+H. Peter Anvin was asking about exercise, and I started writing a post-length comment about my treaddesking experience. Then I decided I should share more widely.

Everyone is different, blah blah blah, but when I first tried a walking desk, I had a project that I expected to take me about week and I got it done in a day; slow walking (1-2 MPH as I recall) got me “in the zone” and I was extraordinarily productive. Now, I sit down to concentrate on things like design and writing some complex documents. I stand (at the office) and walk (at home) for most other tasks. Catching up on email and news (and, well, G+) at home in the morning I walk relatively briskly, usually around 3.5 MPH.

Shortly after I first got the treadmill and built a desk on it, I slightly hurt my foot doing something unrelated, and decided to “take a break” from the walking desk. That “break” lasted for over a year. Annoyed with myself, I decided to wake up at 5:30 and walk for a bit over an hour every weekday, and I’ve stuck with it now for over a year and a half. It took a while for it to be a habit, but it has been worth it. I’m healthier, sleep better, need less sleep, depend less on coffee to be awake in the morning, have a better-regulated appetite, weigh less, and am in a better mood generally. Good return on a small investment, and the investment is smaller than it seems, since half the time I’m on the treadmill I make up by sleeping more soundly and restfully for less time.

I do keep my phone away from the side of the bed so I have to get out of bed to turn off the alarm, so that I’m awake enough not to just snooze and roll over, though!

The anecdata I’ve seen suggests that the majority of people who buy a walking desk end up not using it. I was one of those people for a bit over a year. I’m glad I came back to my senses.

One of the things I did differently when I got back on the treadmill was really simple: if I’ve hurt my foot a little, I just keep walking, but quite slowly. No harm in walking 1.5MPH for a few days and then slowly ramping back up to my normal brisk walk. And I have learned to take it easy and not push too hard. Whenever I haven’t been walking (including every Monday, since I take weekends off in my routine), I walk a bit slower and ramp back up by small increments. Even if I’ve been doing other forms of exercise, I back off and ramp up. After I spent a week skiing (all day, every day, aggressively; it was exercise) I backed off to about 2.5MPH and took over a week to get back up to my normal speed. When I first started, I would have felt bad about that, like I was “slacking off”. Now I know I’m pacing myself, and it’s a good thing.

If you want to walk for long periods, buying a treadmill gets a bit more complicated. Briefly, either get an office treadmill (rated for continuous use, but most limited to 2mph) or get one that is very outsized (3HP or so). If you run a cheaper treadmill for a long time at a low speed relative to what it was designed for, the motor can overheat. The office treadmills use different drive ratios to run the motors faster for better cooling. This doesn’t matter so much for just getting in an hour or so in the morning as I understand it; it matters more if you plan to walk for hours.

For a brisk walk, you actually want to dress for exercise: good running shoes, “technical” clothes. I felt a bit silly dressing in exercise clothes to “just walk” but it makes a big difference.

While I built a custom desk over my treadmill and around the console as normally installed on the treadmill, I’d suggest instead buying a motorized desk and buying a treadmill where you can remove the posts and put the console somewhere convenient. I find that sometimes my feet appreciate it if I vary the incline on the treadmill, but then my desk isn’t at the right height any more. Therefore, I’m likely at some point to replace my custom desk with a motorized desk, probably with a custom top that fits my workspace, and just mount the console to the desk.

(This post written at 3.5 MPH)

H. Peter Anvin May 21, 2014 12:39

Got a picture of your setup?

Michael K Johnson May 21, 2014 14:20

Yeah, posted it February of last year here on G+. Added a comment to it plus-mentioning you so you’ll get the URL. ☺

Imported from Google+ — content and formatting may not be reliable