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My Treadmill Desk

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A long time ago I spotted a treadmill desk on Instructables, and was instantly intrigued. As someone who routinely spends 12+ hours a day on the computer, this seemed like a great way to get off my butt without sacrificing work time.

That first design I saw was essentially just a shelf mounted to a wall for the monitor, with another shelf erected around the treadmill arms to serve as a work surface for the keyboard:

Overall the setup seemed a bit clunky, though, and you had to face the treadmill into a wall, which wouldn't work with the small space we had to work with in our back room.

I talked to John about it, and we agreed that really all we needed was a single shelf to hold a laptop and mouse, since we planned to use this as a supplement to our office desktop, not a replacement. We started researching treadmills, and within two weeks found a nice fold-up model - a bit shorter than most, so it would fit our space - for $250 on Craig's List.

Here it is in our back room:

An eyesore, yes, but worth it.

Here's the worktop:

John's shelf is so seamless that some of our friends thought it actually came with the treadmill. I love how streamlined it is. He designed the shape of the wooden board to fit around the arms, rounded the edges with a router, and then painted the whole thing satin black. The entire process only took him a few hours, and cost $15.

The trick to such a simple design is finding a treadmill with arms that can support a shelf this way. As you can see, John used large U bolts to fit over the arms and support the shelf with wing nuts screwed in from below. It's extremely strong and stable. The wing nuts also make the shelf easy to remove, in case John wants the extra space for running. (Although so far he's been able to run even with it in place.)

John measured me ahead of time to make sure the keyboard would be at the best height for typing, so it's extremely comfortable to use. Typing and mousing are easy, because I walk at a casual stroll. The first day I walked and worked for four hours straight without a second's thought. Then I stepped off and nearly collapsed from jelly knees. Ha! After that I kept it to one-hour increments as I built up my stamina.

Here's another reason the eyesore is worth it:

In addition to working, I can also use the treadmill at night while watching TV with John. Multipurpose ftw!

We've had the treadmill desk now for nearly a year. I don't use it every day, but usually I'm on it no less than 3 or 4 times a week. The days I use it I'll walk for up to two hours, then switch to the sit-down desk for a while, and then go walk again. It's saved me from growing into my desk chair, and is also a great way to wake up from after-lunch drowsies.


So, there you have it! Now, who's off to find a used treadmill?



Posted by Jen at 3:26 PM Labels:

85 comments:

  1. This is BRILLIANT. I'm very impressed. Now only if I can get my boss to let me make one for using in lab...

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  2. What a fabulous idea! I think it's definitely a must-have for anyone who works at home. I wish I could have one at work in my office--would keep me from eating while I work as well as getting me off my butt.

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  3. Genius!! How much do you think John would charge for custom workshelves??? ;)

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  4. I just started sitting on an exercise ball in front of my desk and thus far have not subconsciously just propped up the ball with my feet (too often). My butt is sore, so it must be doing something. Hopefully that something is good for me; I suppose I'll find out in a while. The treadmill desk is an interesting idea, especially since my husband has been working standing up for the past month or so anyway.

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  5. Oh how I would love to be able to have something like this in my cube. I too am at the computer almost all day and there are many times when I feel like I've become a part of my desk...which was so not design for, well, most anyone who's shaped like almost anyone I know.

    And the shelf does look amazing, like it was meant to be attached to the treadmill. John did a great job with it.

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  6. This is really awesome Jen (and John, of course) I WISH I had more space to swing this in our house!

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  7. not me! but thats a great idea, and i will probably use it after i graduate from college. a treadmill in a dorm is not exactly a feasible option :)

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  8. Well this totally sucks ... I thought I had an original idea :))

    My husband is in the process of doing this for me with some changes to suit my purposes. Several years ago I was told I could no longer run or play soccer if I wanted knees when I was older and I was confined to walking for exercise. I tried walking on a treadmill and loved it. Then quickly discovered that the more my mind was engaged while on the treadmill the longer I would walk ... I've currrently walked my way through about 20 movies and several seasons of Survivor on DVD.

    Now my current needs are to use the computer for blogging whilst walking ... hence the need for a work space.

    The only thing that has not worked for me so far is reading a book while walking ... not sure why that is ...

