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Review: Why the office treadmill desk can fight your sitting blahs (Includes first-hand account)

But I soon find myself easing into a walking groove that has me forgetting about the multitasking activities. I forget that my breath is coming shorter and shorter as the minutes tick on, especially when I bump up the treadmill’s speed to 3.0. Sure, this is no gym-type speed, but I’m in my work clothes and typing on my laptop, and the combo of walking while working can be jarring at first, but I don’t find the experience disturbing.

Instead, after using this treadmill desk for several months, I can safely say it’s one of the few times I regularly excercise during work hours, apart from the infrequent visits to a resto a few minutes away to grab lunch.

And if anything can get my body moving and out of the sitting position that cripples so many of us 9-to-5ers, than I’m all thumbs-up for it.

The LifeSpan unit is quite basic in its design: A treadmill runs under a table-top area where you can place a laptop or anything else you’d want to write on. A control panel lets you choose the speed of the treadmill and adjust the height of the desk. The panel is also Bluetooth-enabled, if you want you can wirelessly sync and track activity data with LifeSpan apps.

Control panel of the LifeSpan treadmill desk.

Control panel of the LifeSpan treadmill desk.
David Silverberg

The info you get natively are what you’d expect from most treadmills: time of session, calories lost, distance covered. You can input presets to keep your settings intact throughout the year, a useful add-on for those counting their lost calories.

When you’re on the treadmill, you can adjust the desk part so your hands feel comfortable on your laptop or writing pad, but it was helpful to rig a second screen to my laptop, placed atop a blue box. That way, my head was level to the screen and I didn’t need to look down at all, straining my neck.

Using the LifeSpan treadmill desk  adding a second screen connected to my laptop.

Using the LifeSpan treadmill desk, adding a second screen connected to my laptop.
David Silverberg

Is the treadmill desk right for you? Looking at employees at our office, several truly enjoyed using the treadmill as they worked, while others didn’t even want to try it for fear walking would interfere with their typing. That’s natural. Treadmill desks are so new there isn’t a mountain of social referrals from friends who hype up its efficacy. Also, many of us associate with treadmills with working out, and workouts are linked to gym time. Perhaps treadmill desks could be a hard sell to professionals who want to keep their exercise out of their office.

Control panel of the LifeSpan treadmill desk.

Control panel of the LifeSpan treadmill desk.
David Silverberg

But I can confidently reassure naysayers that treadmill desks are a simple way to help fighting the muscle tightness and antsy feelings we desk workers often face. I don’t use the LifeSpan for longer than 45 minutes per session, and I never use it all day. Heck, I enjoy a good sit too! But with the many reports of how sitting is boosting obesity rates across North America, it can’t hurt to stroll for a portion of your day.

This new tech doesn’t come cheap: The LifeSpan I tested retails for $2400 (Canadian) and their other models are in a similar price range. But some companies are slating some of their budget into healthy initiatives for staff, so a few convincing words to your CFO could be just the ticket to snag a treadmill desk.

Another oft-overlooked benefit of a treadmill desk: It can often be the new water cooler, where staff gather to talk about, well, exercising and fitness. That social element can elevate the treadmill desk beyond niche gadgetry to a useful accepted tool to add a healthy regimen to daily work life.

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