbersome; it’s fine if you’re the only one using it, or if multiple users are of similar height. I wouldn’t recommend it if you need to adjust daily for multiple users with different heights.

  4. Joshua Levinson

    January 3, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

    4

    We have GeekDesk® desks at work and they’re pretty nice. Motorized, quiet. I’d say I’ve switched to standing most of the day now.

    We have a room with a few treadmill desks as well. From what I’ve seen, nobody uses them. I gave them a shot; maybe if you’re primarily reading they’d work, but otherwise it’s really difficult to type, or focus on a screen, or use a mouse, when your distance from the desk is not constant.

    I’d say just get a stand-up desk and do some squats or something throughout the day, and save the treadmill for non-work, or use it for reading.

  5. Jamie McCarthy

    January 3, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

    5

    I’m typing this at my $22 standing desk:

    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/the-22-diy-standing-desk-made-with-ikea-parts-173463

    which seemed like a good way to try out the idea before committing fully. While I haven’t yet decided if it’s right for me, it works and the price was right.

  6. Deadprogrammer

    January 3, 2015 @ 4:46 pm

    6

    I used to work as a doorman in Manhattan. This job usually requires standing at a desk for long periods of time, and I have to tell you that many of my colleagues that spent decades at the standing desk were afflicted with varicose veins and all kinds of joint problems. The theory that standing at a desk somehow makes you healthier does not seem to hold up if you examine the health of various retail workers. A desk treadmill on the other hand is great for ruining concentration and making you look like a giant douche.

  7. Kourt Bailey

    January 3, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

    7

    When I toured Independence Hall many years ago at age 10, I was impressed that the desks were standing height and had stools, allowing the user to either sit or stand.

    Last spring, I converted my existing desks by adding 2 common cinder blocks under each corner, then using a $20 wooden stool from Wal-Mart when I needed a sitting break.

    At work, I have a Varidesk: it’s much smaller than I’d like, but I also keep it locked in the fully extended position and sit on a stool when necessary.

    But since a treadmill requires a desk that is even taller than standing height, I’m unsure how to make that work.

  8. jseliger

    January 3, 2015 @ 8:18 pm

    8

    I have a GeekDesk and can recommend it. Can’t speak to the treadmill part, though.

  9. Will Crawford

    January 3, 2015 @ 9:11 pm

    9

    I’ve been using the IKEA adjustable at home for the last few months. It’s cheap enough compared to some of the other options that you could buy two – space problem solved. For those following the thread who are ok with a 60″ desk, I’ll report that it’s been absolutely rock solid so far, and is happily supporting a (very heavy) old-style Apple 30″ Cinema Display.

  10. G Close

    January 3, 2015 @ 10:59 pm

    10

    Great article and comments. For anyone interested in a sit-stand desk (no treadmill), I have this at work, and it works very well.
    http://www.ergotron.com/ProductsDetails/tabid/65/PRDID/561/language/en-US/Default.aspx
    It is well built, easy to put up and down, and stable. It has a very limited weight capacity, so check those monitor weights carefully before committing. Also check the monitor size limit, as they aren’t kidding. I put two 23″ monitors on mine, and it required quite a lot of fiddling to get them jammed on there, and they don’t /quite/ fit.
    My experience with a standing desk is that it’s nice to have the ability to switch back and forth. I like the flexibility, and for certain tasks, like phone calls, I prefer to stand. Heavy brainwork writing? I prefer to sit. Your mileage may vary.

  11. sammysamsam

    January 3, 2015 @ 11:05 pm

    11

    The standing desk and treadmill desk fad is super goofy. Every two hours skip rope for three minutes, or walk around the block. Take a walking smoke break.

    I suspect the whole thing is really driven by people looking for fixes to feeling fat. Folks need to get the memo that the way to lose fat is to assiduously count calories. Exercise is comparatively useless. Exercise is for building muscle and vascular capacity, not burning calories.

