Today I have a different kind of recipe for you…a recipe for health. [Cue the echo chamber and the dramatic music.] All melodrama aside, a few months ago I read an article that scared me. A current study shows that the more you sit, the more likely you are to die. Yes, not become obese or get diabetes but die: “Healthy or sick, active or inactive, the more people sat, the more likely they were to die in the next three years.”
I know that I sit too much. You might think that I spend most of my time in the kitchen, but the truth is that cooking is just a small part of keeping my blog and website running, which is now my full-time job. Besides writing blog posts, there are behind the scenes duties such as tweaking the site’s code, replying to email, answering questions on Facebook or in blog comments, processing photos, updating Facebook, even paying the bills–all of which I do while sitting on my behind in front of a computer.
After reading that article, I immediately started trying to stand more, to get up from the computer at regular intervals and walk around the house, and to exercise in front of the TV rather than sit in the recliner. From time to time I would even work standing up with my laptop perched on top of a bookcase. But these efforts relied on my actually remembering to get up, and as you may know, the allure of the comfy chair is strong, so I was still sitting too much. I began to seriously consider buying a treadmill and making my own treadmill desk.
Yes, you can buy a treadmill with an attached desk. But, I found that these machines are simultaneously more expensive than regular treadmills and less powerful. The speed tops out at 4 miles per hour, and there are no programs or incline settings. I wanted to be able to use my treadmill for regular workouts as well as for a desk, so I decided to buy a regular treadmill and make my own removeable desktop.
All treadmills are different, so the steps I went through won’t work for every one, but if you’re considering building your own treadmill desk, my process may give you some ideas and show you how easy it can be.
When shopping for a treadmill, I looked for one that had level arms that could hold a board across them without sloping, and this concern ruled out a lot of treadmills. After much shopping and review reading, I finally settled on the Livestrong Fitness LS10.0T-2 Treadmill*. It had all the features I wanted, as well as level arms. The arms were a little short but long enough to hold the 12-inch wide board I planned to use as a desk top.
After the treadmill arrived (in a HUGE package and weighing over 300 pounds) and my husband and I managed to wrangle it into place in our bedroom, I spent the evening putting it together and then the next few days getting used to it. Then it was time to go to Home Depot to buy the board that would become my desktop. I decided to use a faux-finish shelf board by Rubbermaid rather than a “real” board so that I wouldn’t have to worry about sanding it or getting splinters in my hands as I worked. The 12-inch deep by 36-inch wide board fit across the arms of the treadmill perfectly, except for one problem–the handlebars that hold the heart rate sensors jutted out, keeping the board from fitting close enough to the console.
So I needed to cut out slots for the handlebars. I put the board under the treadmill arms, lined it up against the edge of the console, and used a pencil to trace around the handlebars. Then I used a jigsaw to roughly cut out those sections. Now the board rested perfectly on the arms and just needed to be fastened to the treadmill.
Figuring out how to secure the board to the treadmill was the toughest part of making the desk. I needed something that would hold the board tightly to either the arms or the handlebars so that I wouldn’t accidentally send my laptop flying the first time I grabbed hold of the board while work-walking. But it also had to be easy to unfasten so that I could take the desk off when I wanted a full workout. I was prepared to go back to Home Depot for supplies if I had to, but I looked around my house for items that might work and found an old fanny pack (remember those?) in the back of a closet. It had a long strap made of nylon webbing, a side squeeze buckle, and a short strap with a lobster clasp.
I cut the strap around the buckle to fit over one handlebar, and then I looped some of the remaining strap through a keyring to attach to the lobster clasp over the other handlebar. Using a cigarette lighter, I heated all the cut edges, to melt them slightly and keep them from unraveling. Then I measured exactly, and where I would need to screw the straps down, I melted a hole using a hot nail. Then I screwed the straps to the underside of the desk using 1/2-inch screws and washers. The straps go over the handlebars and buckle or clasp on the other side. They take just seconds to clasp and unclasp, making the desktop easy to remove whenever I want to workout rather than work.
