Standing Desks vs. Treadmill Desks: Which One Is Right for You?

May 09, 2019

Is a treadmill desk right for you?
Linsey Knerl

There have been many positive changes to the office in the last decade, and one of them is making the workplace much more mobile. Standing desk benefits are embraced by workers who appreciate the chance to stretch their muscles, improve circulation and keep their posture healthy, but there is another choice on the market to consider. Treadmill desks are gaining popularity as a more movement-focused option, but how do they compare to their stationary counterparts? Before you decide on one or the other, take a look at the features of a standing desk vs. treadmill desk and consider how each has a purpose for a health-conscious workforce.

What Is a Treadmill Desk?

A treadmill desk is exactly what it sounds like; it's a workstation that's designed to work as part of or in conjunction with a low-speed treadmill exercise machine. The desk may be part of the treadmill's structure, or it may be a stand-alone shelf that can fit over an existing treadmill. It allows the user to complete tasks, like making phone calls, watching videos and typing, while walking at a modest pace on the treadmill's conveyor belt.

What Benefits Do Each Offer?

Treadmill desk benefits include the ability to walk in place, giving you the same health benefits that you would get while out on a stroll or when using a gym treadmill at slower speeds of less than 2 miles per hour. Standing desk benefits are also notable since they allow you to get up, stand in a position that's comfortable to you, shift your weight and even do some light stretching or movement exercises. Both choices give you an alternative to sitting all day, which has been tied to an increased risk of "heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even early death."

Safety First

Because treadmill desks contain moving parts, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for assembly, storage and use. Wear proper clothing when on a treadmill desk; skip the high heels or loose accessories that may become caught in the mechanism of the machine. If the treadmill comes with a safety key, use it; these are clips that attach to your clothes and force the machine to stop if the key slips off due to a fall or loss of balance.

How long should you use a treadmill desk each day? You'll get the best benefit from both types of workstations by changing position every 20-30 minutes. Limit your sitting to no more than a half hour, then switch to a standing position or a slow-paced walk. Sit again after another half hour. (As you build tolerance for standing and movement, you can lengthen the times between being seated.) These desks are not meant for running or to be used on an incline, so save the marathon training for your gym.

While treadmill desks give workers a way to multi-task and improve physical fitness, getting your job done is important. Any workspace should encourage you to complete your tasks on time and with better overall results; they shouldn't distract you from getting projects completed or – even worse – put you at risk of injury or illness. Both standing desks and treadmill workstations should be used in a rotation of movements; avoid doing all standing or walking in a given work day. Listen to your body, too; if you feel pain or strain, take it easy; work up to longer periods at your new workstation as you can tolerate it.

Best of Both Worlds

For the office worker who wants to consider healthy movement and improve posture as parts of a holistic approach to life, comparing a standing desk vs. treadmill desk may be an over-simplified view. Instead, it's wise to look at how each fit into your goals, and why embracing the perks of both may be the perfect outcome. With today's offices moving toward flexible seating, your ultimate work arrangement may have you sitting, standing, and walking your way through the workday. The standing desk and treadmill desk are two options that complement one another and help workers experience natural, regular movement and the well-being that comes with a variety of motions.

Sign Up to Receive Our Newsletter & Get the Best Ergonomic Tips