“Hi Colleen,

I was curious how your standing treadmill desk performed. I’ve read articles that state standing desks really don’t work. I wanted to know how hard drawing on it is. I was thinking of getting one, but now I’m not so sure.”

Madeline

This letter was edited for clarity.

Hi Madeline,

I kept careful records of my treadmill desk use, miles, calories burned, etc, and here are my observations. Also, here is my article about my treadmill desk, with pics of my dad jury rigging my system so I didn’t have to spend $4000 on a commercial unit.

    The treadmill desk works, but not the way I thought it would work.

  • The primary benefit is ergonomic. The desk helped me with stiffness in hips and knees, reduced fluid retention in my legs and feet. If you are on deadline and find yourself sitting for 12 hours a stretch, this is a serious problem.
  • Drawing on a treadmill desk is possible, but you won’t draw very well. I limited use to layouts and simple sketches, but eventually abandoned that entirely. Even walking at only 1 mile per hour was too rocky for precision.
  • Productivity drops while on the desk because everything you do takes longer. This article arrives at the same conclusion. I don’t really want to work slower just to walk longer.
  • Writing on the treadmill desk worked best, but I made more mistakes and had to carefully edit later. Also, there were days I barely had time for writing, since I spend more time illustrating. At first, writing on it 3 hours a day at up to 3 MPH, I dropped 10 pounds. But most days I was on it 1/2 hour or less. If I were a full-time writer, I’d have different results, I’m sure. But if you’re thinking of dropping a lot of money on a desk to use while making art, you will be disappointed.
  • Posture got better if I used it for short periods, but trying to get a comfortable work position while on it for long periods made for a very stiff neck and shoulders. I have bad eyesight, use 4 pairs of glasses, and found moving while trying to focus very difficult. Might have been less of a problem if I had one of those desks that I could raise and lower electronically, but I didn’t.
  • Last year, I removed the desk and started jogging again. The treadmill went into shock and died. I quickly gained 10 pounds, so I’m sure the desk helped maintain my weight over the last several years, or my weight wouldn’t have shot up so fast when I stopped moving. Move that to the plus column.
  • If you are very unfit, it’s a good way to ease yourself back into a more active lifestyle. As I’d been sick for some years, and went from working out 2 hours a day to not working out regularly for 8 years, this was definitely a plus.
  • The more you weigh, the more your calories you’ll burn walking. But I’m not overweight, and don’t get much benefit unless I’m really pushing it. And if I’m going that fast, I can’t work on it.
  • After the treadmill desk went home to Jesus late last year, I got an elliptical trainer. I’ve also added weights and stretching to my routine. As of February 16, I’ve lost almost 20 pounds. I use it up to 45 minutes a day 5 times a week. I’m on a diet and fitness plan I’d not been able to maintain since 2004. I can’t work while on the trainer, but I can read and web surf a bit.

    My health issues from year’s back are no longer a serious problem, and since becoming more fit again, I sleep almost 2 hours less per day. I fold some of that time over and devote it to fitness, and don’t lose 1 minute of work.

    As an artist, the treadmill desk is simply too impractical to use while drawing. Even if you use it for hours every day while writing, you will go so slowly you will achieve at most a modest benefit. While I did lose weight at first, I quickly hit a wall. But when I stopped, I quickly gained. Good for maintaining, not good for losing.


    It is not a core fitness plan solution. But it is definitely better than nothing.
    If I had more space and did more writing, I’d get a commercial unit, but I wouldn’t use it for making art.

    For my purposes, the elliptical machine costs less, takes up less space, and works better. While I can’t use it while writing or drawing, I can use it at work while reading scripts and articles.

    YMMV.

    Hope this helps.

    Look, here I am with Kevin Sorbo, TV’s Hercules. Now that’s some kind of inspiration.

    me-and-sorbo