  12. Raleigh

    January 4, 2015 @ 10:04 am

    12

    I strongly recommend against using a treadmill while doing work that involves any kind of mental effort. It’s dangerous. If your job happens to be watching Sports Center or leafing through a National Geographic, then it would be fine.

    If weight loss is a goal, then I can guarantee that you’ll lose pounds rapidly by going on a low carb eating regimen. I don’t call it a diet because you can eat all you want. ( The catch is that the only thing that people really want to eat a lot of is high carb stuff like baked goods, snack foods, sweet beverages, etc.)

    I speak from experience. If you have the willpower to avoid the craving for carbs, then the trick will be how to keep your weight UP. For advice on low carb search for Duke doctor Eric Westman on YouTube.

  13. Adrian Segar

    January 4, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

    13

    As I wrote in my blog posts on my experience with a treadmill desk (see the 2nd comment) many people assume that the treadmill has to be running at the same speed you’d use for a workout, and they wonder how you could possibly work while jogging along. Those who think that walking while working is dangerous are assuming you’re running flat out. I started using my treadmill desk at 1.4 mph. These days, I am very happy viewing my laptop and typing at a 1.7 mph walking pace. That may not sound like much, but I end up walking several miles a day while working comfortably.

    I also find that walking while I work helps my concentration and focus, and walking/working for ~20-25 minutes and then taking a five minute break is an optimum pattern.

    I am not a fan of standing desks. I have tried working standing, and noticed joint pain after a while. Our knees hold up better when moving gently than when standing for long periods as cartilage relies on movement for nourishment via nearby blood vessels.

    One final point. Yes, you’re not going to lose significant weight using a treadmill desk, but even gentle exercise provides numerous benefits for your mental state and stress reduction. Read John Ratey’s book “Spark” to learn more.

  14. Martin

    January 4, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

    14

    I’ve been looking at standing desks and NextDesk is at the top of my list. They also have a treadmill version available. http://www.nextdesks.com/treadmill-desk

  15. Troy

    January 4, 2015 @ 8:11 pm

    15

    I bought both a GeekDesk Max frame and an Uplift 920. The 920 has a removable section of the desk mount so it can accept a full-depth keyboard drawer.

    I kept the Uplift and after 2 months, am thrilled with it. They’re both excellent products and incredible values. I opted for the Uplift because of the removable section, a longer warranty, no back brace between the legs (leaves room for bike or taller treadmill), and a design which allows the controls to be mounted anywhere. I don’t see any difference in sturdiness or daily use. The motor on the Uplift is slightly faster, but it makes no difference. I mounted an IKEA Numerar solid butcher block on it, mostly because just about all desktops on the market are deeper than the ~24″ I wanted.

    A lot of adjustable standing desks are actually rebranded legs, controls, and control boxes from a company called LINAK: http://www.linak.com/products/lifting-columns.aspx?sbaid=2. Other than the very high-end office furniture makers, I’d guess more than half of electric adjustable desks are from LINAK VARs (GeekDesk and THS included): http://www.linak.com/deskline/

    Now that I know how to spot them, I see Uplifts everywhere. The standing desk photo in this article is the Uplift or identical components: http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/olafur-eliasson-interview-fondation-louis-vuitton/

    Along with the desk, buy a large CumulusPRO mat: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-standing-desk-mat/. A quality anti-fatigue mat is not optional. I also use a Kinesis Freestyle split keyboard and Evoluent Vertical Mouse. Typing and mousing feel like extending my arms forward. Otherwise, just listen to your body. If you’re exhausted or something hurts, sit down.

    I have no firsthand experience with a treadmill desk. Our accountant uses a treadmill desk and has for years. He swears by it: https://twitter.com/papertrailapp/status/452162788547239936.

    I bought my desk intending to add either a treadmill or a bike. Last week, I ordered a bike because I wanted to also use it for full-energy cycling (while not working or barely occupied). It’s essentially http://www.thehumansolution.com/uplift-spin-bike.html, only with a belt drive Sunny SF-B1002 flywheel bike instead of the chain drive Marcy bike in the photo.