I’m enjoying my treadmill desk, though it will take some practice to actually write anything significant while walking on it. For now, I’m content to manage my email, update my Facebook page, and read articles as I walk about 2 miles per hour. I’m not burning hundreds of calories, but at least I’m spending less time sitting and more time moving. And when I want to really workout, I remove the desktop and do one of the many programed workouts that has me climbing fake hills and burning real calories. (Safety note: The desktop is for slow walking only; always remove it before increasing speed or incline.)
You don’t have to spend a lot to make your own treadmill desk. If you can find an inexpensive used one with level arms, an $8 pre-finished board and a little hardware is all you need.
*P.S. The Livestrong Fitness LS10.0T-2 Treadmill only works as a treadmill desk if you have a very small laptop. My 13-inch Macbook just barely fits between the handlebars. Please don’t buy it if you plan on using a larger laptop on it.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, including a link to a treadmill I purchased myself. When you buy something through my links, I receive a commission that helps support this site. For more of my favorite Amazon products, check out my store. Thanks for your purchase!
Bryanna Clark GroganSeptember 12, 2013 at 11:59 am
Bravo, Susan! So clever of you! This is something I’ve been worrying about, too, but we don’t have room for a treadmill. For the time being, I have taken to putting the laptop on the kitchen counter as often as is practical (depending on what’s going on in the kitchen at the time– it’s very small) so that I stand, at least.
DebbieSeptember 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm
I wonder if I could set this up in my office at work! 😛
This is a very ingenious idea Susan; I just got a treadmill from a friend that we were going to sell but perhaps I should keep it and try this out.
Thanks for sharing!
KristinSeptember 12, 2013 at 12:28 pm
How cool is THAT?!?!
moonwatcherSeptember 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm
Wow, Susan, I agree with Debbie and Kristin–this is absolutely ingenious and so cool!! And this is important information about sitting. I am glad I vary things throughout the day, and will keep doing that. The other day I realized between walking and yoga I’m exercising two hours a day, which is pretty darn good for someone like me. I wouldn’t be able to sit all day either. I am going to keep this idea in the back of my mind. . I really admire how you could rig the whole thing to your needs. Awesome, and awesome unconventional “recipe” post!!
SherrySeptember 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm
Oh my goodness! Do you know how often I’ve thought of doing something like this?? I’m gonna go check my treadmill right now…if the arms aren’t level, maybe I can hike up the board with something to make it so. Thank you so much for sharing this Susan!
Margaret MinerSeptember 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm
LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!! I emailed the link to my husband, and we now have a fun project for this weekend!!!
SandySeptember 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm
Wonderful! I want one :-). Thanks for sharing.
Rena @ No Way That's Healthy!September 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm
So cool! What speed do you walk at? I need to try this!
Susan VoisinSeptember 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm
I try to keep it around 2 miles per hour. Too much faster and I can’t control the mouse with any accuracy. 🙂
Helyn @ Helyn's Healthy KitchenSeptember 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm
Fabulous idea! I love it.
dyannneSeptember 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm
What a great idea! This will also keep you from being bored on the treadmill. I like it!
BroJamesSeptember 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm
What a great idea, Susan!! Can’t wait to go and get my board to make the table. I really do need to exercise and yet I spend many hours in my chair in front of this laptop. Thanks again!!
Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)September 12, 2013 at 6:52 pm
Creating your own treadmill desk–now THAT is awesome. I’ve read in several articles that if working and walking simultaneously is too difficult, it’s just as healthy to spend much of your time at a treadmill desk simply standing (when writing, for example), with short + frequent intervals of walking during the easier activities. Huge, huge props for taking such proactive measures toward good health! Will totally be making one of these in the future.
KalynSeptember 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm
This is such a good idea. I read the same article and I’ve been trying to set a time and get up and go walk on my treadmill 5 minutes every hour. But as you said, it’s hard to get up!
