10 Health Benefits of Treadmill Desks, According to Science (+8 Tips for Beginners)

Out of the many professions throughout the world, about 80% of them are sedentary or involve little to no physical activity. This means that about 55-69% of working adults are sitting down during most of the day (2).

There is also a large proportion of society that suffers from diseases and conditions such as obesity, asthma, heart disease and failure, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and more.

Through hundreds of diverse studies, a link has been established between large amounts of sitting and the development of nearly every health issue. It was also discovered that those who sit down while they work, but have frequent breaks throughout the day had lower health risks (3).

These breaks consisted of simple yet physical activity such as walking around the company building or a large room within it. If these minimal acts of exercise could lower health risks, what would happen if you did more?

Everyone has their excuse not to exercise, the most common being is that they don’t have time. This is where the treadmill desk comes in.

The beauty of the treadmill desk is that it disregards the lack-of-time excuse by providing you the opportunity to exercise while working. It can also be used while performing effortless yet tedious tasks such as paying bills, reading, watching television, or talking on the phone (1, 6).

In addition, as treadmill desks are mainly used inside, the excuse of bad weather would also be used in vain.

These desks are best suited for those working at home or in an office environment where the required duties involve computer operations, telephone interactions, and administrative tasks, all of which have been performed while the employees are sitting down.

The list of benefits of this piece of equipment is an extensive one as it allows workers and other users to be just as productive as they were without it, but now more healthy because of it.

Health Benefits of Using a Treadmill Desk

When walking on a treadmill desk becomes a daily routine, it can benefit anyone by preventing the development, the progress, and death of diseases as well as reduce fat, boost moods and energy, and improves health overall. Here are some specific examples and reasons why treadmill desks can be so successful in managing a healthy lifestyle:

1. Treadmill Desks can Reduce Obesity through Consistent yet Light Exercise

While many can contribute weight gain to genetics and excessive eating, a poor exercise routine plays a larger, more common, and less noticeable role. Researchers have found that with a sedentary lifestyle comes gradual weight gain and eventual obesity (1).

Naturally, adapting to a more active lifestyle would reverse this consequence, but it is not always easy and permanent. The reason for this is that most resort to more demanding activity for short periods every day instead of moderate activity for longer periods every day. The intensity and possible pains that come along with it cause many to burn out too soon.

A simple solution is to walk rather than any other intensive activity. In fact, it was found that walking daily burns fat, which prevents obesity (22).

While moderately sized people may lose some weight at a slow pace, which is better to keep off the weight longer, those who were obese lost more weight faster when using the treadmill desk.

This was due to the fact that using the treadmill desk can increase heart rate and HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), reduce glucose levels, and lower waist circumference, all of which contribute to weight loss (7).

Bottom Line: Walking on treadmill desks can lead to weight loss if done daily. This is because the activity allows the body to increase its heart rate and decrease its glucose levels, which can burn fat, and therefore, lose weight.

2. Treadmill Desks improve Lung Capacity which can Help Those with Asthma

Those with breathing problems such as asthma may think to avoid exercise for fear of an attack, which can be life-threatening to some. However, professionals have said that neglecting physical activity can do more harm than good (26).

In fact, it has been proven that exercising regularly can expand the lungs and bronchial tubes, which makes breathing easier (22).

Treadmill desks are ideal for those affected by asthma because it provides them a way to walk at a slow, manageable speed in a safe environment. Within the home or office, people can control the temperature and air quality of the room, both of which can cause asthma attacks if not properly monitored.

Bottom Line: Treadmill desks are best suited for those with lung problems since it allows them to run at a steady speed and are generally placed inside where the user can control the room’s conditions such as temperature and air quality, which is necessary for asthma maintenance and reduction.

3. Treadmill Desks Prevent Heart Failure and Attacks by Allowing Production of Protective Heart Elements

Research states that too much inactivity can cause cardiovascular disease (2, 3, 9). In fact, this is the leading factor in developing heart disease for both men and women over 30 (24).

However, it was determined that an hour of physical activity a day can result in a 46% lower risk of contracting heart failure.

Even simple exercises such as walking on a treadmill can benefit those with high blood pressure and high cholesterol as the activity can improve cholesterol levels (8). It can also allow the heart to create and store nitric oxide, which protects the heart from damage (25).

When nitric oxide is formed, it goes into the bloodstream and heart as it transforms into nitrite and nitrosothiols, both of which are essential in preventing heart attacks.