    Your desk DOES look like it was an original part of the treadmill ... great work and great idea !!!

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  9. That is one of the funniest and most brilliant things I've ever seen! Love it! Xxx

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  10. I have a treadmill, but the arms aren't right. Hmmm.... How to adjust...

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  11. ooh! I've wanted to do something like this for quite a while. I really don't have room right now, but as soon as I do. It's a must.

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  12. That has to be the most awesome use of multi-tasking I've ever seen. My husband and I have been considering work-out equipment, but where would we keep it? And would we even have time for it? (We have 2 kids under 4 and a 3rd on the way).
    This idea rocks! Now if only I can figure out how to keep the kids off of it....

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  13. This is seriously my favorite post of yours EVER. I want a treadmill desk!

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  14. Am I truly the first commenter? Sweet!
    I think this is ingenious, and kudos to you for having it and actively making it a part of your life. I wish our office had one of these - at a desk for 8 hours of the day I'm slowly getting what they affectionately call "The Dreaded Spread" I have a borrowed elliptical in my apartment...but I have only used it five times. Working out and I just don't mix...it's like Book's reference in Firefly about "the special hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theatre."
    Working out is that special hell.

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  15. That is so cool! *wide eyed stare* Once again I am in awe of you & your hubby's handiness. I wonder if I could get one of these up & going at my house?

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  16. So. Freaking. Awesome! WTG, John!

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  17. Is it actually that easy to use?

    It just seems like it would be impossible to do anything more complicated than web browsing to me.

    I should really try one or something though.


    Maybe it's just because I'm not used to the idea of walking leisurely on a treadmill

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  18. This is a truly amazing idea.. My treadmill isn't getting much use at the moment, I think it's time to modify!

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  19. Looks like an amazing idea! But I just started going to the gym yesterday, so I guess I'll just stick with that for now :D

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  20. I love this idea!! I also LOVE that you also use a rollerball mouse with your laptop!! I get made fun of all the time for mine!

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  21. You are so lucky to have John!! My hubby is good at building things on a computer....in a 3D animation setting. He's a video game level designer. If we had a house that we owned I would make him be more like your hubby!

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  22. WOW! You and John just continue to rock my world--this is absolutely awesome! We only have a teeny little apartment now, but we've already decided to get a treadmill when we have a house and a little more room--and I bet my husband will TOTALLY go for this!

    Thanks for posting this! I've seen the "treadmil work station" several times around the interwebs, but seeing this modification and how you guys did it makes it so much more plausible, like it's something anyone could actually DO. Thanks so much!!

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  23. Now if you could just help me figure out how to use a computer while doing Wii Fit.

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  24. I want to do that SO bad! We don't have the room for a treadmill in our room though. We'll probably have to get a folding one too so that we can put it in the closet when it's not being used. :)

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  25. You know, steelcase sells "Walkstation" treadmill desks for about $4200-$4500.

    I like yours MUCH better.

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  26. This is so great! So many of us have very sedentary jobs nowadays, and this is an obvious issue with North America's growing obesity problem (I'm guessing it's a factor in that growth...)
    I've seen some posts about the benefits of stand-up desks, and I was hoping to eventually put that into practice for myself, but this is even better.
    Kudos to you and John on this one!

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  27. Absolute Genius! It is soooo beautifully made! Love it!

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  28. Looks great! I can't imagine trying to type or read while walking or jogging on the treadmill but I have at various times constructed makeshift desks to use while I on my stationary bike and those work quite well.

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  29. Ohmygosh, I love you!!!

    Ahem. I mean. THANK YOU! I actually have a treadmill because I use it for when I train for Half-Marathons. (Not a runner, just a "fast enough to finish" walker.) If I'm on it to train, it would be too fast to use the laptop, but I could totally use this to get off my butt and leisurely walk just to get in some exercise when I don't have any other motivation to move! Thank you!!!

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  30. Brilliant!! I am TOTALLY going to steal this idea! Fantastic job and kudos to John for such a professional looking job! They should have these at gyms!!!

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  31. Beautifully done. I don't think my concentration skills would allow me to do it, though!

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  32. That is pretty awesome. I really would love a setup like that that was comfortable to use. My knees and back give out pretty easy so having something that I could walk slowly on for periods of time would get me moving without a lot of impact and would let me rest easily as well.

