As someone who’s been involved in IT for the last 15 years, sitting while working comes with the territory. Since transitioning from IT to full-time blogging, it’s just been more of the same.
Shooting video tends to get me out of my chair on most days, but I still find myself sitting for inordinate amounts of time. Having a good exercise routine is crucial, as many of my colleagues will attest to, but even with regular exercise, it can still be fatiguing to sit for most of the working day.
This is why I ended up researching, and ultimately acquired, a standing desk. Standing desks are great as I noted in my full review of the UpDesk Power Up, but after a month or so of regularly standing for portions of my work day, I craved something more.
Enter the Under Desk Treadmill from LifeSpan. It’s a device that helps transition a standing-while-working routine into to a moving-while-working routine. Can an under desk treadmill really allow you to maintain productivity while in motion?
What it’s not
The first thing I did when I received my treadmill was crank it up to the maximum speed. I literally attempted to jog while typing. After a while, it became apparent to me that this was stupid — it’s not what the treadmill is designed to do.
Not only does walking too fast make it easy to sweat in your work clothes, it’s actually counter productive, because it distracts you from your work. After talking to some of the folks over at LifeSpan, they made it clear that the under desk treadmill isn’t designed for workouts. The treadmill is there to ensure that you can continue moving while maintaining the same high level of productivity.
Productivity is key. If the treadmill interferes with the way you work, then you’re going too fast. I find that my ideal speed is about 1.5-2.5 miles per hour. That may seem slow, but consider this; walking for just two hours of your work day at 1.5 MPH = 3 miles of walking. Walking for half of a typical workday equates to around 6 miles of walking, and that number only increases as the speed rises. That’s a significant amount of movement while still maintaining the same level of productivity or better. You’re basically getting in several miles of walking for “free”.
LifeSpan told me that walking should be at a slow enough pace so that you’re not out of breath or breathing overly hard. You should still be able to type and work at your desk like you normally would while sitting or standing.
I find that I can usually type better while walking, because it helps me to develop a rhythm that I can type to. It’s a rhythm that I otherwise wouldn’t have while sitting in a chair or while standing still.
If you don’t already own a standing desk, then you might want to consider LifeSpan’s DT5 or DT7 models, as both come with desks. However, the DT7’s desk is powered, while DT5 model needs to be raised and lowered manually. The DT3 is a standalone unit with no table included, which is the unit that I’m using. This is perfect for those of you who already own a standing desk.
Each unit comes with a lifetime warranty for the frame, a 3-year warranty for the motor, 2 years for the parts, and 1 year for labor.
There are some higher-tiered models available on LifeSpan’s website. Some of these upper-echelon models feature a maintenance free belt and target corporate environments. The consumer grade models do require users to lubricate the belt every 50 hours of use with a silicon spray.
To be completely clear, I can’t vouch for any potential health benefits of an under desk treadmill, just like I couldn’t vouch for health benefits while using a standing desk. I can tell you that I feel much better after work than I did prior to getting my standing desk and treadmill. I have way more energy when work is over, and I don’t feel nearly as sluggish and lethargic as I did before.
Health benefits will obviously vary from person to person, but I will say this: there’s a real good chance that it’s better to walk 2-3 miles during the day than it is to sit all day and not walk at all.
Key things to know
Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. It’s a good idea to ditch the loafers for some athletic shoes. I wear a pair of Nike Free running shoes while walking on the treadmill, and it’s significantly more comfortable than wearing loafers.
You’ll need plenty of room. Although LifeSpan’s under desk treadmills occupy less footprint than traditional fitness treadmills, it still takes up a considerable amount of space at 63” L x 28.5” W x 7.25” H. It’s also recommended that you have at least three feet of space behind the treadmill. Be sure that your working area can accommodate the size of the unit.
Don’t jog or run. I really can’t reiterate how important this is. Don’t go into this thinking that you’re going to get a fitness workout. Fitness workouts are for before or after work, not during work. This treadmill is for walking and walking only. And if your walking routine is interfering with your productivity, be sure to slow down.
What comes with the unit?
