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Under Desk Treadmills: Do They Work?

Explore the effectiveness of under-desk treadmills and how walking while working can boost your health and productivity.

In an era where sedentary lifestyles have become the norm, especially in the American work culture, integrating physical activity into our daily routine is more crucial than ever. The under-desk treadmill is a novel concept that promises to improve the traditional workspace by combining work and walking.

This article takes a close look into the world of under-desk treadmills, exploring their functionality and assessing their effectiveness in combating the perils of a sedentary lifestyle.

From health benefits like increased cardiovascular health to enhancing well-being and productivity in the home office, we'll explore whether these innovative walking pads truly deliver on their promises and how they compare to traditional exercise equipment.

What Is an Under-Desk Treadmill?

An under-desk treadmill, also known as a walking treadmill or walking pad, is a low-impact exercise equipment designed to fit snugly under a standing desk. Unlike traditional treadmills, these compact and often folding treadmills are specifically engineered for walking at a low to moderate pace, making them ideal for multitasking during the workday.


The primary design focus of under-desk treadmills is to facilitate movement and physical activity for extended periods without the intensity of a full-blown cardio workout. They typically feature a slim, flat surface with cushioning to reduce strain on joints, making them suitable for prolonged use.

The walking speed on these treadmills is optimized for a comfortable pace that allows users to continue working on their tasks without significant disruption.


Integration with standing desks is a key aspect of under-desk treadmills. They enable office workers to transform their sedentary workspaces into dynamic environments, promoting blood flow, burning calories, and potentially enhancing mental alertness.

This setup is particularly advantageous for those working from home (WFH), where the flexibility to integrate wellness into the work routine is greater.


The concept of walking while working aims to address the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, including obesity, heart disease, and back pain.

By enabling users to increase their step count and maintain a steady heart rate throughout the day, under-desk treadmills present a practical solution to integrate low-intensity physical activity into busy schedules.

What Health Benefits Do Walking Treadmills Offer?

Walking treadmills, especially under desk models, offer a range of health benefits. Primarily, they combat the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, including heart disease, obesity, and back pain. By enabling low-impact, continuous movement throughout the day, they promote cardiovascular health, helping in maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart rate levels.

Additionally, these treadmills aid in weight management by providing a consistent means to burn calories. The steady walking pace, while not as intense as traditional cardio workouts, can contribute significantly to daily calorie expenditure when used for extended periods.

How Do Under-Desk Treadmills Impact Mental Health and Focus?

That said, under-desk treadmills are not just a tool for physical health. They also have a significant impact on mental health and focus.

Incorporating walking into the workday has been linked to reduced stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. The rhythmic nature of walking can foster a meditative state, aiding in mental clarity and focus.

Regular physical activity like walking can stimulate the release of endorphins, known as "feel-good" hormones, which contribute to improved mood and reduced feelings of stress. This is particularly beneficial in high-pressure work environments.

Moreover, a change in physical activity can break the monotony of the workday, potentially leading to increased creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Regular movement has been associated with improved cognitive function. Studies suggest mild to moderate physical activity can enhance memory, attention span, and decision-making skills. For individuals working in mentally demanding jobs, an under-desk treadmill can be a valuable tool for maintaining mental sharpness.

However, it's important to balance the benefits with potential distractions. For some, multitasking between walking and working might initially divide attention. Gradual adaptation and setting specific times for treadmill use can help in seamlessly integrating this physical activity into the work routine without hampering productivity.

How Practical Are Under-Desk Treadmills in a Home Office?

In the home office, the practicality of under-desk treadmills hinges on several factors. Their compact and often folding design makes them suitable for smaller spaces typical of home offices. This feature allows users to maintain an active lifestyle without needing a dedicated gym space.

Multitasking capabilities are a significant advantage. Under-desk treadmills enable users to walk and work simultaneously, fitting seamlessly into busy work-from-home schedules. This dual-functionality can be a game-changer for those struggling to find time for exercise.

However, considerations like noise levels are important, especially in shared living spaces. Most under-desk treadmills are designed to operate quietly, ensuring they don’t disrupt work calls or concentration.

Additionally, the integration with a standing desk is crucial. Users need to ensure their workspace ergonomics are not compromised while using the treadmill. The setup should allow for comfortable typing and viewing angles, avoiding strain or awkward postures.

How Do Under-Desk Treadmills Differ From Traditional Treadmills?

