Like many good things in life, I was first introduced to the idea of a treadmill desk via our friend, TikTok. Known as “The Treadmill Girl” on TikTok, Reagan Poltrok documents her life working from home with her treadmill desk, where she regularly logs anywhere from 15-20 miles per day working and walking.
I’ve been working from home for over a decade now (even before it was cool, shoutout to all my fellow OGers out there!), but I was looking for some ways to combat that gross sitting-around-all-day feeling I was getting at the end of a work day. I know that staying active really benefits my mental health, as well, of course, as almost everyone’s physical health, so I decided to see if I could pull off the treadmill desk trend. I’m a health writer who does a lot of research for work, so I had some serious doubts if a treadmill desk would actually work for me—but I am happy to report, it absolutely does and I am so happy I made the investment.
Here are seven things I learned in trying the treadmill desk trend, including how it’s benefited me personally and some things you should consider before buying one for yourself.
1. The treadmill matters.
I bought this treadmill walking pad solely on the recommendation of another freelance writer who said she loved it and I’ve been incredibly happy with it. I’ve had my walking pad since July with no issues at all—it was ready to go right out of the box, comes with a free app that controls the power and speed, and included calibration tools with it (so you can make sure the walking pad is actually set to the middle.)
The treadmill folds up (see the second picture, below) when I want to sit down at my desk very easily, but it is on the heavier side so if you have any wrist issues or problems bending, be aware. I personally leave it under my desk so I don’t have to move it anywhere else because it is harder to move (but it does have wheels.)
I will say that this treadmill is one of the more expensive options and I did watch Amazon for a while after I bought mine to see if it would go on sale so my sister could snag one for herself—and it did! So if you’re interested in buying one, I’d say watch Prime days or holidays, because she was able to get hers for almost $200 off. And if you’re a freelancer like myself and own your own business, you should definitely check with your accountant if you could write off your treadmill as an office expense. Some companies also offer a stipend for remote workers who want to invest in their health.
2. You’ll have to adjust your desk.
Obviously, a crucial part of making a treadmill desk work is adapting your desk space too, since you will be at a higher height and, obviously, walking while you work. I once again turned to Amazon to make this happen—I already had a desk that I use and love, so I searched for a tower that could adjust up and down for my laptop and keyboard instead.
I found this one to be the most helpful for my personal space—it matched my decor and was minimalist enough that I felt it blended in with my desk instead of being very obtrusive. It has wooden slats with shelves that slide in and out; when I’m walking, I use the highest setting and when I want to sit, I move the laptop lower. Easy-peasy.
3. Accessories are key.
Along with an adjustable laptop tower, I also found that accessories were very much necessary to making my new set-up work. Primarily, walking called for wrist comfort. So I also threw a wrist pad for my keyboard and mouse in my cart and it’s made a huge difference. If you don’t have them already, you’ll also want to be sure you have a separate keyboard and mouse.
And while not a tech accessory, I’d highly recommend a big ol’ water bottle with a sturdy handle, because you will get thirsty and a handle is key for taking a drink without falling on your face. After trying a few, I finally broke down and bought the influencer-inspired Stanley when it went on sale. (Spoiler: I’m ashamed to admit I absolutely love it.)
4. Static electricity is real.
Unfortunately, my newfound accessories also came with a rather unpleasant surprise: static electricity. Turns out, leaning heavily on a wrist pad while walking at a furious rate does generate some power and I soon found myself getting “zapped” when touching the metal in my keyboard. A quick Reddit search later and I learned that I was not alone in this struggle. So I added yet another accessory to my repertoire: a keyboard cover to cut down on static. I won’t say I still don’t get the occasional zap, but this has cut it down significantly.
But using the pad has come with a few learning curves, which I’d love to share if you think the piece might be helpful. Some of the tips would include the accessories I’ve learned are necessary (static electricity is real, my friends), the tools you need to set up your workspace, such as wrist pads and a freestanding monitor, and even what to wear. (Biker shorts are my new friend.)
5. Make those steps count.
The walking pad I bought counts my steps in its own app, which is super handy, but if you wear a smartwatch, it won’t necessarily track the steps accurately if you aren’t moving your wrists as you walk. To get around that, some people wear their smartwatch on their leg instead to get credit for those steps. You can buy a longer strap or like I did, a pouch to pop your watch in. Personally, I don’t mind just using the app, but if it bothers you, be sure to make those steps count!
6. Keep it comfortable.
Here’s the rather impressive thing about a treadmill walking pad: that thing can really get truckin’. I can’t speak for all walking pads, of course, but mine can go up to 4.5 miles/hour, which is actually a pretty good pace when you’re walking and working. Everyone says to start out slow and work your way up and I actually found that I was able to work my way up pretty quickly. In some ways, walking faster actually helps you balance more than trying to go super slowly. So my advice is simply to walk at a comfortable pace for you.
I walk when I feel like I need to move or if I’m skipping a workout, so no two days are the same, but my highest average so far is 7 miles in one day. Pretty cool! I also found out very quickly that especially in the warm months, I needed two things to ensure I stayed comfortable on my treadmill: biker shorts because thigh rub is real and a fan. I actually worked up a pretty good sweat on some days, so now I keep a fan stashed in my office, just in case. Bonus points when it helps drown out the sound of my five kids fighting in the house. If you plan on doing a lot of walking or have any circulation issues, compression socks are highly recommended as well.
7. Remember: it’s not all or nothing.
When I first got my treadmill, I was all in. I was determined to break my record day after day and annoyed my family with constant updates about how many miles I was logging every day. (They loved it.) I felt better, physically and mentally, instead of languishing all day in my office chair.
Then, I suffered a few physical and mental health setbacks and I resorted back to working tucked away on my couch or curled up in my chair. I felt guilt and shame as the walking pad sat alone and unused in my office. I went so long without using it, in fact, that it reset itself and I had to reprogram the whole darn thing when I finally worked up the nerve to turn it on again.
It sounds silly, but then one day it dawned on me: using the treadmill desk didn’t have to be all or nothing. I didn’t have to log 7 miles every time I used it. I didn’t even have to log 1 mile. I could use the desk to benefit me, not prove anything. So now, I am comfortable using my treadmill desk in a balanced way. I prefer to stay cozy in the mornings, working in a chair while I sip my coffee and then, when the afternoon boredom sets in, I can switch on the treadmill, pop on a podcast, and mix it up a little. I’ve found it’s the perfect blend and I don’t need to force myself to do anything more than that. Any step is better than no step at all, right?
Overall, I am thrilled with my walking pad and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone work-at-homer who is looking for a way to shake off some of the dust. I know it has definitely improved my physical and mental health and it helps keep me moving through the afternoon when all I want to do is crawl back in bed. (Although full disclosure: sometimes, that’s an important part of health too!)
SHOPPING LIST: Converting Your Office To Support A Treadmill Desk
- Walking pad for under your desk
- Adjustable laptop tower
- Separate keyboard and mouse
- Wrist and mouse pad
- Keyboard cover to reduce static
- Walking shoes
- Water bottle with handle for easy sipping
- Compression socks
- Smartwatch leg holder
- Fan if you’re speed walking
- Biker shorts for thick thighs
- Freestanding monitor + stand