The Lifespan TR1200-DT3 Under Desk Treadmill comes with the treadmill base, which fits under a standing desk, and a console, which rests on the desk top. The console connects to the treadmill, and is used to power the unit on, control speed, etc.
The console can sync via Bluetooth to record data, but I found that functionality to be extremely clunky on Apple devices, and only marginally better on Android devices. To add data to LifeSpan’s ActiveSync iPhone app, you actually have to sync between the treadmill and a Mac app first. Once the data is synced between the treadmill and Mac app, that data is forward to LifeSpan’s Club website. After that, the data synced to the web is then synced to the iOS app. If that sounds like a terrible process, it’s because it is.
The syncing experience, the apps, and the website all feel like afterthoughts. In this day and age, users expect more attention to be paid to the app and online experience, and that just isn’t the case here.
Thankfully, the models that come with desks also feature updated consoles that allow for improved syncing directly between an iPhone and the treadmill. More importantly, this will allow for data to be easily added to Apple’s Health app, something that can’t be done with the data found in LifeSpan’s own ActiveSync app. LifeSpan says that the newest version of its standalone DT3 treadmill, which is similar to my review unit, will also come with updated consoles that feature enhanced syncing and Health app support.
These treadmills are capable of calculating the amount of steps taken via its built-in Intelli-Step feature. Intelli-Step tracks each step that you place on the surface of the treadmill, which lends it more accuracy than the typical pedometer or motion tracking tool.
Another notable feature, Intelli-Guard, will automatically shut off the treadmill after a user steps away for more than a few seconds. Although this feature is nice in theory, it can be annoying for those of you who use the treadmill in a home office environment, and want it to continue running during brief away periods. Fortunately, LifeSpan allows users to disable the Intelli-Guard feature to keep the treadmill running if you have to step away momentarily.
The unit also comes with an emergency key that can attach to your clothing to prevent accidents. Once the key is removed from the console, the treadmill will come to an automatic stop.
Engineering mode is key
LifeSpan’s treadmills feature a special Settings/Engineering mode that can solve some of the complaints that customers have with the treadmill. It’s bizarre to me that such useful settings are buried inside an ambiguous mode, but they are. Depending on the model of treadmill, the methods for entering this extended settings mode may differ.
Getting into the Engineering mode on my console required me to press and hold the Stop/Pause button followed by a press of the Up button. Doing so ushered me into an area of the console where I could disable the Intelli-Guard feature, disable annoying beeping sounds, alter the speed limit and unit of measure, and most importantly, change the speed reset settings.
Turning speed reset off allows the treadmill to pick right up where you left off when using the Stop/Pause button, or when the treadmill automatically stops via Intelli-Guard. I find that Intelli-Guard isn’t nearly as annoying if you have the speed reset disabled, because you don’t have to ramp up the speed of the treadmill each time by repeated presses of the Up button on the console.
This review isn’t so much a review of the LifeSpan treadmill than it is a look into the feasibility of walking while working. I have to say that I was very skeptical going into this review. Would I really be able to stay productive while walking on a treadmill?
The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. Not only was I able to maintain my productivity, but I felt walking while working actually increased my rhythm, which enhanced my productivity.
I’ve been able to perform all sorts of tasks on my Mac while walking at 1.5-2.5 MPH. I’ve edited videos, audio, created tutorials, and written reviews like this one, all while walking.
The standing desk is a wonderful thing on its own, but I feel like having an under desk treadmill was the missing piece to unlocking the full benefit of such a setup.
The most glaring flaw with LifeSpan’s product is its app, website, and overall syncing scheme. It feels like a bolted on afterthought, which is a shame. The good news is that LifeSpan is aware of the disconnect, and is actively working on shoring up its services.
But the fundamental aspect of walking while working when you get down to it will either work or it won’t. No amount of engineering or iteration can change that fact. The good news is that walking while working works. It not only works, but it’s an investment that can be life changing.
As hyperbolic as that may sound, this is a device that allows you to truly multitask for the betterment of mind and body. This is true multitasking in the sense that you’re getting to walk for “free” without hindering any of your productivity.