Life with an Under Desk Treadmill

Post Published on September 19, 2022.
Last Updated on September 19, 2022 by davemackey.

Adjustable Height Desks (site/stand desks) have been trending for a number of years now. I acquired my first from MultiTable in early 2015 and it was great. I was recovering from some severe health issues that made sitting or standing for an extended period of time quite painful/uncomfortable and being able to adjust from sitting to standing and back again helped me make it through the work day.

I used a Fluidstance Balance Board over a number of a years to provide some movement to my body while standing and found this to be useful as well. I believe both the sit/stand desk and the balance board positively impacted my health over a number of years. Still, I knew it wasn’t enough.

I wanted to exercise but have always found it dreadfully boring and post-illness I also found it intolerably painful. In Spring of 2021 I decided to take a chance and buy an under desk (foldable) treadmill and it has been a huge positive gain in my life yet again. I want to share with you today how the treadmill works, how it has helped me, and the challenges I still face in utilizing it well.

Looking for a Treadmill

There are treadmill desks and there are under-desk treadmills. I didn’t think I wanted a desk that was fused to a treadmill (and they also tend to be expensive) so I looked at under desk treadmills. I wanted an under desk treadmill that would work with my current adjustable height desk and that wouldn’t be too expensive.

Being the odd person that I am I did fairly extensive research before making a purchase and decided certain features were important to me:

  • Width/Length – How wide/long the treadmill as an entire unit was. Would it fit between the legs of my current desk? How far behind the desk would it jut out? Was it shorter than the length of the office I’d be working in (ideally, significantly shorter)?
  • Usable Width/Length – The dimensions of the treadmill as a whole aren’t the same as the usable (walking) portion. I wanted to make sure that I would have enough width for my frame as well as that I could take strides that were natural rather than shortened (to fit onto a shorter treadmill).
  • Weight – I don’t find this as important but did consider it a plus for the unit to be lighter rather than heavier. I figured I’d be moving it out from my desk on occasion so I could sit and didn’t want to have to lug something too heavy around.
  • Thickness – While this wasn’t that important for me, it may be for you, especially if you need to store the treadmill under a bed or etc.
  • Speed – This another crucial factor for me. Due to my health challenges I knew I needed something that could start off really slow with me, but that I’d also want something that could grow with me as I developed stamina.
  • Remote Control – With a traditional treadmill the controls are generally right in front of you, but with an under desk treadmill the controls are oftentimes under the desk. Having a remote control so I didn’t need to stoop under the desk every time I made an adjustment was important.
  • App – I really wanted a treadmill with an app that would let me remotely control it via my smartphone. I also hoped that it would have an API that I could integrate with Fitbit.
  • Foldable Bar – Treadmills have a bar that usually houses the display and controls for the treadmill and provides you with something to hold onto while walking. This gets in the way if you are using the treadmill under a desk, so I needed to find a treadmill that allowed the bar to fold down and continued to work when it was down.

I thought having speakers built-in could be nifty, but decided I’d be better off buying speakers for my computer – they’d likely be higher quality and easier to control.

I also looked at horsepower for the engine but this seemed to be fairly standard – between 2 and 2.5 HP – so this didn’t end up being a determining factor for me.

Noise is something some will want to consider but I found this information wasn’t always readily available and didn’t take it into consideration (I figured I wouldn’t be walking on the treadmill during meetings).

Different Models and Manufacturers

I looked at a wide variety of manufacturers and models. The better known manufacturers tended to have hefty price tags – e.g. iMovr ($2k), InMovement ($2.2k), and LifeSpan ($1.1k+). These were significantly outside my price range, so I looked at a number of other models from lesser-known companies that tend to flourish on Amazon and eBay – BiFanuo, CITYSPORTS, Egofit, Goplus, Goyouth, LSRZSPORT, OVICX, Sunny Health & Fitness, UMAY, UREVO…and the list goes on.