Bottom Line: Walking an hour a day can lower the risk of heart failure in both men and women as it improves cholesterol levels and creates nitric oxide. This element will then be stored in the bloodstream and the heart as it transforms into nitrite and nitrosothiols. With both, the heart is better protected from attacks and failure.

4. Daily Walking can Lessen Risk of Getting Any Type of Cancer

Sitting for too long is also a contributing factor for any kind of cancer (3, 9).

After multiple studies, it was found that walking, amongst other moderate exercise, can reduce the risks of getting colon, prostate, endometrial, and breast cancers (21). This is because the exercise lowers the amounts of growth factors and hormones such as insulin and estrogen that can lead to the development and progression of such diseases (27, 28).

Leisure or mild physical activity, such as walking, can also prevent cancers such as: esophageal, adenocarcinoma, liver, gastric cardia, kidney, myeloid leukemia, myeloma, and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder.

In comparison, those who are more active have a 24% lower risk of getting colon cancer, 12 % of getting breast cancer, and 20% of getting endometrial cancer than those who are inactive.

For women, those who exercise more after their menopause can lower their risk of breast cancer. Those who were diagnosed with breast cancer and then exercised at a moderate pace for about 3 to 5 hours every week, lowered their risk of breast cancer recurrence and death from breast cancer by 40 to 50%.

Meanwhile, men who were diagnosed with nonmetastatic prostate cancer and then performed vigorous activity for about 3 hours per week lowered their risk of death by this cancer by 61% in comparison to men who were diagnosed with this same cancer, but only exercised less than an hour each week.

Bottom Line: Both men and women can benefit from walking more as the exercise has been proven by multiple studies that it can lessen the risk of getting any type of cancer, stunt the progress of diagnosed cancer and prevent a cancer recurrence and death by it.

5. Treadmill Desks can Lead to Improved Blood Sugar Levels which can reduce the risk of Diabetes

Though it has been proven that increased inactivity can cause diabetes and walking can prevent it, people are still unsure to invest in a treadmill desk due to its price. On the contrary, if you do sit around for most of the day and you have to ability to acquire and use a treadmill desk, it may be wise to do so despite of the price (1).

The reason for this is because though the treadmill desk can cost $3,000, if you continue to sit around, you may develop diabetes, which can cost $10,000 each year to maintain.

It was discovered by the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study that women who performed a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, a day, reduced their chances of being diagnosed with diabetes by 30% (32).

This simple activity can decrease abdominal fat, which can lead to an inflammation in cells if there is too much of it. If the cells are inflamed, they can become resistant to insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar. This can bring you at a higher risk of the disease.

In fact, a Canadian study discovered that women can decrease their abdominal fat by 20% after walking an hour a day for 14 weeks. Their eating habits within this study were unchanged, leaving the cause of their weight loss to their increased exercise.

Walking can be beneficial for those who already have been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes as well. For those who have or are at risk of diabetes, it has been found that eating meals or snacks while walking can reduce blood glucose levels. This will help your body process foods in a manner in which blood sugar does not rise too much (8, 18).

Bottom Line: While purchasing a treadmill desk may be expensive, it is better to .invest in one to avoid being diagnosed with diabetes and paying more for the maintenance of it. Investing in one will allow you to walk more often, which can decrease diabetes risks such as belly fat and high blood sugar levels.

6. Constant and Steady Movement Decreases Skeletal and Muscle Pains, Including Arthritis

Engaging in minimal yet consistent activities such as standing, stepping, and walking can increase skeletal muscle activity, which can ease pain in the bones and muscles. In contrast, sitting in a strict posture can be damaging to these same areas (2).

In less than a week of treadmill use, people reported less lower back pain, shoulder tension, posture improvement, and decreased wrist and elbow pain (3, 7). Upper back and neck pain was also reduced by 54%.

In terms of arthritis, research has found that one of three obese adults suffer from it. By walking more often, obesity with decrease, and arthritis along with it (23).

Bottom Line: Skeletal aches such as arthritis and muscle pains in the back, shoulder, neck, wrist and elbow can lessen and be prevented by even a week’s worth of walking. Posture can also improve by constant yet simple exercise on a treadmill desk.

7. The Physical Activity can Increase Mood and Comfort

A study entitled the Take-a-Stand Project discovered that daily walking on treadmill desks can produce increased comfort and better moods (3, 21).

Using these machines while working, about 87% of the participants involved reported that they felt more comfortable while 75% felt healthier, 62% felt happier, and 33% felt less stressed. This outcome was compared with results patients with serious depressions have when taking antidepressants (31). Essentially, regular exercise can serve as a natural antidepressant.

