Sit, Stand, Walk, Type - Using a Treadmill Desk
I've been doing this whole "sitting and thinking for money" thing for over twenty years now. I've written about some of the things that happen to the body after sitting and typing for long periods, and talked about ways we can try to stem the tide, like
- Brain, Bytes, Back, Buns - The Programmer's Priorities and the need for...
Almost ten years ago I blogged about The Programmer's Back, The Programmer's Hands, and worse yet (and most recently) The Programmer's Body.
I'm happy with my desk, but since Being a Remote Worker Sucks I get cabin fever and need to mix it up. Sometimes I sit at my desk, sometimes I stand, sometimes I just escape to a local café. I needed another option.
I noticed that I wasn't getting nearly close enough to the arbitrary goal of 10,000 daily steps per my FitBit. When I travel I walk obsessively, but here in Oregon running and walking in the rain is really no fun. I started running on the treadmill in the last few months while making may way through my NetFlix queue but quickly realized that this is prime-email-deleting-time I'm wasting!
It was finally time to make this Treadmill into a desk. Being the immensely handy fix-it type that I am (not) I promptly tried to cut a piece of wood. It was quite the achievement, let me tell you.
The prototype was fine, just a board laid across the treadmill but it worked. I enlisted my Dad (who is actually Handy) and we iterated. Here's what we came up with. Bonus points to my Dad who is incapable of letting a piece of wood leave his shop without being sanded or property stained.
First, we took the original boards and added small supports to keep it from moving laterally. Then I added foam from the inside of a bike helmet to make the fit even tighter against the side supports.
Then, Dad built a small box with a lip to sit on top of the boards. This brings the laptop (my Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch) up to a height that keeps my hands at exactly a 90 degree angle to the keyboard. This has proven very comfortable - not too low and not too high.
If I want to run full out, I just lift the two pieces up and move the aside. It's also worth noting that I'm still using the safety cord in case I trip or fall off the treadmill. I'm considering actually drilling a 1.5" hole through the middle of the box to thread the cord so if I do take a spill, it won't take the box with me.
I've been doing about 2 miles per hour at a slight incline. I don't like super slow walking (1 mph) as I find it actually requires more thinking than normal walking. So far today I've moseyed about 5 miles on the treadmill desk without really feeling it. I'm not sure I'd want to spend a full day doing this, but it's very comfortable and I think I'll use it for at least an hour or so at a time.
This was super easy to do and I recommend it to anyone who has (or can cheaply get) a treadmill, a few pieces of wood, and a laptop. It was so easy and the benefits are so clearly obvious, I'm actually a little disappointed I didn't do this years ago.
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Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Think I'm going to buy myself a treadmill!
I always run with my kindle propped on the console, but being able to walk while doing at least some work would be great.
This is a problem Grumpy! However one I fear we all suffer from
I've set up my cross-trainer in front of my desk and watch several PluralSight videos while working out. With a cross-trainer you can't get any work done, but on a treadmill, I'm sure you can.
now you only need this : http://www.dragoninnovation.com/projects/12-run-n-read so you can read while you run with no problems :)
As I understand it, if you run on a flat treadmill, there is minimal hamstring recruitment as you're not having to propel yourself forward (the job of the hamstrings is twofold, to extend the leg at the hip and to bend at the leg at the knee), you're more just bouncing up and down (yes, that is drastically simplified).
To combat this, I believe the recommendation is to set the treadmill at an incline so you're using your hamstrings more to keep yourself from falling backwards off the treadmill.
I suppose after a lot of running on one you could develop muscular imbalances because of the lack of hamstring recruitment, but I would imagine you'd have to do a lot of running on a flat treadmill to develop those problems.
(I should point out, before anyone calls me out on it, I'm not a coach / physio / doctor / other generic profession that deals with the human body, I'm merely a code monkey who reads a lot about health and fitness)
Congratulations on making the move.
I also work from home and I am going on almost two years on my treadmill desk.
I walk or stand all day every day. Sometimes, on longer days, I will move to other positions--like sitting on a couch in my office or going to a coffee shop. In fact, I don't have a regular desk to sit on anymore. :)
I find that I can code from anywhere between 1-1.7 mph.. I haven't tried to do much work over 1.7mph.
One thing I found that worked best for me is purchasing a walking only treadmill desk.. it's *much* quieter and the quality feels to be much better than the first general-purpose treadmill I purchased.
All together $200 for the used treadmill, 2 panels of wood and hardware - another $50.
Used to play WoW for 3-4 hours per session at 1.5 km/h at 8% incline... Playing WoW finally did something good to me ;-)
I already had a few of them!
Tall people will need to test for comfort for such a setup.
I have seen a doctor who has a similar setup, working on a computer while walking at a very slow space and he promotes it. I believe it's good for you but I can't personally do this for an extended time.
Personally I multitask by putting an iPad on an exercise machine and watch a video while exercising. Great for watching a boring Pluralsight video :)
Patricio - I like walking and thinking. I haven't done this treadmill long enough to see if it works well, though.
Richard - That would be awesome for browsing! I'll try it!
Claude - I just use the links they generate. I hope they work. ;)
I've read that some people have had problems with their backs using treadmill desks as you should ideally be swinging your arms whilst walking http://officewalkers.ning.com/forum/topics/lower-back-pain-please-help?id=2015808:Topic:38651&page=2#comments
So, please post if you find any problems yourself.
I was wondering if one these virtual reality walkers would work too as the idea is to allow you to walk/run on the spot :) http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/07/virtuix-omni-aims-to-put-you-into-the-game-lawnmower-man-style/
I would recommend going swimming, I go at dinner 3 days a week. I find it stops me getting back issues from sitting all day and breaks up the day waking me up for the afternoon.
You'll have to let us know!
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, or his Brain Rules website?
Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and professor at the University of Washington whose brain research studies would certainly be in support of you using a treadmill. Indeed, his research has led him to put a treadmill in his office, and he even talks about this subject in a recent youtube video on his Brain Rules blog.
One particularly noteworthy quote from his work that should get the attention of any programmer, office worker, office manager, student, or teacher:
There is no greater anti-brain environment than the classroom and cubicle.
Medina is enthusiastic, engaging, and makes his work accessible for the layman. If you could snag him as a guest on Hanselminutes, it could make for an awesome show as you ask him why he has a treadmill in his office and explore in detail how his "brain rules" apply to programmers!
As for Brain Rules, someone recommended this book to me a year or so ago, and I almost tossed the suggestion aside because it sounded like one of those cultist "become a millionaire in 5 days" productions. As an epileptic person however, I am always interested in learning about my brain, how to keep it healthy, and especially improve short term memory... so I gave it a shot.
For me it was not only my intrigue, but Medina's professional credibility (vs. shaman/fortuneteller) and (as Scott said) the accessibility of his writing that made it a fantastic read.
It was awesome to see science explain the coordination between physical health and intellectual health. It seems no-duh in hindsight, but I can said after involving myself in sports and walking more often, I am more productive at work and more happy in general.
I think I'll read it a second time, from a programmer side of me rather than the seizure-ridden perspective.
glad to see you too, also using a walking desk.
Aà months ago, I made a huge investment to do the same. I bought a large desk with an electronic lift and a treadmill. I am really happy about that investment.
I blogged about it here. (I added your article to my links)
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Either you slow down so much (because you have to think something through) that you get no training or you train so hard that everything more demanding than a dump sci-fi story will be impossible (there seems to be studies that even show that you shut-down the front of your brain when working in "the zone" (no - not that one - the one happening at runners-high)
So I keep watching youtube or reading some journals from my stack :D