Treadmill Desk Boosts Brain Power and Longevity

treadmill desk

My Home-made Walking Treadmill Desk

Rather than sitting for hours on end at your computer, walk on a treadmill desk when doing computer work. Walking instead of sitting boosts brain power and can add years to your life.

Do you spend a lot of time sitting at the computer, either at your job or at home? Shockingly, researchers discovered prolonged sitting significantly increases a person's chances of dying from all causes.

Well, what if I told you there is piece of equipment you can use while you are on the computer that, according to research, may:

  • Improve your attention and memory;

  • Get you in better shape physically; and

  • Lower your risk of dying from all causes.

You would sit up and take notice, right?

Well, forget the sitting part. Instead, walk at a slow pace while you work.

That machine does exist. It's called a treadmill desk, and I use one myself. (I made it myself, too, without investing any money.)

This is not a standing desk. Rather, it's an exercise treadmill with a desk on top where you can do computer work while walking at a slow pace.

In 2012, a large study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found sitting hours a day increases a person's risk of dying from all causes whether or not they exercise at other times.

Sitting down for long periods is not good for your health! As a knowledge worker for many years, that's really worrisome to me.

From the study:

Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.

Working at a walking desk reduces this risk significantly, because, of course, you are no longer sitting.

We're talking about a leisurely pace, by the way (less than 2 miles/hour), not power walking.

But this is a memory improvement website. Why do I bring up treadmill desks?

Because a new study in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found that doing computer work on a treadmill also boosts memory and attention, compared to when such work is performed sitting.

Not only did study participants report greater attentiveness while using the walking desk, physiological and neural tests showed they experienced measurable increases in attention and memory.

treadmill desk
Close-up of my desk space

Attaching a treadmill to a desk is really an out-of-the box idea. Some people will hate the concept. I suggest an open mind.

As I discovered in my own case, walking and using a computer at the same time does take getting used to, but it can be done.

Yes, it's unusual, but don't forget the potential benefits:

  • Boosts memory and attention

  • An easy, low-impact workout

  • Could increase your lifespan

Initially, I was primarily attracted by the physical health benefits and increased longevity. But now we know it's also a brain builder! Wow, I'm on board.

Build Your Own Desk Treadmill, or Buy a Pre-Made One

Why Walk and Work?

A treadmill desk eliminates the sedentary behavior (prolonged sitting) which cuts years off your life.

Instead, you engage in standing, slow-paced movement that boosts attentiveness and memory.

I built my treadmill desk months ago, and I really like using it. Subjectively, I have noticed greater energy and focus when I work at that desk compared to sitting at a stationary desk.

I assembled mine for literally no money. I used scrap lumber from my shed and an old treadmill I already had.

The least expensive ready-made treadmill desks can still be pricey. And for the cheaper ones, you still need to provide the treadmill.

But it turns out plenty of folks have assembled their own treadmill desk for just a few bucks.

I do computer work on my treadmill desk several days a week. I am walking on it right now at 1.5 miles/hour as I type this.

I position my laptop computer atop a board that spans across the treadmill and rests on its side handles. If you have a desktop computer, you could set the monitor, keyboard, and mouse on the desk, leaving the computer's tower on the floor or a table.

Sitting all day can do a body wrong

Now that I've adapted to using it, I am able to work continuously for an hour or two without a break. That's even when I bump up the speed up 1.8 miles/hour, which I often do.

As you can see from the screen image above, there is plenty of room on the desk for mousepad, books, and papers.

Studies have found that less than 2 miles per hour (3.2 km/hr) is the ideal, least-intrusive range of treadmill speed for doing computer work. This is quite a slow pace.

At these unhurried speeds, you receive the beneficial health and brain boosts, but you don't become winded or sweaty.

Walking and Working: An Unusual Idea Offers Big Benefits

A treadmill desk may seem like a crazy idea. And if you don't spend a lot of time sitting at a computer, perhaps it doesn't make sense for you to use one.

But I've adapted to it, and the health and brain benefits keep me motivated to continue.

To see one of these desks in action, watch the 2-minute Business Insider video below. They decided to try out the "walking and working" concept in their offices one day.

Business Insider: "Sitting at Work Is Killing Us"

The Business Insider workers are walking on an all-in-one desk made by LifeSpan, a high end manufacturer. That model may be expensive, but the treadmill is included with the desk, and it has received great reviews compared to other brands.

As you can see from their reactions, some employees thought they could adapt while others disliked it outright. Walking while working on the computer isn't necessarily for everyone.

Having said that, I could see from the video that some workers had their speed set too high. One fellow was walking a brisk 3.5 miles per hour (5.6 km/hr). That's way too fast.

Others didn't seem to know about or appreciate the brain and longevity benefits that make working on a treadmill so worth it.

And none of those who tried it had enough practice with the desk treadmill, in my opinion, to become truly accustomed to using one. The adjustment period, in my experience, requires at least a few days.

One employee in the video did make a great point about treadmill desks versus widely used "standing" desks.

The treadmill is much better compared to a standing desk in that you don't get the soreness from being "fixated in one spot," as he put it.

So, if you are a knowledge worker or sit at a computer for long periods of time for other reasons, you might want to think about investing in a treadmill desk for your home and/or inquiring with your boss about getting a treadmill desk for your workplace.

If you don't think your boss would agree to it, this conclusion from a recent study may help bring him or her around:

Improvements in work performance should be convincing for organizations that may be inclined to subsidize the use of treadmill desks.

Let's not forget the big picture here. Sitting for hours is very detrimental to your health.

Prolonged sitting is so bad for you that some researchers bleakly characterize it as the new smoking. And now we know that using a treadmill desk not only reverses that risk, it can also boost memory and attentiveness.

Keep an open mind. Consider whether a treadmill desk might work for your situation. You might just end up healthier, longer-lived, and smarter for adopting this unusual walking work stance.

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