Within 2 weeks after the project ended and those involved returned to their sedentary lifestyle, their improvements in comfort, health, and mood were negated.

Bottom Line: Walking or using treadmill desks on a daily basis can greatly improve one’s comfort, health, mood states, and stress levels. Meanwhile, sedentary lifestyles can diminish these states.

8. Walking can Improve Focus, Memory, and Motivation

When using treadmill desks at work, 87% felt energized, 71% felt more focused, and 66% felt more productive (3). These results can come into effect within a week as the use of treadmill desks can also reduce fatigue and confusion and cause more vigor (7).

The exercise that treadmill desks encourages can promote brain activity by increasing connection between the brain areas (8, 21). This can lead to higher productivity and energy levels throughout the work day.

In addition, regular exercise can promote higher concentration in anyone, including those with learning disabilities such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (4).

An increase in creative thinking and memory can occur through walking. In one study, it was found that elders who walked on treadmill desks at least 3 days a week had a 30% less risk at developing dementia (6). As soon as users were finished with using their treadmill desks, it was discovered that both their short-term memory and attention had improved.

Moderate use of treadmill desks have been proven to be responsible for better sleep, increased strength, higher energy levels, and a healthier physical and mental well-being (5).

Likewise, those who used these devices regularly were more satisfied with everyday experiences and activities, were more interested in their work, and were less bored and stressed than those who were sitting.

Bottom Line: Within a week of a walking on a treadmill desk, you can promote brain activity, which will allow you to be more focused, productive, and energized in the workplace. This usage can also improve memory and reduce one’s risk at developing dementia.

9. Exerting Energy can Result in a Decrease in Depression and Anxiety, and an Improvement in Mental Health Overall

Walking and other simple exercises can decrease mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety (4). In fact, those who took advantage of treadmill desks noticed that their depression lessened in less than a week of use (7).

It was found that people who were active reduce their risk of getting depressed by 30%. Maintaining these routines of physical activity will help recover from depression (30).

The reason walking is effective in treating depression and other mental health ailments is because the exercise can produce more serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that can be activated when taking antidepressants. Being active can also normalize sleep patterns which has been proven to help prevent and maintain depression and anxiety.

Bottom Line: Performing exercises such as walking on a treadmill can reduce depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions by increasing serotonin levels and allowing the body to relax and sleep properly, both of which are major factors in maintaining a healthy mind.

10. Regular Use of Treadmill Desks can Increase Life Expectancy

If a person maintained a sedentary lifestyle, it can cause premature mortality (2, 9). In fact, if someone were to increase their daily steps from 1,000 to 10,000, their mortality risk would lower by 46%. By a smaller ratio, if they simply increased their steps to 3,000 per day, five days a week, they would have a 12% lower risk (29).

In one study, a group of patients with colorectal cancer were separated into two groups, those that engaged in leisurely activity and those that did not. Those who were active were at a 31% lower risk of death than those who were not (28).

For men, a study was performed in which it was discovered that those who were diagnosed with localized prostate cancer and then participated in higher levels of exercise had reduced their chances of premature death due to their diagnosis or to any other disease or cause.

Another study was done in which women with breast cancer proceeded to walk at an average pace of 2 to 2.9 mph on a treadmill for an hour each week. The results showed that those involved had a 35% to 49% lower risk of death from breast cancer.

Bottom Line: By escaping a sedentary life by walking more frequently using a treadmill desk, you can reduce a premature death even when already diagnosed with a serious ailment such as cancer.

8 Tips for Beginners

Once you decide to acquire a treadmill desk, there are some things to consider in regards to maintenance and how to produce the best results for your health:

1. What Do You Need?

First you will need a treadmill. A regular treadmill can be used if you already have one at home, but you may not be able to perform any work on it depending on the model. The motor in a regular treadmill can also burn out if it runs at slow speeds for too long. Treadmill desks, on the other hand, are designed for steady and extended paces (19, 20). Walking treadmills, like those from Lifespan, are ideal for this use.

You will then need a desk which should be able to hover over the treadmill to avoid the vibrations that may come from it (10). It should be rectangular and large enough to fit everything you need for your job such as monitors, speakers, lighting, and other office equipment. For a desk that moves up and down for a sitting option, adjustable desks can be found at IKEA.

If you intend to perform more intricate work, consider using a touchpad instead of a mouse when using your treadmill desk. You may also want to think about purchasing an arm to move your computer monitor from one side to the other if you are also using this desk to sit down at. This way, one side could be for walking or standing on your treadmill and the other side for sitting.