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  33. Oh man. I would love this! I hate having to sit when I'm working on long projects!

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  34. Awesome! My husband fashioned a treadmill desk for Christmas--not as slick as yours, but it does the job!

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  35. now I just need my gym to install those and free wifi!

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  36. *bookmarks*

    I have absolutely been planning to get/make one of these once I settle down somewhere for more than a few months. Do you think it's doable for someone who has no woodworking skills?

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  37. I love this!!!!! What a great idea...I'd been thinking about how I'd love to have a desk but there isn't really room for one, and want a treadmill but couldn't have both. Problem solved!

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  38. tiny purple elephantFebruary 9, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    so neatly done!!

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  39. I love this setup. I want one. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, does his work with a treadmill desk and recommends that people find ways to exercise while working (walking meetings, bouncy ball at desk, etc.) because it makes your brain work better. I just could never figure out how to make it work since his setup requires facing a wall and who wants to do that. Genius! You guys are genius!

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  40. I love it! I hate treadmills, but if I could check blogs at the same time it might be worth it.

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  41. @Lauren (4:41pm), that was my first reaction too! I love my rollerball, drives me crazy to have to use a "normal" mouse now... I even bought one to have at work-- :-) The guys can't stand it and I'll remind them that it's attached to my computer not theirs. :-)

    Jen, this is great! John did an excellent job of getting that shelf to look like it belonged with the treadmill--

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  42. You know, I bet you could market this sort of thing. It's functional, but it also looks nice. You two are fantastic about DIY projects!
    Way to go on the walking, btw! Working and walking...cheers for a healthful lifestyle.

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  43. I love your idea, looks like a great way to keep moving when you have to be at a desk all day.
    Also, I have the same mouse, I love it.

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  44. So awesome! I have that EXACT treadmill AND I work from home on my laptop, too! So, looks like husband has another weekend project to add to his "honey-do" list!! HOORAY! Thanks for the inspiration! (btw, I like exclamation points!!!!!)

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  45. This would be a great idea for me - I could watch Netflix or post to my blog while walking. I really hate exercising, but this could change my mind! Now, if I can just get the hubs to cooperate and make me something...

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  46. I got myself a mini stepper yesterday, it slides nicely under my desk when I'm not using it and I can use it while knitting, watching things on my computer or reading (all while standing on it)
    A treadmill would of been perfect if set up like yours, but we just don't have the room for it :(

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  47. I love it! Now if John could figure out how to make a treadmill/sewing table, I'd be all on that like white on rice.

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  48. That is so FREAKING awesome I ..... just don't have the words to say. *kneeling, abject bowing* I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!

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  49. Brilliant!!!

    Oooh I want one I want one I want one!

    And it does look like it came with the treadmill - beautiful work, John!

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  50. I need one of these at work!

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  51. How much to make one for me! I've wanted one for so long, but I'm not nearly as handy as John seems to be. You got a winner there, on many levels!

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  52. I dont' know if anyone else has mentioned this (too lazy to read all the other comments, lol), but I would just say be careful about how much time you spend working on the treadmill, from an ergonomics standpoing. Looking down at your laptop for long periods of time might put a big strain on your neck. Since you've been using it for quite a while and haven't experienced any problems, it might be fine, but just be careful!

    ~Your friendly neighbourhood Health & Safety Professional

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  53. Man! That's so awesome!! I love it!!


    I think you should make a little notation on the end of all your posts when you do them from this awesome desk! Maybe a little tread desk pic!

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  54. this is sooooo cool! got any ideas for a bowflex or ab lounge?

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  55. Sooo awesome and brilliant. If I didn't have a dog to walk I'd be dying for something like this! :)

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  56. That is the awesomest idea ever! I am intrigued!

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  57. It's a wonderful idea, however I loathe treadmills. I step off them and feel sick, and I hate the feeling of walking or running indoors (for exercise I mean). Find a way to do this with an exercise bike and I'll love you forever!

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  58. THis is AWESOME! But when are you going to epoxy a bunch of pennies to it?

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  59. Brilliant! Get work done and save on the gym membership!

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  60. I lurk ... until I find something you would L - u h -u h - ove.

    http://bethsco.blogspot.com/2011/02/week-of-androids.html

    Just thought you might want to peek at it... and commence geeking.