  16. tom corwin

    January 4, 2015 @ 9:53 pm

    16

    How about putting on your $75 jogging shoes and running around the neighborhood for 20 minutes? So much cheaper and you get some fresh air too.

  17. Ben

    January 5, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

    17

    I agree with Adrian Segar. We bought this http://www.nordictrack.ca/fitness/en/NordicTrack-Canada/Treadmills/commercial-1750-13 also available in the States or as a Precor model – I actually wanted the Precor but it’s not available in Canada. Regardless, the arms are all about the same. My wife asked if there was a way she could work on her laptop while she walked so I fashioned a desktop to sit on the arms out of MDF that’s light enough for her to move when she wants to run. Given you’re willing to pay $5000 for the Steelcase I’m sure you could have something made by a carpenter that would look even nicer.

  18. Fritz Holznagel

    January 5, 2015 @ 3:25 pm

    18

    Hi Philip: I owned and used a Steelcase walkstation for four years (the standing-only type, not the sit-or-stand.) My brief review is: it’s terrific. Very sturdy. No problems with maintenance or other issues. Worked as advertised.

    A few specifics:

    – You need a lot of room. I happened to be living in a huge loft space in Cincinnati, an apartment (and city) with nothing but room. I sold it only because we moved to a normal-sized condo here in Somerville.

    – The 2 MPH limit is generally OK. I wished for 2.3 or 2.4 limit, but in general, you’re strolling while you type, not jogging. Any faster and you’d be bouncing. And at the slow speed you can work there for hours.

    – The extra-wide desk is, indeed, wonderful.

    – I didn’t invest in the swing arm. (The price tag was high enough already.) But I used a standing 20″ monitor on mine without problem, and then switched to mainly using a MacBook pro laptop, and both were fine. The desk is separate from the treadmill so you don’t get a lot of bouncing.

    – I loved the pull-out control panel and the ability to raise or lower the desk as needed (or for variety). It worked great.

    – Typing was no problem, either with a keyboard or working directly on a laptop.

    I’m a writer so I had a lot of time to try it out. I found that I tended to use it in 60-minute or 90-minute bursts a couple times a day. Some days I’d ignore it entirely, some days I’d be on it for 4 hours or more. My longest continuous session was 4 hours (a rarity) and my maximum time in one day was 6 hours, I think.

    I can’t speak to other alternatives, and I must admit that the price was daunting for me. But I wanted a bulletproof (as you say) system and that’s what I got.

  19. Nate Stevens

    January 6, 2015 @ 6:09 pm

    19

    Hi Philip – nice to virtually meet you.

    I work for a start-up called Focal Upright Furniture. Our unique seats put users in a more active position between sitting and standing. You could pair one of our seats with a height-adjustable deak, treadmill or not, and have another posture to utilize. Ultimately, you’ll get tired in any single posture…movement is the name of the game.

    Good luck! Feel free reach out if you have any questions.

  20. Dave J

    January 6, 2015 @ 7:18 pm

    20

    Hi Philip,

    Standing is a great idea, but I think there are healthy reservations about treadmills. This post (http://www.quittingsitting.com/treadmill-desks-bad-ergonomics/) makes some good points, but the gist of it is:

    -Treadmill desks do not achieve desired posterior chain engagement.
    -Treadmill desks train poor walking form.
    -Treadmill desks do not offer sufficiently varied terrain for proper health and safety.
    -Treadmill desks make you less productive.

    I personally abhor treadmills because of the “bad practice” for running/walking issue. A mat pulling backward is not the same as a body moving forward over ground, as far as your muscles are concerned.

    But at work, the cognitive load issue seems troubling too.

    But just my 2 cents.

  21. Ryan Feeley

    January 7, 2015 @ 6:20 pm

    21

    I agree with Nate. Movement is the name of the game. I co-founded Ergodriven and after iterating through several mechanized ways to optimize standing, we converged on a contoured antifatigue mat with terrain features that promote more movement while standing, but can be easily kicked out of the way of you switch to sitting. Check it out at ergodriven.com/topo

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