For health reasons, you should also either know where your office’s water coolers are or have your own water bottle to stave off dehydration from consistent walking (13). Also, have a fan or a wind tower handy to reduce sweating in your place of business (18).

Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes to protect you feet. If you feel pains early on in your exercise, you may not be able to last very long, will be discouraged to work out in the future, and may cause injuries to yourself.

Bottom Line: The essentials for a treadmill desk is either a regular or walking treadmill and a rectangular desk that hovers over the treadmill and has the ability to move up and down. A touchpad and adjustable arm may be helpful for intricate computer tasks. Water bottles, fans, and walking shoes are for health purposes.

2. Where Should You Put a Treadmill Desk?

Where you wish to put your treadmill desk is up to you. However, if you choose to place the treadmill desk against the wall, make sure that the desk is steady against it. Otherwise, things may fall over and injuries may occur (10).

It is recommended that you do not position the treadmill desk beside a window because the light coming from it may cause a glare at your workstation and it may give added heat, which will leave you sweaty and unwilling to walk (15).

Where to put the treadmill in regards to the desk is also your choice. You have the option to either have it rise up from behind the desk, through the middle, or rest against the front. All of these treadmill positions are safe for walking.

When you plug your treadmill in, have it in its own outlet and all of your work equipment in another. Having too many electronics plugged in one outlet can blow a circuit breaker.

If a circuit breaks while you are using the treadmill, the machine will slow or stop unexpectedly, which can cause an accident. It will also prevent your other work equipment, such as your computer, from shutting down as well.

Bottom Line: You can place your treadmill desk wherever you’d like, preferably not near a window due to glares and heat. If you have it near a wall, make sure the desk is steady against it. You have options in regards to where the treadmill is in relation to the desk. As a precaution, have the treadmill plugged into its own outlet.

3. Starting Out

Regardless of size or health conditions, anyone who is not used to walking for long periods of time should ease their way into using a treadmill desk.

It is best to work out in intervals at the beginning of the transition. Try walking for a few minutes and then sit the rest of your shift or day. You can change the duration and consistently of these intervals anytime you are ready (11, 12). For example, you could walk for an hour one day and an hour and 45 minutes the next day.

By starting slow and training your body to handle the exercise, you will not strain your muscles and you will be able to walk longer overtime (19, 20).

You should also start out slow in regards to the tasks you will be doing whilst walking. Simple activities such as browsing the web, watching videos, and reading are best for beginners. More intricate activities like typing, writing, and editing can be accomplished with time and practice.

Keep in mind that since you are moving around more than you were before, you will be exerting more energy and become hungrier because of it. To replenish your energy, eat moderately.

Bottom Line: To get accustomed with using a treadmill desk, start out slowly. Begin with walking about an hour a day and work up from there. Perform small tasks alongside walking to get adjusted to the dual-activities. Be prepared to become hungrier after the constant exercise.

4. How to Use a Treadmill Desk While Working

Always remember that the purpose of a treadmill desk is to keep you moving throughout the day. The best approach for this is to maintain a slow pace of about 2-2.5 mph every time you are using the machine. This prevents you from burning out too early and helps to avoid obvious exhaustion during phone calls or interactions with coworkers (11).

Wireless headsets benefit those who use the phone regularly. Other phones may tangle with other equipment, fall, and get damaged. A wireless headset gives you greater ease in movement and will reduce the possibility of damages and injuries (14).

Determine what to do if someone wants to speak with you directly while you are using the treadmill. Depending on the importance of the conversation, how long the conversation could last, and who is talking to you, you may choose to: keep walking, step on the landing strips while the treadmill still runs, or pause the treadmill and step off (15, 20).

Some people may prefer the last option since the noise of the machine and the fact that you are using it while talking to them may be considered rude or distracting.

Using the incline on the treadmill should also be avoided because it may cause eventual sweating, making you and those around you uncomfortable, and can drain you of energy, which can affect your productivity (12).

If you cannot or do not want to walk anymore, but you do not want to sit either, you can use the device as a standing desk. It may not be as effective as a treadmill desk, but it is still better than sitting (18).

Bottom Line: When using your treadmill desk at work, keep your pace slow and steady to prevent sweating and exhaustion. A process should be determined in how to interact with others during your workout sessions. Avoid using the incline so you can have a longer workout and consider standing if too tired.

5. Noise Control

The treadmill or the exercise that is performed on it may cause noise that can disrupt those around you and those you will be talking on the phone with. Be prepared to silence these noises if issues should arise between you, your coworkers, and your clients because of it (10).

First make sure that the screws of the desk have been tightly bolted. Any loose screws may be the source of rickety sounds (16).