    ~Paige
    www.clauseninthehausen.blogspot.com

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  61. ROTFLMAO, rabbi's wife!

    Quick question Jen: do you have a fancy-pantsy camera to take your pics with? I have a point and shot with some settings on it and my husband's Canon EOS 40 that I can use...just wondering how you get such great pics of your items in your office and stuff in your house! :)

    The Burton Inspiration

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  62. I think yours looks better than the original:)

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  63. @katphoti - I use a Canon XT. We actually have a better camera that John purchased recently - a 50D? Or is it D50? - but since I know almost nothing about the technical aspects of photography, it's too complicated for me use. So, I exasperate John by using the "crappier" camera. Heh. (And really, the XT is a lovely camera. I'd recommend it to anyone.)

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  64. You should make a Dalek shell for it and then you could look like Davros! Only that would make it considerably bigger than it already is.

    Love the desk though. Makes me want my own treadmill with a desk! Just gotta work on getting a treadmill first!

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  65. wow! that does look like it came with the treadmill - i did a double take when i first saw the pic, couldnt believe it was homemade!

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  66. I saw an article for treadmill desks in our newspaper once. I tried to bribe my boss to let us do that, but he said no.

    Anyway, I love Cakewrecks and thought I'd read this one so just went through the archives. You said on your first post to say hi, so, Hi Jen! :)

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  67. Jen - we did this with both of our treadmills down stairs - instead of building permanent stuff - I had the bright idea to use one of those kitchen cabinet inserts that have the metal legs that fold up...you know the kind that gives you an "extra shelf" in your cabinet...and my husband used wire ties to attach it to the treadmill arms. Works great! I'll have to take some photos and send them to you.

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  68. Have the treadmill but will definitely show Handy Hubby this fabolous idea. He could play his dumb Facebook games AND exercise.

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  69. I'm really thinking about a treadmill for the winter/spring/fall months in Oregon. Pretty much the only time you can walk without getting wet is from July 5th through September 5th. After that it's a crap shoot!

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  70. Very nice. I work for Steelcase who sells the Walkstation treadmill desk (http://www.steelcase.com/en/products/category/tables/adjustable/walkstation/pages/overview.aspx) and they're pretty cool. Details, the division who designed the Walkstation, is now working on a desk that incorporates a stationary bike function for those who prefer peddling to walking. :)

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  71. That is awesome. Thank you for the labels! I want to do this to all my candles...

    I just saw this post today and it reminded me of you. She made an apocethary cabinet. Here it is.

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  72. my workplace is getting two of the walking workplaces when we move to another building--- I'm not sure I am coordinated enough to do it--but it does look great

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  73. Thank you so very much Jen and John for the inspiration! When I saw this post I thought, "Wow, Jen's treadmill looks a lot like mine, but less dusty. I could so totally have one those!" Long story short, now I do! We had to do a little modification (the second set of U-bolts are hidden) but all in all, I love it! Thank you so very very much!

    My Treadmill

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  74. WANT THIS!!!!!
    You need to market your husband's creation!
    :) Mags / magsgraphics.com

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  75. If you've got an extra $4,300 lying around, you can buy this walk station. http://store.steelcase.com/products/walkstation/

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  76. Are you still using the treadmill desk after 2 years from this post? Have you noticed any health improvements? I've been looking to make one myself from that instructable tutorial but I'm still over the fence with this. I tried it with a friends treadmill and the desk fell off. Luckily the only thing on the desk were just books. Have you ever considered using a prebuilt treadmill desk like this? http://www.whatisrightforme.com/treadmill/LifeSpan-Fitness-TR-1200-DT5-60.php

    This looks like a good way to prevent food coma after lunch.

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  77. Yes, the treadmill desk is still a life-saver for me, since it's the only exercise I get most of the time! I don't use it as much as I should, but I'm usually on it about 2 hrs a day several days a week. Pre-built desks are super expensive, so I've never considered one, especially since you can buy a used treadmill off Craig's List for a few hundred dollars and then just whip up a quick desk like we did for next to nothing. :)

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  78. I saw an article for treadmill desks in our newspaper once. I tried to bribe my boss to let us do that, but he said no.new songs

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