ValSeptember 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm
Very cool! Now if I’d only also have a treadmill to apply it to! LOL
Cristin H.September 12, 2013 at 8:32 pm
I love your tread desk! When I had a sedentary job over a year ago, I thought about putting a treadmill under my desk. I had just gotten a fitbit and was trying to get my step count up. Now, I stand up all day and therefore walk about 2.5 miles just at work (so says the fitbit). I love your DIY solution and your treadmill looks amazing!
trishSeptember 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm
What a great idea! I know that I sit waaaay too much. I spend so much time on the computer, then weaving, then bookwork, then on and on , I go for a walk each day but I’m almost always too tired for a good brisk one…..a treadmill, now if only we had the room!
Thanks for sharing!
Lorna WiseSeptember 12, 2013 at 9:39 pm
Susan, your treadmill desk is DYNOMITE!! How clever you are, I’m verrrrrrrrrrry impressed. Going to look over my elyptical machine to see what can be done.
Wendy @ PlantivoresSeptember 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm
I am so impressed Susan! In addition to being a great cook this is an amazingly inspiring project! Good for you for figuring out a way to not sit all day. And my favorite part: “I used a jigsaw…” That’s great!
LeilaniSeptember 12, 2013 at 10:23 pm
Wonderful! Such an inspiration, like always!!!! Thanks!!!
sarahSeptember 13, 2013 at 12:46 am
I love the use of the clasps! Good thinking (and how better to upcycle a fanny pack?) I bet I will use that idea some day, for some project….thanks for sharing! The whole project is great.
Ps, I have made many of your recipes and love your blog! Unrelated to this post, your use of the ring for forming veggie burgers is genius. I just made a very soft veggie burger and used a similar technique, but measured them out and then scooped them into a bowl of breadcrumbs- flattening them out a little, and then flipping over using a spatula and making sure there were still enough breadcrumbs underneath. Much less messy! I will have to try this when I make this recipe. Thanks so much for all your work!
RobinSeptember 13, 2013 at 6:36 am
Impressive and smart! I’m excited to hear how you like this and then recommend it to my clients!!
Tami@Nutmeg NotebookSeptember 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm
This is very cool! I am sending a link of the article to my family who have IT jobs!
Nava AtlasSeptember 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm
Susan, I was excited to see this, as I’ve been doing the same thing for 2 or 3 years now. As a woman of a certain (yet glamorous!) age, my small bones aren’t great and my mom and all her sisters had osteoporosis. I swear by my little treadmill desk, which is a lot more makeshift than yours (basically a bulletin board fastened to a crappy treadmill) but it has served me in good stead for quite a long time.
A big factor in my motivation is my little Fitbit Zip, so I can track how much I walk and how many steps I take. My goal for each day is at least 5 miles. It might sound like a lot but it’s surprising how it adds up, especially when I can do a lot of my grunt work (like Facebook, answering e-mails) on the treadmill at about the same pace you do — 2 miles an hour. And Bryanna is right; even standing is far better than sitting.
Thanks for sharing this, and I encourage your readers to give this a try; it works fantastically well!
reginaSeptember 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm
Thank you so much for the inspiration. I now have my computer on a counter top at standing level with no chair. So now I will at least be standing while doing the countless number of things that I have to do on the computer. Love reading your blog and trying your recipes, btw. 🙂
AmySeptember 13, 2013 at 8:17 pm
I remember reading many years back about a company that gave this option to their employees. It was kind of an experiment. They found that by walking slowly, their productivity remain great and their employees improved their health and was less fatigued. It took a while to find a happy pace. Running doesn’t work well with typing, etc.
CharlesSeptember 14, 2013 at 5:22 am
Simply the best website I’ve found. I come back again and again. Thank you so much and I hope you are making lots of money:) I work for an age management physician and I can tell you that what you’re doing with diet and exercise is the key to longevity, quality of life and good health.
kensington cookerSeptember 14, 2013 at 7:26 am
Wow, you’re inventive in the woodshop as well as the kitchen, Susan. I’m impressed. Someone I know said, “Sitting is the new smoking”. A treadmill desk may be a step too far for me; I just try to get off the old posterior whenever possible. But if it helps you live longer–purely selfish of course because I love your blog! (ha ha) –I’m all for it.