Next, is to soften the sounds of your footsteps against the treadmill. Place acoustic foam panels under the treadmill base. Not only will this absorb the sound of your footsteps, but the it will help with the belt friction and the motor noise as well.

As for the beeps of the treadmill’s control buttons, tape gauze over the speakers. In some cases, you can disable these sounds by consulting your treadmill manual.

Lastly, a treadmill can make a lot of noise if it is not properly lubricated. Make sure you lubricate your treadmill often to prevent unwanted noise and possible damage to the machine.

Bottom Line: To soften the sounds your treadmill can make, make sure the screws of the desk have been bolted in tightly, there are acoustic foam panels under the treadmill base, the sounds of the device have been disabled, and the machine has been properly lubricated.

6. Treadmill Desk Maintenance

Poorly lubricated treadmills can waste 10-30% more electricity than regularly lubricated ones. The motor or controller, which are both costly to replace, can also burn out more quickly if the machine is not lubricated and is used too often (16).

It is recommended that you lubricate your treadmill every 40 hours of use or every 3 months, whichever comes first (17).

Some suggested lubricants to use on your treadmill are silicone spray, silicone squeeze tube, and wax sticks. More people prefer the silicone spray because it is easy to handle and to clean, but if you wish to use the wax sticks, you will need to walk on your treadmill for about 20 minutes before applying it.

iMovR’s EasySpray Lubricant is best for most treadmills and is not petroleum-based so it contains no harmful chemicals.

To lubricate the treadmill, you will need to reach under the belt of the device. If your treadmill is from Lifespan, you can use a spatula to lift the belt whereas treadmills from iMovR and TreadDesk can be lifted with your fingers.

You may have to loosen the belt and then retighten it again once you have lubricated the area. When you do this, that is is good time to check the tension of the belt. This is to ensure that the belt has not be moved from use or overtime. Adjust it, if necessary.

Bottom Line: Lubrication is important in the maintenance of a treadmill. It should be done every 40 hours or 3 months and should be lubricated with a silicone spray, silicone squeeze-tube, or wax sticks. Use a spatula or your fingers to lift up the belt and apply the area. Make sure the belt is put back in its place when finished.

7. How to Get the Best Results

If your intention is to burn more calories or to lose weight, it is suggested that you do not heat the area where the treadmill desk is located. If it is colder and you are sitting down, your body will shiver and burn more calories. However, when you are walking, the temperature in the room will feel more moderate and comfortable, which will motivate you to continue the exercise (13).

Even more calories can be lost if you increase the deck angle, not the incline of the treadmill. Place something under the front of the treadmill to increase this angle. This will also reduce the power the treadmill will use (18, 20).

To improve your overall health, do not forget to exercise even when you are not working or at your treadmill desk. Each person should exercise (be above their resting heart rate) for about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Walking on a treadmill desk during your work hours is only part of that.

Bottom Line: To lose weight, it is best to keep your treadmill desk in a cool area and to increase the deck angle of the machine, not the incline. You should also keep yourself moving outside of your work shifts and away from the treadmill desk so that you can lose more calories and keep you healthy.

8. Preventing Injuries

Since you will be walking for a long period of time, stretch before and after workouts and during breaks. This will reduce sore muscles and stiffness (14, 19).

Before using your treadmill, make sure that all cords and cables from your office equipment are off the machine. These hindrances may cause tripping.

When the belt is moving, be careful when stepping on it. To avoid flying backwards, it is best to turn the treadmill off, step on it, and then turn it back on.

To prevent both injuries and discomfort while on the treadmill desk, your wrists should lie flat by your keyboard, your elbows should form a 90-degree angle, and your eyes should be at the height of your monitor (11).

Though you should not be running on the treadmill while working, even steady exercise such as walking can lead to dehydration if not careful. Dehydration can result in muscle spasms, weakness, kidney failure, headaches, nausea, and lethargy. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to rehydrate (13, 20).

Bottom Line: To prevent injuries while using your treadmill desk, stretch and drink water often throughout the day, leave all of your cords and cables off of the machine, be careful when stepping onto the belt when it is moving, and make sure you have the right posture as you walk and work at the same time.

Conclusion

Having a treadmill desk and walking on it daily while performing your usual work activities can provide an assortment of benefits. From losing weight to preventing cancers not to mention promoting mental stability and lengthening lifespans, walking longer and keeping yourself moving and productive throughout the day is truly effective in maintaining good health.

For those living a sedentary life and are feeling the effects of it on their body and mind, a treadmill desk is definitely worth considering.

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