My DIY Treadmill Desk

Ever since reading Susan Orlean’s New Yorker article about her treadmill desk, I’ve been obsessed with getting one. I’m happy to announce it’s here. After a few months of talking about it and another month or two of researching the possibilities, we’ve built something and we’re happy to share the results with anyone who wishes to do the same.

Here it is: Kristen’s and Keisuke’s DIY Treadmill Desk. (Instructions and major engineering support provided by Keisuke Hoashi. However, as manager of this project, I have swooped in and taken the credit by switching the order of our names.)

(Click on thumbnail for larger image.)

Kristen's and Keisuke's DIY Treadmill Desk

 It’s too early yet for me to comment on the health and weight loss benefits. I will point out the following:

  1. Make sure you use a system where you can make adjustments to the height after you’ve constructed the desk. Until you start walking and typing, you won’t really know how tall you need the keyboard tray or how high you’ll need the monitor (although a monitor can always be stood upon a stack of books if needed). One of the major drawbacks I’ve seen in the more expensive treadmill desk systems on the market is their lack of adjustability. We chose wire shelving because you can move the shelves an inch at a time.
  2. Don’t expect to do everything on this desk. I am on the tail end of a big, work-related writing project. I find I cannot do this job while walking because I need to shuffle through a lot of papers and type quickly with 100% accuracy. No matter how stable the desk, it’s not going to allow you to type 125 wpm without error. I simply do that better on a stable surface. (And yes, I type that quickly and that well. And yes, I guess I am bragging about that. It’s part of what makes me good at my job. But I must also give credit to my very mean high school typing teacher.)
  3. Graphic designers, I think you’re out of luck. I very seriously doubt I could grab the corner of something with a mouse and resize it without making a mess of it. Your arms will move around on the laptop tray unless you slow the walking speed to a really infuriating crawl. However, this is still good for administrative tasks like answering emails and dealing with your calendar program.

And now, for the fun part–a list of the things you can expect to do pretty well using a treadmill desk. I believe in highlighting the positive. If you switch to walking while doing all of the following, you will boost your health.

Things You Can Do on a Treadmill Desk

  1. Surf the Internet (shop, read online articles, etc.)
  2. Check your email
  3. Update your social media accounts
  4. Research
  5. Read (Kindle, real book, magazines)
  6. Talk on the phone (I haven’t tried that yet but it’s on the to do list)
  7. Skype (see above)
  8. Watch Netflix
  9. Watch Mets games (Keisuke has done this on two occasions already and said he feels great)
  10. Use Rosetta Stone
  11. Take courses online
  12. Practice a musical instrument (for obvious reasons, I advise against a piano, tuba, or pedal steel guitar)
  13. Drink coffee and eat string cheese, albeit with caution; if you drop shreds of the string cheese onto the belt, you may be trapped in an endless cycle of, “Oh, I’ll get that in a minute.”

Let’s be honest: for many of us, those activities are far more responsible for excess sitting than our jobs are.

A parting note: remember to walk slowly (1 mph or slower) and pick a treadmill that’s noted for its quiet motor. This treadmill is so quiet at 1 mph that the only distracting noise is the sound of your own feet hitting the belt. If you find that messing with your ability to concentrate (I do at times), I recommend a set of noise-canceling headphones.

That’s it! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

— Kristen (@kristenhavens), with input from Keisuke (@keisukehoashi)

P. S. Yes, I composed this post on my desk. As of its publication, I’ve been walking continuously today for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

2 thoughts on “My DIY Treadmill Desk

    • I think depending on how stable your desk design is, you can do just about anything on it. My current challenge is getting rid of the slight squeak it’s developed.

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