SandiSSeptember 14, 2013 at 9:34 am
Hello Susan! I thoroughly enjoyed your post on your homemade treadmill desk. What a creative way to set up a desk. Like you, I was astounded at the findings on the study of “sitting disease”. It is quite sobering!! In my personal quest to stop sitting so much, I found an excellent website “www.walkwhileworking.com”. There is useful and timely information on everything pertaining to treadmilling while walking or standing. There is even a contest to win a treadmill desk!! Thank you again for sharing this. It is greatly appreciated!!
ChileSeptember 15, 2013 at 10:10 am
Love it! I wish I could use something like that as the article about sitting scared me, too. Unfortunately, my feet don’t tolerate a lot of sustained standing and using a treadmill always messes them up so bad, it’s back to the podiatrist again.
I’m hoping that using my recumbent cycle machine is at least a little better than pure lazy sitting. It’s easy to watch healthy videos on YouTube while pedaling.
By the way, for people who forget to get up occasionally while sitting, I think there’s an app for that. I just use a timer set for 20 minutes to make sure I get up and do some upright work for every 20 minutes of sitting.
PhilippaSeptember 15, 2013 at 11:02 am
You go, gal! You are inspiring!
EmilySeptember 16, 2013 at 11:26 am
Susan, I enjoy your blog very much, but must admit that this post disappointed me. I find this general trend towards alarming health scares in the media disturbing.
You say in your post above that “A current study shows that the more you sit, the more likely you are to die. Yes, not become obese or get diabetes but die: “Healthy or sick, active or inactive, the more people sat, the more likely they were to die in the next three years.”” What does that even mean? That we in general more likely to die during the next three years the more we sit? I would be interested to see the specific study that you are referring to, but the studies that I have seen in general linking sitting with mortality have been exaggerated and have twisted the facts. Remember that living happily and without stress can contribute towards a long life as well. Needlessly frightening people with junk science is just unnecessary.
Susan VoisinSeptember 16, 2013 at 11:42 am
Here’s an abstract of the study: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1108810
I’m not trying to scare anyone, and I’m sorry it came across like that. But I’m scared for myself. I know myself and how inactive I am. This is my personal blog where I write about my own experiences. Usually those experiences are in the kitchen, but this one time I wrote about something besides nutritious eating that I am doing for my health. Whether or not the study is “junk science,” getting up and walking has to be better than sitting all day. I already feel better, and I just wanted to share that with my readers. It is my blog, after all.
VeronicaSeptember 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm
This is something very important all of the plant based doctors talk about… being sedentary does decrease total lifespan in several studies. I too am guilty of sitting too much working on my blog and recipe writing so I know this is something I have to work on too.
Sedentary Behaviors Increase Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Mortality in Men http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2857522/
Being Sedentary Increases Death Risk, Even if You Exercise – See more at: http://wellbeingwire.meyouhealth.com/physical-health/being-sedentary-increases-death-risk-even-if-you-exercise/#sthash.Vq1BVLU6.dpuf
Can sitting too much kill you? http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/01/06/can-sitting-too-much-kill-you/
VeronicaSeptember 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm
Awesome Susan! I have a little laptop table I can put on my treadmill too it’s pretty sturdy. We just set it up in the basement in our workout room.
Hope you like it! Great share 🙂
EmSeptember 17, 2013 at 9:27 am
Awesome- and I agree it is scary! Good for you!!!!!
Sam TerrySeptember 17, 2013 at 8:21 am
That is totally clever! However i really wish they invented treadmills and spinning bikes that you could use to generate enough electricity to run your laptop on!
Susan VoisinSeptember 17, 2013 at 10:24 am
Now that would be awesome!
HelenSeptember 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm
Susan, this is a great idea!
