I heard about these mythical treadmill desks several years ago. I’ve always considered myself not afraid of hard work and I also try to be healthy, so I figured, why not? Well, the first why not was the price. Treadmill desk setups like the LifeSpan Treadmill Desk can cost upwards of $1600! Being a poor student, that was outside of the realm of possibility. I started to look for cheaper options and came across my current setup.
A modified Confidence Power Plus Motorized Electric Treadmill + and Ikea Fredrik / Jerker standing desk (discontinued, but can be found on craigslist sometimes!) The standing desk cost me $40, and treadmill cost me $250. (But the treadmill came down in price since then and is now ~$200). My in-depth review of this treadmill and its use for a desk can be found HERE.
I wanted to try a little experiment, so I started a blog with the stupidly long domain name www.treadmilldeskdiary.com to keep track of my usage, potential weight loss, health metrics, and experiences. (I’ve been transferring it over to this blog slowly). After several months of usage, here were my stats and graphs before I took a break in keeping track.
For the duration of my graphs, in total I’ve walked for 24220 minutes at 1mph (403.66 miles) at my treadmill desk and stood for 24220 minutes when I otherwise would have been sitting.
That’s equivalent to walking ~175 miles past the international space station and standing there for 14.94 days.
Here is how much I walked and stood during that time:
Here’s a rough analysis of the data I’ve accumulated while exercising at my desk:
Assumptions and additional details:
Walking at 1mph consumes 183 Calories/hour
Standing consumes 93 Calories/hour
Sitting consumes 83 Calories/hour
Average caloric burn rate added by walking at desk during initial weight loss time period: 143.2 Calories / Day
Average caloric burn rate added by standing at desk during initial weight loss time period:
8.96 Calories / Day
This led to a loss of 11.4 lbs over the first 163 days. This works out to a 310 Calorie / Day deficit leading to a loss of 1 lb a week. Other estimates online say that it should be a 500 Calorie / Day deficit leading to a 1lb a week loss, so perhaps I’ve got some variable that I’m not fully taking into account here. Increased metabolism from more than usual exercise? Actually burning more calories than the assumptions estimate? Increased ability and desire to take the stairs? Walking with more *umph* because I’ve become so darn good at it? All possibilities, but perhaps I’ll never know for sure.
The first 163 days of using my treadmill desk was the weight loss phase, which is what the calculations above are referring to. If you want to calculate an estimate for how much weight you can lose if you started walking at treadmill desk instead of sitting, you can fill in the values on the spreadsheet that I use. Download it here: Treadmill Desk Diary Weight Calculation.
I then went on vacation for 24 days without using my treadmill desk, or exercising at all. This is my weight gain phase. I used this period of time to calculate the rate of my increased metabolism caused by exercising at my desk. I assumed that the Caloric intake for increased metabolism would remain constant even though I stopped using the treadmill desk. (At least for a week or so after stopping). I calculated that I gained an average of 0.125 lbs/day during my vacation. This means that I was eating 437.5 Calories/day more than what was required to just maintain my pre-vacation weight. That 437.5 Calories/day must consist of the increased metabolism cost minus my exercise desk burn rate minus the additional food I ate during my vacation. It’s a little hand wavy, but if I estimate that I ate about ~250-300 Calories / day more than I normally do while on vacation (quite possibly a very conservative estimate), then my increased caloric intake due to increased metabolism caused by using the treadmill desk would be around 0 Calories/day to 35 Calories / day. This means that, within my assumptions, the use of a treadmill desk, walking at 1 mph for an average of ~2-3 hours a day, did not significantly increase my desire or requirement for additional food due to increased metabolism. This kind of makes sense. I don’t exactly get buff by walking at 1 mph, but one doesn’t necessarily have to sweat hard in order to obtain some of the health benefits from exercise. Using a treadmill desk isn’t exactly a hard work out, it’s more like a constant, low level exercise that adds up over time without you really knowing it. Walking while working probably won’t help you buff up or train for the mile relay, but it still definitely seems to give significant weight loss and health benefits.
I’ve been using my treadmill desk for ~45 days since I got back from vacation and I’ve almost reached my pre-vacation weight again. I suspect that I may be reaching a steady state weight soon at my current treadmill desk usage. I’m going to try and increase my treadmill time and break through to new lows, but I realize that at some point I’m going to stop losing weight and simply maintain a healthier weight. However, my weight while on the high school track and field team (what I consider to be the personal peak of my physical condition) was around 160 lbs. I’m also assuming that my younger self had more muscle (heavier than fat) than my current, graduate school beaten body, so I think I haven’t reached my lowest weight yet. So for now, I’ll keep trying for new lows!
For those of you who are new to the “treadmill desk” or “exercise desk” idea, here are the questions I think most newbies would have, and they are also the questions I’m attempting to answer by maintaining this blog.
Will a treadmill desk help me lose weight?
How does one set up a treadmill desk?
What are the downsides and upsides of using a treadmill desk?
How much healthier will a treadmill desk make me?
I’m attempting to answer these questions by keeping track of my health metrics as I use a treadmill desk. I also document what I did to setup my desk, the pains and issues I’ve had using a treadmill desk, and ultimately, how much healthier I have gotten by using my treadmill desk.
Am I Getting Healthier?
My Health Record
Blood pressure and beats per minute are averages of duplicate or triplicate measures taken first thing in the mornings. The weight is also taken at the same time every day (mornings). It’s difficult to get a good sense of how “healthy” I am without fancy equipment. But at least from personal experience, my legs feel stronger more often. It’s like that feeling you get a few days after doing a hard workout. I tend to get that feeling in my legs much more often now. Take that with a grain of salt, but the treadmill definitely isn’t hurting!
Click on graph to see larger image.
If you take the integral of this, it should equal about -11 lbs.
It’s probably still within the noise, so I can’t say it’s really helping my blood much? Maybe my beats per minute is going down at times, but it’s hard to say for sure.