A few years ago research came to light about the perils of sitting all day. There’s elevating concern about our “sedentary society,” the fact that we spend all day sitting and all evening sitting too, and why this is bad for our hormones and circulatory systems. Heck, just yesterday, the CBC ran a story about the stresses that sitting puts on the body; scary stuff.
This is really bad news for me: I love sitting, both for fun and for profit. I’m, like, an Olympic-level sitter. I do sit-conditioning, daily! I’m championship material, we’re talking real endurance here. Buuut… I’m only willing to suffer for my sport so much. Like, say, I don’t want to die at 55, or be crippled when I’m a senior and should be chasing the cabana boys around the pool. What to do?
So, OK, I’ve read about Treadmill Desks for ages, and the idea made the rounds of the intertubes. Anecdotal reports from users said that they felt less tired during the day, more able to go out and do active stuff after work, and no longer suffered from the 2:00pm after-lunch slump. Interesting. I liked the sound of that.
However, until recently, I worked in an “open office.” A treadmill desk? Not something you can use in a cube farm. And let’s face it: even if you do have your own space, a treadmill desk is likely to mark you out as “that strange coworker with a treadmill in their office” at the Christmas party, right next to the guy who unicycles to work and the chick who does yoga stretches during meetings. Due to its weirdness and untested-ness, I kind of figured that Treadmill Desks were destined to go the way of the kneely-chair and recumbent bicycle – interesting experiments for the hardcore ergonomic adventurer, but not likely to join the pen holder as a most-used office supply item.
But now that I have my own office, I thought I’d look into them again. I could use not being tired in the afternoons or grumpy after work, right? Sure! And you can buy them now: SteelCase sells a $4,000 ‘Sit/Stand Walking Desk’ (which is only about double the cost of a regular SteelCase desk.) That’s fine for the well-heeled corporate types, but it’s still about $3,519 more than most people are willing to pay for a desk, especially one that’s pretty experimental. Looking for something a bit cheaper, I stumbled across a ‘Just Add Treadmill!’ desk on Amazon. It was only $600 — plus the cost of the treadmill — which, while cheaper than the SteelCase desk, is still a lot of money to shell out for something that might just be a weird fad.
But it got me to wondering. Being sort of crafty (although more with a solder gun than a glue gun), I thought that maybe I could MAKE one to try it out, and no real harm if it’s a miserable failure. Shouldn’t be too hard or expensive to put together, right? Two common items – treadmill, desk – and a few C-clamps… ? Hmm. Some googling quickly revealed a few tutorials and a whole section on Instructables with people figuring out various ways to make a hideous half-desk half-treadmill monstrosity that would put a terrifying transporter malfunction to shame. But, you know, in a good way. Definitely possible.
So I hopped onto the Craigslist, and I found a bunch of used treadmills for a few hundred bucks. I found one that looked promising, and to my glee the handles were exactly the right height for a keyboard tray. So I handed over the cash, disassemble it, and loaded it into Darth Car. Hah! My ridiculously circuitous plan was one quarter complete!
Once at work, Damian helped me assemble and rearrange my office. This was key. Ideally, the top of the monitor should be level with your eyes (which is, incidentally, not how the Amazon Half-Baked Treadmill Desk is set up). The Instructables show people using wall shelves to mount their monitors, with another shelf across the keyboard, so that’s how I thought I’d have to do it. But it turned out that my filing cabinet was also exactly the right height, so I just took another bookshelf and laid it on the top, jutting out over the treadmill (using my computer chassis to weigh it down, which I don’t think is Health and Safety approved, but anyway).
This is how it turned out:
So far, so good! When I’m ready to walk I just move the keyboard/mouse and monitor, and shove the second monitor over (for email and stuff that I don’t need to read right away, or for previewing websites.) Since I now have awesome eyesight this poses no problems. The monitor is far enough forward that I’m not leaning forward to look at it, and the keyboard and mouse are at a natural height. It takes about a minute to set up/take down, so I can go from sitting to walking pretty easily.
In a few days, I’ll post The Treadmill Diaries, and let you know how it’s going. IF it’s going. If I survive.