Thinking about buying a treadmill desk? There exists a hierarchy of events involved in a decision to buy one that ultimately leads to the search for the cheapest means of acquisition. This is a natural progression since treadmill desk pricing ranges from the DIY materials cost to more than $5,000 for upper end models.

 

The first stage of the decision process usually involves quite a bit of research to determine whether this walking at work is something one truly wants to pursue. 

 

Are the touted benefits real? The reports in the news and from review sites seem to run the gamut from amazing health and productivity benefits to the opposite end of the spectrum - with some speculating this is just a fad and even a waste of time.

 

We have reported on many TrekDesk users who have lost more than 50-70 lbs and some of these users have been prominently featured in magazines and on major network news. Studies have shown productivity boosts of 15%-30% with creativity measuring even higher results. Science is recognizing that moving throughout the day reduces the risk of almost every disease category, improves mood and in general keeps the body and mind in top form.

 

A review of any study that is contrary to these measures ultimately reveals a flaw in the study, either too few participants or too little time to adjust to the use of a treadmill desk. Scientists have long known of the incredible curative powers of walking and at its core this is all a treadmill desk really is – a walking facilitator.

 

Stage Two reflects the average users thoughts once they are convinced of the health benefits but are still not sure about the practicality of walking throughout the day. This is the feasibility stage. This is the stage that most employers focus on to deny the admission of the moving desks into the office.  Users typically want to know if they are going to sweat, smell, tire, lose their breath, fall, annoy their co-workers, or break the bank to own one.

 

Keep in mind that while the average walking speed is about 3 miles per hour walking out to lunch or down the hall, walking on a treadmill desk is usually at a speed of only 1-1.5 mph. No one sweats or smells as a result of walking down the hall and there is no reason to worry that this will occur at speeds 1/3 – ½ the normal walking speed. The same goes for breath control.

 

How can anyone walk all day you wonder? Well, first of all, if you have been sitting most of your life do not think you can immediately start walking 8-10 hours without experiencing some issues. Like any physical activity, walking has to be eased into. We recommend adding in no more than 15 minutes more each day than what you are normally used to doing. Before you know it your body will crave movement and you will not want to sit.  Everyone is different however so pay close attention to your body’s cues and ease into the process.

 

As for falling, while most treadmill desks have only one touch point in the front, the design of the TrekDesk has support points in 3 areas (front, left and right sides) that envelope the user and we have never had a reported case of anyone falling while walking at their treadmill.

 

Regarding the annoyance of co-workers this should be a non-issue provided the treadmill is of recent vintage and has been well maintained. Most are whisper quiet in application making much less noise than the average HVAC systems in an office.

 

This brings us to the next and most often asked question by those convinced that a treadmill desk would be a good fit into their daily life – how much is the cheapest treadmill desk going to cost?

 

At $499 delivered, the TrekDesk is still the least expensive full sized, height adjustable treadmill desk on the market today. In fact, in regards to surface area- it is still the largest desk in this category today with a price increase of only $20 in the past seven years.

 

Being Frugal at the Office 

That said there are still cheaper treadmill desks. Our original conception came from simply laying a Rubbermaid top over the arms of a treadmill. Not very stable or particularly functional but it kept a laptop level and cost about $10 (not including a treadmill). The do it yourself (DIY) path, if you are handy, can deliver a less expensive alternative depending upon your exact needs. If you read the Amazon reviews on the TrekDesk you will find however a number of DIY innovators that eventually traded their design in for the economy and features of the TrekDesk.

 

In the end, cheap is in the eye of the beholder. If a board across the top of a treadmill suits your needs and allows you to walk all day while you work it is still a far cry better for your health than sitting in a chair all day.

 

There is no disputing the positive impact of an employee's use of a treadmill desk and the health risks associated with sitting at the office all day. For those employees searching for scientific evidence to make their case for a treadmill desk to their employer, we have listed just a few studies below:

 

1. Sitting is equated with the same risks of smoking. Have your boss take a look at this Ted Talk that addresses this problem.

