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Should You Buy an Under-Desk Treadmill?

06 February 2024

There is no doubt that sitting for extended periods of time wreaks havoc on our health. In fact, the WHO (World Health Organization) recently modified its definition and guidelines regarding physical activity solely to account for the dire health consequences brought about by prolonged sitting.

Interestingly, a lot of people have started to turn to the very thing (for the most part) that has forced them into this sedentary lifestyle – technology – to help them combat it and inculcate more physical activity. One such solution is the under-desk treadmill (also called the treadmill desk).

What is an Under-Desk Treadmill?

Under-desk treadmill is a treadmill that does not have any arm rails, and is installed under a standing desk so that users can walk while working. The devices are available in many different shapes, sizes, and qualities – and some are more capable of handling the repetitive walking motion than others. The Under Desk Treadmill 14, for example, has a non-slip shock-absorbing running belt that provides a safe and effective cushion for your muscles and needs, and a premium running experience.

Benefits of an Under-Desk Treadmill:

Considering that work is the primary culprit behind the sitting disease, an under-desk treadmill can be a pretty advantageous solution. Below are the key benefits of using an under-desk treadmill.

Prevents Prolonged Sitting:

The first benefit of an under-desk treadmill is also the most obvious one – it makes sure that you keep moving and do not keep sitting for too long.

According to Cindy Lin (the associate director of Clinical Innovation at the Washington Medicine University's Sports Institute), sitting for more than six hours a day increases the risk of an early death. Lin emphasizes on the importance of finding innovative ways to stay active at work, and she believes that treadmill desks are one such way. Alongside burning calories and keeping you moving, Lin says that an under-desk treadmill can also help alleviate back and neck pain. This is because prolonged sitting – especially in front of computers – can lead to back or neck strain.

Reduces Stress and Improves Mood:

Consistent physical activity has been associated with an improvement in mood, which can also translate to a reduction in anxiety and other mental health problems.

This is because exercise causes our brains to release the feel-good neurotransmitter called endorphins which, alongside boosting our mood and triggering a natural high, also reduce the perception of pain and make us more pain-tolerant.

Another way that exercise can help improve our mood is by allowing us to reach our fitness/health goals, which enhances our confidence and self-esteem. Other than that, working out can also prove to be a temporary but effective distraction from our worries and concerns.

Enhances Productivity:

The UMN (University of Minnesota) conducted a research study that assessed the impact of using a treadmill during the workday.

This study, which was also published in the Obesity journal, concluded that people who used an under-desk treadmill for a year experienced improvements in both health and productivity (once they had fully adjusted to the addition of the treadmill).

The study further stated that the exercise days were associated with improved time-management, mental performance, and work performance.

Enhances Creativity:

Exercise has a directly proportional relationship with creativity. A research study conducted at the Stanford University required participants to take a test where they had to rapidly come up with alternative use-cases for common everyday objects (such as a button). They were then asked to complete a similar test, but this time, while walking on a treadmill at a comfortable pace.

The study concluded that pretty much every student performed significantly better while using the treadmill. On average, while walking on the treadmill, students were able to come up with 60% more uses for every object compared to when they took the test seated.

Improves Memory:

A study revealed that using under-desk treadmills improved attention and short-term memory. This study simulated an office situation, and the participants were required to go through a series of emails and a text message. The participants were then asked to imagine that they needed to report back to their supervisors about the contents of the emails and text message after 40 minutes. The participants read the emails and text message, and were required to decide the emails that they would open and summarize for the supervisor. The participants were divided into two groups: one group completed the assigned tasks on a conventional desk, while the other did it while walking on an under-desk treadmill at 1.4 mph (miles per hour).

After the 40-minute period, the participants were asked a series of true/false questions about the contents of the text message and emails. The treadmill group, on average, answered the questions with a 35% higher accuracy than the conventional-desk group.

The researchers then conducted brain scans of either group, and found that the brains of the treadmill group were associated with more alpha brain-wave activity. The sitting group, meanwhile, had a higher theta brain-wave activity. This evidence confirmed the findings of previous studies that revealed that better memory performance is associated with higher alpha power and lower theta power.

Optimizes Body Weight:

Walking, like any other physical activity, causes you to burn calories – even though not as many calories as you might burn while biking or running. If one of your reasons behind using a treadmill desk is achieving a weight-loss target, you can shed more calories by increasing the intensity level, increasing the walking duration, or increasing the incline.

That said, it is best to take things slow during the first week or two, especially if you have no prior experience with under-desk treadmills. Once you feel that you are adequately comfortable, you can gradually increase the intensity, duration, and incline.

Manages Blood Pressure:

Any kind of exercise – walking included, improves the flow of blood throughout the body. This improved blood flow means that the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood, which leads to a reduction in blood pressure.

A study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine revealed that just a single walking session can reduce blood pressure for the next 22 hours. Individuals that make exercising a part of their daily schedules can witness a dip of up to 10 mmHg in both their diastolic and systolic blood pressure readings.

Helps Manage – and Reduce the Risk of – Type 2 Diabetes:

Type 2 diabetics suffer from chronic hyperglycemia (high blood glucose/sugar), primarily because their bodies are unable to effectively use the insulin being produced by their pancreases (insulin is the hormone which mixes with glucose to normalize our blood sugar and provide us with energy. By improving metabolism, exercise helps type 2 diabetics make better use of the insulin being produced in their bodies, thereby reducing blood sugar and reducing the risk of long-term complications caused by chronic hyperglycemia.

Helps Maintain Bone Strength:

Exercises where you stay upright while working against gravity (weight-bearing exercises), are excellent for maintaining and improving bone strength.

Weight-bearing exercises can be either high-impact (such as running, jogging, dancing, and skipping) or low-impact (such as hiking, walking, using stair-steppers or elliptical machines, and low-intensity aerobics).

How to Use an Under-Desk Treadmill?

Before using an under-desk treadmill, make sure that:

The desk is secure and stable, and will not cause your work materials and tools to fall off

The speed is safe and comfortable for you

The treadmill has enough space so that you do not fall off the back

Other Tips for Using Under-Desk Treadmills:

1. Stay hydrated – working plus exercising means that it is incredibly easy for you to ignore your water intake requirements. However, if you want to make the most of your under-desk treadmill, you cannot skimp on water consumption.

2. Take notes (note down the ideal speed range for you, so that you do not have to conduct trial-and-error every time you use the treadmill)

3. Wearing good, comfortable shoes – uncomfortable shoes can make the whole experience uncomfortable and distressing to the point that you might never want to do it again. Choose footwear that you would use for a long walk

4. Pick and choose when to walk – you do not need to walk all day, especially if there are certain tasks that are harder to do while on the treadmill. You can, for instance, walk during informational meetings (where you are required to speak less and listen more) or simple tasks (such as planning the next day or doing some light reading)

Final Word:

To sum up, an under-desk treadmill is an excellent solution for people who find it hard to incorporate physical activity during their workdays. As is the case with any new workout routine, the initial few days might be a bit uncomfortable. However, while it is important that you start slow, you must not let this initial discomfort de-motivate you; once you get through this initial phase, your body will thank you – in many different ways – for introducing this change.