Under-desk treadmills and traditional treadmills serve different purposes and environments.

Intended Use

The most notable difference is in their intended use; under-desk treadmills are designed for walking at a steady, moderate pace, making them suitable for multitasking during work hours. Traditional treadmills, conversely, are built for a range of activities, from walking to intense running, often featuring higher speeds and incline options.


In terms of design, under-desk treadmills are more compact and often have a slim, flat profile with minimalistic controls to fit under a desk. Traditional treadmills are usually bulkier with larger footprints, requiring dedicated space for use and storage.

The cushioning on under-desk models is optimized for walking, whereas traditional treadmills often have more robust cushioning systems to accommodate high-impact running.

What Are the Potential Downsides of Under Desk Treadmills?

While under-desk treadmills offer several benefits, there are potential downsides and risks to consider. One concern is the distraction they may pose, potentially impacting the quality of work, especially tasks requiring high concentration. Users new to multitasking while walking might find it challenging initially.

There is also the risk of accidents or falls, especially when the user is distracted or fatigued. Ensuring that the treadmill's safety features are always engaged and that the workspace is set up ergonomically can mitigate this risk.

How Do I Select the Right Under-Desk Treadmill?

When selecting an under-desk treadmill, several factors should be considered to ensure it meets your needs and integrates well into your workspace.

Size and Portability

Consider the size and portability of the treadmill. A compact and easily movable model is essential for small or shared spaces. Look for treadmills with a slim profile that can easily slide under a desk.

Noise Level

Noise level is another crucial factor, especially in shared workspaces or home offices. Opt for treadmills designed to operate quietly to minimize disturbances during calls or concentration-heavy tasks.

Durability and Quality

Durability and quality are key for long-term use. Choose a treadmill built with sturdy materials and reliable construction. Check for warranties and customer reviews to gauge longevity.

Speed Range

The treadmill's speed range should align with your intended use. Ensure it has a suitable maximum speed for comfortable walking while working. Additional features like step count monitors and heart rate sensors can be beneficial for tracking your fitness progress.

Ease of Use and Maintenance

Consider the ease of use and maintenance. A user-friendly interface and low maintenance requirements will make the treadmill more convenient and enjoyable to use.

Other Ways To Incorporate Physical Movement Into Your Day

Incorporating physical movement into your workday extends beyond the use of under-desk treadmills. Standing desks allow you to alternate between sitting and standing, reducing the risks associated with prolonged sitting. Periodic stretching or doing simple exercises at your desk can also be effective.

Consider taking short, brisk walks during breaks, whether it’s around the office or outside. Utilizing stability balls or balance boards can engage your core and promote movement even while seated.

Organizing walking meetings or encouraging physical activities during team breaks can also foster a more active work environment. Remember, integrating small but consistent movement throughout the day can significantly contribute to your overall health and well-being.

Can Under-Desk Treadmills Complement a Fitness Regimen?

While under-desk treadmills are beneficial for incorporating more movement into a sedentary workday, they are typically not a complete substitute for a comprehensive fitness regimen.

These treadmills are ideal for low-intensity, steady-state exercise, primarily beneficial for improving general activity levels rather than building cardiovascular endurance or muscular strength.

Fitness experts often recommend a balanced exercise approach, including a mix of cardiovascular training, strength training, and flexibility exercises. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), weight lifting, yoga, or pilates, in conjunction with the use of an under-desk treadmill, can create a well-rounded fitness program.

Additional forms of exercise beyond the under-desk treadmill are necessary for those looking to improve specific aspects of their physical health, such as increasing muscle strength or improving cardiovascular endurance. These treadmills serve as an excellent tool for maintaining consistent physical activity, especially on busy days. Still, they should be complemented with other forms of exercise to achieve a broad range of health benefits.

Wrapping Up

Under-desk treadmills offer a practical solution to combat the sedentary nature of modern work environments, especially in home office settings. They provide significant health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and enhanced mental well-being.

While they differ from traditional treadmills in design and purpose, they fit seamlessly into work routines, allowing for multitasking and regular movement. However, they should be used judiciously, considering potential distractions and the importance of a balanced fitness regimen.

At Branch, we believe under desk treadmills can be a valuable tool for integrating physical activity into daily work life, promoting overall health and productivity.


Obesity | World Health Organization

Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health | Mayo Clinic

Heart disease - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Evidence-Based Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training on Exercise Capacity and Health: A Review with Historical Perspective | NIH

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