Are Those Under-Desk Treadmills Actually Worth It?

The 411 on walking while you work.

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Are under-desk treadmills worth it? Here's what to know.
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While the idea of walking while you work sounds great in theory, it’s tough to tell if under-desk treadmills are worth it. Instead of going through all the effort to multitask (and potentially tripping when an infuriating Slack comes your way), isn’t easier to just go on a hot girl walk after you send your last email? Still, if you’ve seen all the uber-productive work-from-homers using treadmill desks on TikTok — where the hashtag has over 2 billion views — you might be inspired to give it a go.

Under-desk treadmills have become a popular way for both in-office and WFH folks to balance activity with productivity, says Rob Wagener, a NASM-certified personal trainer. The idea is that walking while you work is an easy way to be active throughout the day and get your steps in, while also minimizing your risk of health issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle, he tells Bustle.

To use a treadmill while you tackle your to-do list, you’ll need an adjustable desk that can be raised and lowered. That way you can lift it up to standing height while you stroll and lower it back down when you’re ready to sit. You’ll also need a slim walking pad that can be pushed directly under your desk. These extra-sleek treadmills don’t have handrails and are light enough to be moved in and out of your workspace throughout the day. There are also two-in-one built-in treadmill desks for those who really want to commit.

Here, experts break down the pros and cons of under-desk treadmills to help you decide if they’re worth it.

The Benefits Of Under-Desk Treadmills

Of course, the most obvious benefit of a treadmill desk is that it helps you move more, says Sandra Gail Frayna, PT, a physical therapist and founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy & Sports. Getting more walks in, whether you stroll for 10 minutes or two hours, is a gentle way to strengthen your muscles and improve your cardiovascular functioning, which can also reduce your risk of chronic diseases. It can also boost your mood and decrease your stress levels, says Frayna, all thanks to the endorphin release that happens during exercise.

What’s more, walking while you work can help you stay focused — something that a lot of TikTokers point to as an added bonus. This might be thanks to the way exercise increases your energy, notes Frayna, or because moving adds a little spice to your work day so you’re less likely to feel antsy or bored.

What To Know About Treadmill Desks

As for the potential downsides, the combo of walking and typing isn’t always the easiest thing to master, so don’t be surprised if you feel shaky or uncoordinated when you first try a treadmill desk. It can take time to adjust everything to the right height and speed, and to get used to typing and taking calls while moving, Wagener says.

Some TikTokers note that your computer screen can appear wobbly as you take steps because your body is in motion. According to Wagener, this movement-induced distraction might make it tough to get stuff done — and if it’s hard to get used to this, you might ditch the contraption.

It’s also possible to overdo it, especially if you get on a roll and walk for hours without a break. Walking is a form of exercise, after all, so you could wind up with sore muscles. And if you don’t wear the proper footwear — or walk all day in your socks — you can also end up with blisters.

When trying a walking desk for the first time, Frayna recommends starting off with a low-speed setting while you get used to your pace. You can also begin with five-minute chunks to see how it feels. “Don’t worry about walking long distances,” she says. “As long as you’re making use of the treadmill and increasing your daily activity, it will still improve an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.”

Are Treadmill Desks Worth It?

Whether or not these are for you totally depends on a variety of factors, says Wagener. While there are tons of benefits that come with walking whilst you work, it ultimately comes down to individual needs. You could always take your hot girl walks elsewhere.

Studies referenced:

Larson, MJ. (2015). Slow walking on a treadmill desk does not negatively affect executive abilities: an examination of cognitive control, conflict adaptation, response inhibition, and post-error slowing. Front Psychol. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00723.

Matzer, F. (2018). Combining walking and relaxation for stress reduction-A randomized cross-over trial in healthy adults. Stress Health. doi: 10.1002/smi.2781.

Omura, JD. (2019). Walking as an Opportunity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. Prev Chronic Dis. doi: 10.5888/pcd16.180690.

Podrekar, N. (2021). Effects of cycle and treadmill desks on energy expenditure and cardiometabolic parameters in sedentary workers: review and meta-analysis, International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics. doi: 10.1080/10803548.2018.1562688.


Rob Wagener, NASM-certified personal trainer

Sandra Gail Frayna, PT, physical therapist founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy & Sports

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