It was a bit of a toss up on which one to choose. Many offered quite similar features in a tight price range. At the end of the day I chose the UREVO 2 in 1 Under Desk Treadmill. It has served me well, but I’m not sure that it is significantly better than many of the other models out there, so do your own research. Especially since some newer models may have come out in the past year.

How It Has Worked For Me

When I started walking on the UREVO I found myself only capable of going at 0.6 MPH (the lowest possible setting). Over a number of months I advanced slowly – 0.8, 1.0, 1.2, 1.4…I hit 1.6 MPH with some frequency around six months later. This was a huge improvement for me. Then I caught COVID and I went back to 0.6. Once I’d recovered from COVID I was able to fairly quickly make my way back to 1.0, another month or two later I hit 1.2 – and that is where I’m most comfortable currently…and I’m fairly happy with this.

After 6 years of largely trying and failing to find and maintain a consistent exercise regimen that didn’t cause me excruciating pain or intolerable boring I was back on track. I won’t be running a marathon, but for me this is good. I tend to walk 3-6 hours each workday in this manner.

The ability to start so slow, to distract myself from the pain (with work), to increase my pace in small increments allowed me to become active again and for this I am incredibly grateful. Whether you have health issues like I do or just want to stay active while working, I highly recommend an under desk treadmill. That said, I’ll cover some of the challenges I’ve faced below.

Greatest Challenge – How Do I Sit With This Thing?

I bought a treadmill that was fairly light (59 lbs) but it is bulky and I don’t enjoy moving it around – especially multiple times a day – so I pretty much always stand these days. This isn’t ideal. I’d like to be able to sit in my desk chair when I want a break. But this is difficult with a treadmill under the desk (at least for me).

If you use a laptop with no external monitor or only one monitor this may be easier for you. You can move the treadmill to one side of the desk and have the chair at the other end. The problem for me is that I use at least 2x external monitors at any time and this means when moving from one modality (sitting/standing) to another the displays become off-center. Re-aligning the displays (as well as the keyboard/mouse) every time I want to change my positioning is not ideal.

For a while I worked with a kitchen chair. The kitchen chair would fit on the treadmill (barely). This wasn’t safe (it was wobbly) and it damaged the plastic siding outside the actual belt. But I really wanted a nice office chair and that simply doesn’t fit on the treadmill at all.

Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with a great solution to this. Part of my reason for posting this is to see if anyone else has found a solution to this challenge. While the treadmill is more than worth the sacrifice, I’d love to find a way to be able to use my chair and my treadmill without a lot of fuss.

Other Challenges

With my specific treadmill there have been a few other issues:

  1. Oil – It takes oil and a small red light comes on when it is low on oil. Unfortunately this light seems to come on and stay on no matter how much oil I add.
  2. Stopping – After some period of time (45 mins? 1 hr?) the unit stops – unfortunately it doesn’t slow down, it just stops. This can result in a bit of a surprising and jerky halt which has almost thrown me off balance on numerous occasions. It does make a beep as this occurs, but it isn’t before it occurs – it is as it occurs…not very helpful.
  3. Arms – The foldable arms take up a good bit of space and I don’t ever use it with them. I’d love to have a unit with detachable arms.
  4. Remote – The remote is great, except that it requires a direct line of sight to the treadmill’s top, which is under the desk. So I have to stick the remote under the desk to change it’s settings. Still better than needing to go under the desk and make changes but definitely not ideal.
  5. App – There is no app and no integration with Fitbit. Unfortunately, Fitbit is pretty horrible at keeping track of how much one walks unless one’s arms are swinging, so my Fitbit does not provide an accurate reflection of my actual daily activity.

Conclusion

I love my under desk treadmill. I’d highly recommend getting one to those who are waffling, and perhaps especially to those who struggle with chronic health issues like I do. That said, there is still room for improvement as it doesn’t work well (at least that I’ve found) when one needs to sit at times. What do you think? Are you considering getting an under desk treadmill? Do you have one? If so, how do you handle the sit/stand dilemma?

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