Like many Americans I have a New Year’s resolution to get more exercise. While I’m pretty good about walking my dog for an hour every day–free exercise, to be sure–as a writer I spend the rest of my day sitting at a desk. I know that this sitting isn’t good for my health, especially since studies have shown that people who sit a lot tend to die younger. Um, that’s not my plan.
While these New Year’s resolutions to get more exercise and eat better were swirling in my head, some people I know–also freelance writers–started talking about building standing desks or walking desks. (These newfangled workstations are also called exercise desks, treadmill offices, workstation treadmill, and more.) The notion was that if you could create a work arrangement that allowed you to get off your butt–or even better to walk while working–you would likely have less lower back pain and maybe lose a few pounds. In fact, one office that installed walking desks or treadmill desks discovered that its employees lost a whopping 150 pounds without changing anything else about their lifestyle.
Now, I could have gone out and purchased a walking workstation, which Steelcase makes. But their walking desk costs almost $4,800! Clearly, that does not work for my frugal budget. Luckily, I have a handy husband who, when I asked, “Can you build me a walking desk?” was able to respond within a day by doing so.
This setup is so easy that even if you’re not DIY inclined, you could make a treadmill desk, too.
Basically, what we did was created a work surface above our existing treadmill. We accomplished this by taking a board that is 16 inches deep and 32.5 inches wide, and clamping it to the handles of the treadmill. We used two Crafstman Bar Clamps, which lock in place. (I do test them everyday, just to make sure they are still secure.)
The board is wide enough for me to fit my laptop, external mouse/trackball, and a pad of paper and pen for taking notes while working and walking. It’s like being able to spread out on a regular desk, albeit one that is suspended above the treadmill on which I am walking.
Speaking of walking some people are amazed that I can do both simultaneously. Understand that when I’m working at my treadmill desk, I’m walking at a leisurely 1.5 miles per hour. That’s like a pace you would use when strolling through the mall. Honestly, walking and working at the laptop is easier than you might think–and I’m pretty klutzy. What is sometimes challenging, however, is hand writing anything, which is why I tend to stick with the computer work.
Since installing the treadmill desk at the end of December, I’ve been working and walking, on average, 60 extra minutes a day. There are some days that I end up walking for two hours, though I have to do that in two bursts. That’s because I’ve discovered that a treadmill cannot go over 100 minutes–it simply shuts off after 99 minutes because the display isn’t wide enough to handle three digits. On days when I keep walking, I’ll walk the initial 100 minutes, and then restart the treadmill and go for another 20 minutes or so.
Now it’s not like I’m standing on my treadmill desk for 120 minutes continuously. I’ll hop off for a bathroom break, to refill my water bottle, or to answer the phone. But all together I am getting significantly more exercise in my day. And my lower back does hurt a lot less than it used to.
As far as the getting more exercise and losing weight part of those New Year’s resolutions and my treadmill desk, I can tell you that my weight is heading in the right direction, and I’ve already noticed that my pants are feeling looser around the legs.
Here’s another benefit of setting up the treadmill desk–our treadmill was originally in our family room/play room/rumpus room, along with our other exercise equipment. This room happens to be a Southern facing, relatively large room on the first floor of our house. My office, on the other hand, is a teeny tiny space in a Northern facing, back corner of the house. Sure, it’s my office but I hate it. Now that I’m spending hours working downstairs on the treadmill anyway, we’ve decided to move my office to this bigger, sunnier space. Yeah, that’s a win-win for me. Plus, the dog seems to like the new set up as well–he has taken to snoozing on the treadmill desk when I’m done walking–guess it’s warm and comfortable for him.