Do Treadmill Desks Really Work as a Cardio Workout?

Do Treadmill Desks Really Work as a Cardio Workout?

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If you work a desk job, chances are you spend long stretches of your day sitting at your desk without much movement.

Unfortunately, research suggests this type of sedentary behavior may have a negative impact on metabolic health and mortality risk. Sitting too long has also been associated with back pain. (Further research is required, however, to determine whether sedentary behavior actually causes these health risks.)

You probably don’t have much say in how much time you spend at your desk, but you may be able to keep your desk job from wreaking havoc on your health. That’s where treadmill desks come in.

A treadmill desk is an adapted workstation or computer desk that allows you to walk on a treadmill instead of sitting in a chair. That’s right, you can actually get work done — or pretend to get work done while cruising social media — while burning calories.


Do Treadmill Desks Really Work?

A treadmill desk certainly works — as long as you commit to actually using it. “The real solution is not just combining a desk with a treadmill,” says Rocky Snyder, CSCS, CAFS. “It is to provide the body [with] novelty, so it does not continue to create poor movement patterns over long periods of time.”

In other words, a treadmill desk is effective simply because it changes up sedentary behavior — and walking while working is a healthier habit than sitting still. “You burn more calories walking than you do sitting,” Snyder says. “Over the long run, loads more calories will be used on the treadmill than will be in a chair.”

Whether a treadmill desk can help you will also depend on the height of the desk. One of the potential benefits of using a treadmill desk is to avoid poor movement patterns, so it’s important that your treadmill desk is at a height where you can work comfortably without slouching — otherwise, you could end up with symptoms similar to “text neck.”

man slouching at his desk

Are Treadmill Desks Safe?

Treadmill desks are relatively safe, if used appropriately.

Keep in mind that using a treadmill desk requires some serious multitasking, so you shouldn’t expect to be doing intense workouts like HIIT training on a treadmill desk. “There is no need to try marathon training programs when you’re sending out emails or working at your desk on a project,” Snyder says.

Instead, start off at a slow pace — just like you would with any new form of exercise — while you get used to walking while working. If you stumble or lose your balance, most under-desk treadmills have an emergency shut off switch.

What Is the Best Treadmill Desk?

Finding the right treadmill desk is really about knowing your own preferences and personal needs. But there are two main points you’ll want to focus on when looking for your walking treadmill desk:

  • Noise level. “Noise level is a big consideration if you are trying to get work done and need to focus,” Snyder says. “If you’re on conference calls, you don’t need a droning buzz in the background.”
  • Size. Look for a treadmill desk that lets you work comfortably, without bending over awkwardly.
  • Portability. If a full treadmill desk isn’t an option in your office, you can set up your own with an under-desk treadmill and an adjustable-height desk converter.

3 of the Best Treadmill Desks

These treadmill desks lead the way in comfort, power, noise reduction, and affordability.

TR1200-DT7 Treadmill Desk (Amazon)

woman working on a laptop at a treadmill desk

This treadmill desk workstation includes an under-desk treadmill with an adjustable height standing desk. Designed for the office space, this treadmill desk features a quiet 2.25 HP motor, impact-absorbing shocks to lessen walking noise, and a 20″ x 50″ walking surface. Track your activity with Bluetooth-enabled step-counting system and console readouts for time, distance, steps, calories, and speed.

iMovR ThermoTread GT Desk Treadmill (Amazon)

man working on computer at a treadmill desk

With a deck height under 5 inches, this treadmill base fits under any standing desk. The touchscreen LCD console not only tracks distance, speed, steps, and calories, but also monitors how much time you spend standing, sitting, and walking. And with an ultra-quiet fan and compression shock absorbers, this compact treadmill is designed to give you a workout without disturbing your coworkers.

LifeSpan TR800 Treadmill Desk (Amazon)

LifeSpan TR800 Treadmill Desk

This treadmill-and-desk combo is adjustable from 33.5″ to 52.5″ so you can find the ideal height for ergonomic positioning, and the 29″ x 38″ desk is wide enough to fit all your office supplies and computer. Console readouts track distance, calories, time, and step count, and you can wirelessly sync your fitness data to your phone using LifeSpan’s free Active Trac app.