At home, I have a small elliptical type stepper that I use while watching TV, but you’re right it is so much easier to fall onto the sofa. Plus, using that, is a bit tricky to get anything else done since I don’t have a counter in front of me, and it requires much more balance than walking slowly would.
I’m going to inquire about this option at work, since I tend to work about 9 hours a day and it’s all at a computer. I’ve noticed a few offices with standing-height desks at least, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone with a treadmill. They do encourage everyone to take health breaks at least every hour (get up and walk around a bit), as well as vision breaks every 20 minutes. Fortunately, I’m on a large, beautiful campus with plenty of space for walking, so I usually go for a walk around the campus at least twice a day.
We were encouraged to participate in the recent Global Corporate Challenge, which is to get at least 10,000 steps per day. It ran from May until just last week. So, I’ve been very conscious of my steps the past few months, and wearing a pedometer. Although the challenge is over, I’m still wearing it daily and recording my numbers which are now usually over 11,000! It’s a great habit and wearing the device really does help motivate me to keep it up.
This company is very committed to employee health as well as work/life balance, so I’ll bet it’s something they would consider. If not, maybe I’ll just bring my elliptical to work and put it under my desk… at least that way I’ll still be moving even if I am sitting. I guess that would be an improvement, right?
AnnaSeptember 20, 2013 at 11:13 am
Love your recipes and Love this idea too! I don’t have a teadmill at work either but I am working on a standing station. Better than being on my butt all day!
mitziSeptember 21, 2013 at 6:00 pm
My husband built me one of these when I was working on a Ph.D. dissertation and developed low back problems from sitting too much. It was made from a Craigslist treadmill and some scrap wood. You develop the ability to type while walking, but it is less accurate than when you are sitting or standing still. You’ll have a lot of good productive time on it, and sometimes the physical activity helps the ideas flow better. It enabled me to graduate. Happy walking!
AmySeptember 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm
It looks great!i work at a desk all day too so when I ‘m on conference calls I use a wireless headset so I can stand up and walk around.
katmolSeptember 27, 2013 at 8:55 pm
I’m a new vegan and I love your blog. I’m trying to join as many communities as possible for inspiration.
That’s mine. Such a beginner!
CarolineOctober 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm
Susan…this is GENIUS! I’ve actually gained weight since I’ve started blogging simply because I need to spend so much time in front of my computer! I still eat a healthy diet and really don’t eat any more…it’s just all of this sitting!!! I am so excited to get started on this project! Thanks so much! This will make all the difference for me!
LindaOctober 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm
What a great idea! I’ve thought about this many times myself but never did it. Now we’ve sold the treadmill. I might have to look into modifying the elliptical.
But I really responded to say, Forget typing, use voice recognition software to blog or respond to email while you walk. It’s awesome.
Darragh McCurraghOctober 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm
Funny idea and kudos if it works for you. I always find that if I try to exercise the “bulk” of my body it inevitably makes my fingers wobble as well, hence no way to use keyboard or even the mouse. And that then as a rule puts a end to all that exercising while e.g. writing SIMULTANEOUSLY.
LiviaNovember 3, 2013 at 4:25 am
I love that treadmill desk! From the photos I could see that the handles of your treadmill are quite high, so you don’t need to lower you head when looking on the computer (preventing neck pain). Which brand is your treadmill? I’ve looked on amazon, but most treadmill handles are probably too low for this kind of desk.
Thanks a lot!
SharonNovember 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm
I also have made a desk of my treadmill after watching a show where an entire company had treadmill desks. I also walk about 1.7 – 2.2 depending on what I’m doing. I love the idea of attaching the board to the handles as I just have my sitting on top of the handles and my cat loves to roll on the board as I’m on the treadmill making me nervous the board (and cat) will crash down onto the belt. I’m going to dig out my old fanny packs too – I know I have a bunch of them. Thanks so much for the great directions for making this. I can’t wait to retrofit my board. By the way, I just used an white press-board shelf we had in the basement so it was cost free.