2. Sitting has been linked to shorter life spans, cardiovascular disease, metabolic sequalae, excess weight and a host of other maladies.

3. Health benefits of a treadmill desk are well established scientifically

4. Treadmill desks have been shown to increase a worker's attention, and working memory.

5. Walking at one's desk improves creativity.

6. The positive effects of walking and working are ongoing.

7. Employeees feel more motivated and productive when engaged by movement.

8. Studies concluding that moving while working is ineffective have been shown to be flawed in their design. 

 

A more comprehenive detailing is available in our research section broken down into specific areas of interest.

 

"We have noticed a progression of acceptance over the past six years," stated Steve Bordley, CEO of TrekDesk Treadmill Desk. "Initially the concept was met with incredulity, but now the necessity of continual movement has been scientifically proven and launched a large debate within the workplace. Science will win the debate and hundreds of studies and reports bear witness to the health risks of sitting and the advantages offered by keeping employees in motion. Methods of untethering employees from their cubicles will continue to proliferate."

We all feel at times that our work lives have become too much of a rat race, however a New Zealand study just released shows that might not always be a bad thing.

 

The study, conducted by Kristin Hillman of Otago University in Wellington found that rats that ran for 20 minutes a day for five days a week actually outperformed their sedentary study counterparts in laboratory endeavors. Not only did the exercising rats complete more tasks, they also completed them more quickly and more efficiently as well. 

 

Rats Productive The More They Move

 

"We all know exercise is good for our physical and mental health, but this data suggests that regular exercise may also help make you more productive when it comes to getting tasks accomplished each day," stated Hillman. "Links between exercise and occupational/educational achievement are starting to be noted in humans, but these links are largely correlations and can be riddled with confounding psycho-social factors. These factors include family environment, socio-economic status and personality traits. By using an animal model we obviously eliminate such factors, and are able to demonstrate a causal relationship between regular exercise and generalised industriousness." 

 

There have been numerous studies showing an increase in workplace productivity by employees using a treadmill desk. In every study focused on the effects of movement in the workplace productivity was shown to have increased on average 15% with creativity levels measuring even higher. The only studies showing a negative correlation recognized a bias towards allowing employees a transition period to adjust to performing office tasks while moving.

 


 

An assistant professor of exercise and sports science in the College of Public Health and Human Services at Oregon State University made headlines yesterday proclaiming the results of a study that show “treadmill desks offer limited benefits and pose a challenge in the workplace.” Our response? You might want to read a little more about the actual study before making up your mind.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, we here at TrekDesk are biased. We want to be very up front about that. We believe staying upright and moving throughout the day is much more beneficial to the body than staying cramped in a cubicle all day. It’s not really an opinion based on anecdotal evidence or mere common sense - it is a scientific fact based on hundreds of research projects done at such places as Iowa State, Yale, UCLA, Harvard, Stanford, LSU, ASU, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic – we could on listing but you get the idea.

 

 

Apparently though John Schuna disagrees. No problem John, we appreciate the debate but we think your study was too small and too skewed to begin with. We are on your side in this though and don’t want to sound snarky in anyway. We are used to treadmill desk naysayers. We encourage the debate because this is a necessary step in changing the way we all view sedentary environments and how we should go about evaluating ways to defeat them.

 

We are used to the debate. Men’s Health once said our TrekDesk would be out of fashion in 6 months and compared us to Suzanne Sommer’s ThighMaster. Years later TrekDesk and a mix of other cool treadmill desks are still going strong. Utah senator Orrin Hatch got into a twitter debate with us saying he preferred sidewalks and saw the entire concept as a waste of money. Orrin forgets that in poor areas there are no sidewalks and while he gets to roam the halls of a dysfunctional congress the rest of us are cramped in office pens.

 

 

One writer at the WSJ actually stooped so low as to try and talk some TrekDesk users into saying they felt unsafe and sweaty using our product for an article she was writing – they didn’t bite. The writer never responded back to our emails asking for a review of actual facts and experiences of treadmill desk users.

