We’re about to hit you with some hard facts. Are you sitting down?
Just kidding — you don’t have to answer that. Studies show that the average adult sits for nearly 10 hours every day(Opens in a new window), so there’s a good chance that you are right now. But what is particularly worrisome is that sitting for more than just four hours per day can lead to a higher risk of back aches and depression at best, and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer in the worst-case scenarios. Those risks just get riskier with more time spent sitting, but the American Heart Association(Opens in a new window) notes that even light-intensity activity (like walking) can offset some of the worst side effects of being sedentary.
Right, so sit less, move more — simple, right? Well, if you work a job where you need to have your eyes glued to a screen for the vast majority of your workday, it can be surprisingly difficult to add in that “move more” part. You can sit less by switching to a standing desk, of course, and that can be a significant health improvement on its own. However, adding some actual physical activity into the mix is even better, so move over, standing desk — the treadmill desk has entered the chat.
What is an under-desk treadmill?
As the name implies, under-desk treadmills are simply treadmills that are made to fit easily under a standing desk in your home office (even if that’s just a corner of your living room). They’re typically narrower than a traditional treadmill, and they either have a handrail that can fold down flush around the treadmill’s deck, or they don’t have a handrail at all.
Do under-desk treadmills work?
Just like any other piece of at-home gym equipment, under-desk treadmills only work if you use them. Also sometimes referred to as “walking treadmills” or “walking pads,” most of them are not designed to go very fast, so you shouldn’t expect to get the same kind of workout as you would on ordinary treadmills. This also makes sense because typing and reading on a screen while trying to run is an uncomfortable — if not impossible — task.
Rather, under-desk treadmills are designed so you can walk at a relatively leisurely pace during the course of your workday to help you burn some extra calories and smash your daily step count goals. Does it replace going to the gym for a heart-pumping sweat session? No. But is it an infinitely healthier choice than just sitting down all day? Absolutely.
Whether you utilise it while answering emails, writing reports, or listening to low-participation meetings with your camera and mic turned off, a treadmill workstation can help you improve circulation, avoid body pain from sitting too long, and reduce your risk of an early death. Bonus (as if that’s not enough): It could even help boost productivity and creativity, and lower stress levels.
Just make sure that you keep good posture while walking on your under-desk treadmill, and gradually work your way up to longer desk-walking sessions; no need to attempt a marathon on your first day — or even in your first few months, for that matter.
How do you choose a treadmill for under your desk?
When shopping for a walking pad or under-desk treadmill, consider the following:
Speed range — All walking pads will be suitable for taking leisurely strolls of 2 MPH or slower. However, some under-desk treadmills can reach higher speeds more comparable to a running treadmill — sometimes over 7 MPH — so you can speed-walk, run, and generally maximise your workout both at your desk and away from it.
Dimensions — If you already have a standing desk setup in your home office, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the overall dimensions of the under-desk treadmill or walking pad you’d like to purchase. If it’s too wide to fit under your existing desk, you won’t be able to use it properly. Similarly, consider both the deck width and length to ensure that the walking area will accommodate your stride. Some taller folks may have a longer stride that could overreach a treadmill deck that’s too short in length, but a longer deck may not fit in small spaces.
Ease of storage — The size of the walking pad also comes into play when you think about where you’ll store it when not in use. Some walking treadmills are built with a fold-up handrail for use away from your desk as well, so just make sure that component can fold flat. Generally speaking, a walking pad should be able to slide easily under a bed or sofa, making it the perfect solution for small spaces.
Weight capacity — You’ll also want to consider the maximum weight recommendation for users; many walking pads tend to have a weight capacity of about 220 pounds, but you can definitely find options that are more accommodating.
Maneuverability — Speaking of weight, consider the item’s weight and whether or not it has built-in transport wheels that make the walking pad easy to move around your home office, living room, bedroom — wherever. The easier it is to set up and put away, the more likely you are to keep up with the habit.
Keep these points in mind when shopping around for an under-desk treadmill.
Do any under-desk treadmills incline?
Most under-desk treadmills do not have an incline feature as it would make it a bit more tricky to use while working at a desktop. That said, they’re not impossible to find.
Can you use an under-desk treadmill on carpet?
Using your under-desk treadmill on a low-pile carpet should be okay, but a more plush carpet could cause the treadmill to overheat. Fortunately, you can get a treadmill mat to place on top of your carpet to keep air flowing and act as a safety shield from dust and carpet fibers. That said, you may also want to place a mat under your treadmill if you have hardwood floors to avoid damaging them (and to dampen sound a little bit if you live above neighbours).
Are under-desk treadmills better than under-desk bikes?
When comparing under-desk treadmills and under-desk bikes, it honestly comes down to your fitness goals and the nature of your work. While we’ve already noted that typing and reading can be a little tricky while walking at your treadmill workstation because of the full-body movement, an under-desk bike typically keeps your upper body stationary, so you might find it easier to get work done.
That said, there are several different styles of under-desk bikes — some of which may make it more difficult to work comfortably, especially if you have longer legs. Some under-desk bikes also allow you to achieve a much more strenuous cardio workout than walking treadmills, though you may need to reserve those sweat sessions for low-participation meetings when your mic and camera are off, just as you would for more intense workouts on an under-desk treadmill.
But, just like the difference between walking pads and ordinary treadmills, there’s still a big difference between under-desk bikes and a true cardio workout on a Peloton or other fitness bike. Neither of these under-desk versions of gym equipment should replace true workouts, but they’re both great options for adding activity to your daily routine.
What is the best under-desk treadmill?
There are a lot of options out there to suit everyone. To give you the best chance of finding something that works for you, we have highlighted a selection of standout models from a range of top brands.
These are the best under-desk treadmills in 2023.