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My treadmill desk makes me happier—here's why

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My treadmill desk makes me happier—here's why

By Stacie Taylor · April 8, 2021
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I love my home office chair—deeply. It feels like sitting in a hug. 

Before 2020, I would only see it a few hours a day. The rest of the time, I'd work in co-working spaces and coffee shops, which I walk to. It kept me active.

The pandemic changed that—my chair became part of my body. I coded there, I had meetings there, I ate my meals there, I happy hour'd with friends there, and I watched Netflix there. I rocked my whiny kids there. I did everything in that chair, and my body started to feel it.

We all know that exercise plays an important role in our mental and physical well-being. As a car-less city-dweller, losing the ability to walk around and leave my tiny apartment when the world started to shut down weighed heavily on my mental and physical health. And, as a mom who now had more than one full-time job, I just didn't have time to dedicate to exercise.

So I bought a treadmill for under my standing desk. I knew I needed something to get me moving, and I needed to be able to do it while momming, working, or hanging out with friends on Zoom. I needed to get my butt out of that comfy chair and get moving. 

Stacie's treadmill under her desk

It worked! I love this treadmill like one of my children, and I think you should buy one. Here's why, and a few tips I have for setting up your own treadmill desk. Feel free to march in place while you read. 

If you're looking for a recommendation, here's the under-desk treadmill I have. I love it because it matches my desk and has some bells and whistles, but there are plenty of more affordable options out there that are also excellent.

The benefits of a treadmill desk

So, why have a treadmill at my desk? I have a few reasons. 

  • I can burn calories while I work. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to work, parent, occasionally socialize, and work out. The treadmill desk lets me do two of those things at once, which makes me feel less guilty about all the Zoom happy hours. 

  • I put less pressure on my back.  Moving your legs can mean less pressure on your back than simply standing at your desk. Beware if you have existing joint pains, though—a yoga ball chair might be better in that case. 

  • I feel better. You've heard it (and probably ignored it) so many times: exercise releases endorphins, which means you'll feel happier. We all could use a boost these days, so don't overlook the upside here. 

There are more benefits, I'm sure, but wow do these ones stand out to me. It's been life-changing. 

When should you walk? 

I don't walk all day—I'm picky about it. Some tasks are better with walking, some aren't. Here's what works for me. 

  • I walk during informational meetings. You know those meetings where you're mostly listening, while occasionally sharing opinions? I walk during those ones, around 3.5 miles per hour.

  • I walk during simple tasks. Whether it's planning my day or catching up on some reading, some tasks don't require a lot of brainpower. That's a perfect time to do some walking. I do around 2 miles per hour. 

  • I walk during virtual dates with my friends. This sounds weird, but it's wonderful—especially if your friends have treadmills too. Go whatever speed you want—it largely depends on if you're drinking hot or cold beverages (I do not recommend sprinting with a latte). 

This is going to vary for you, obviously, but the important thing is not to do it all day—you'll get tired (and tired of it). I like to use it for less focus-necessary tasks: when it's time to focus on coding for a while, I go back to my comfy chair. This might be different for you—maybe the treadmill will get you into focus mode, for example. You'll have to define your own lines. 

Tips for your new treadmill desk

When your treadmill arrives, and you start using it, there will be an adjustment period—there sure was for me. Here are some things I learned. 

  • Warn your colleagues. You're going to be walking during meetings, which will be jarring at first. Be ready to explain yourself (send them a link to this article, maybe?). Your coworkers might judge you a little, but that's ok. They're jealous and probably a little sad because, you know, lack of exercise. 

  • Wear headphones. Your treadmill will be noisy. They just are. Make sure you've got good headphones, with noise-canceling, and that you wear them during the call. And mute yourself when you're not talking

  • Stay hydrated! Don't overlook this one—drink water, constantly. 

  • Mark your sweet spot. You'll be pulling your treadmill out from under your desk quite often, and eventually you'll figure out the exact place to put it. I recommend marking your floor with a little tape when you find that sweet spot. That way, you don't have to constantly fuss with awkward or dizzying angles. 

  • Take notes. Find your happy speeds and write them down, so you don't have to experiment every time you start running. 

  • Wear good shoes. I can't overstate this: uncomfortable shoes are going to make this miserable. Wear something you'd wear for a long walk. 

  • Get a portable treadmill. You need something that's easy to tuck away when it's time to sit again. You don't want it to be a pain to roll out, or you'll never use it. I slide mine under my desk. My partner tips his up on its side beside his desk. Find something that works for your setup. 

I honestly love my treadmill desk—it makes every work day better. I hope you get one and also love it. 

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Stacie Taylor

Stacie Taylor is a frontend engineer at Zapier and co-founder of The Collab Lab. She loves building pretty things for the web, mentoring early career engineers, and coffee shops. Catch her on Twitter at @the_real_stacie.

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