 

Treadmill Desk Skewed Data Draws Wrong Conclusion

 

Our point is that we are used to skeptics, even those with hidden agendas designed to derail the entire concept. John Schuna is not one of them but he did conduct a study with blinders on in our opinion.

 

Let’s take a look at what he said.

 

John’s 12 week study found that treadmill desks offered limited benefits to obese employees and “did not help them meet public health guidelines for daily exercise.” The study focused on overweight and obese office workers and found that although they increased steps on average 1,000 steps per day they did not record significant weight loss or changes in BMI during the 12 weeks.

 

First bias. Overweight/obese employees need more exercise than thin employees. We all need to get up and move more, not just obese or overweight employees. This study singled out employees based on weight and BMI factors. Height weight proportionate employees suffer higher risks of disease from inactivity as well as overweight employees.

 

Second bias: BMI reduction and weight loss is the critical gauge of health benefits. Movement improves memory and creativity, lowers blood pressure and lipid profiles, balances blood sugars, boosts mood and productivity, prevents disease, disperses critical elements in the brain and body necessary for health (e.g. lipase lipoproteins, BDNF, dopamine) and combined with proper lifestyle changes can lead to that media darling known as weight loss. That’s just a few things staying in motion does for one’s health, so when did BMI and weight loss become the end all determining factor for health?

 

Third bias: The overweight/obese employees only used the treadmill desk half the time they were asked to. Well golly, let’s single out the fat folks and make them wear a scarlet T on their shirt and see how often they volunteer to use the treadmill desk. This is one of the more disturbing parts of the study results in our opinion. It sent the message that if you are fat you need to move but if you are thin you are just fine the way you are in that office chair. We are sure this was not Mr. Schuna’s intent but what did he expect. Every time they stepped on that treadmill desk it was a reminder why they were doing it. Did everyone assume no one would notice only the BMI challenged were invited to the party?

 

Fourth Bias: There is only one kind of exercise, low intensity doesn’t count. We aren’t arguing that Americans don’t need their 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise at least 5x per week (in fact we think that is on the low side) but what is everyone supposed to do after they achieve that? Sit and gloat? We already have studies showing sitting counteracts all of the good that those 30 minutes might have imparted and rather quickly.

 

Our bodies were designed to stay in motion and we need low intensity, moderate intensity and high intensity throughout the day. Most experts now agree that the low intensity needs to comprise the largest part of our day. Just ask the folks at the Pennington Biomedical Center for Research how long it takes for bad things to start in the body when we sit. Hint: It is less than 20 minutes.

 

Fifth Bias: Mr. Schuna stated “the benefits of the desks may not justify the cost and other challenges that come with implementing them.” This study did not involve any measure of productivity and/or boosts in concentration or decrease in absenteeism/presenteeism so how then can this study make any scientific claim as to cost justification? Again they measured it against the sole BMI/Weight Loss barometer that plagues so many overweight employees. Keep in mind that almost 70% of our entire workforce now fits this category.

 

Sixth Bias: “Introducing treadmill desks in the workplace also can pose logistical challenges that may not make a program feasible for companies.” It’s been our experience that this is what companies tell their employees who are clamoring for treadmill desks. Sure, cost is a factor initially but not when weighed against increases in productivity/creativity, decreases in work related losses (absenteeism, presenteeism, back injuries from sitting), and overall health care savings.

 

 

The Oregon State study has in our estimation provided only biased anecdotal evidence that if you implement a limited scale trial of treadmill desks and target only overweight employees that it is more than likely going to fail -if measured only by stringent, skeptically relevant guidelines for success.

 

We do agree with Mr. Schuna’s last statement in his interview posted on Oregonstate.edu. however: “We need to identify some form of physical activity that can be done simply and at a low cost in an office setting.”

 

It’s called a treadmill desk, and if you weigh all of the factors scientifically- the facts, along with the ROI, speak for themselves.

 

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