An Antidote to Sedentary Office Hours: Get a Treadmill Desk at Home

Elisabeth Stavenga (36), working for a corporate in Cape Town, shares how she uses her home treadmill desk to make up for the hours spent sitting at the office.


How, when and where do you use your treadmill desk?

Although there isn’t the option to use a treadmill desk at work, I’m happy to at least have one at home. We’ve set it up in our “relax room” overlooking the garden. I often have the window and sliding door open so I don’t feel like I’m stuck inside on a beautiful day.

I hop on the treadmill desk for all my computer-based activities, like sending personal emails, planning events, general online browsing, using Facebook or Pinterest, and editing photos – all things that can take a few hours and where you’d usually be seated.

Depending on what I’m doing, I could be treadmill desking anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. I wear whatever shoes I happen to have on (the exception being heels); my usual preference anyway is for comfortable shoes or flip flops.

All my Skype chats with friends and family overseas are also done while I’m walking. It feels a bit like going for a walk with them. I feel more engaged in our chats; walking brings more of a sense of quality time to the experience.

What has the treadmill desk added to your life?

It makes a huge difference in my life. I used to feel terrible spending more time sitting down in the evening or on the weekend. When I found out how bad a sedentary lifestyle is for my health, I made an effort not to add any more chair hours than necessary.

I’ve also become very aware of how much I’m sitting versus standing. For example, this morning I opened my work laptop and made a point of standing at the kitchen bar because I was very conscious that I’d be sitting for most of the day. I now try to stand whenever the opportunity allows for it (even at work meetings), as long as it isn’t inappropriate or doesn’t come across as intrusive. That said, I definitely prefer walking to standing while working. If I stand for too long, my lower back tends to gets sore, but that’s never the case with walking. Quite the opposite actually, as when I’m walking I’m not bending over my desk as I tend to do when sitting at my desk.

Walking also makes me feel happier… it feels very positive to move my body while working or typing. My brain just feels sharper and inspired.

As a hiker and runner, you already lead an active lifestyle – but have you noticed any extra physical benefits?

Definitely. I feel really energised – so much so, that I try not to walk too much before going to bed or I’ll struggle to sleep.

Walking on the treadmill desk (combined with walking regularly to my nearest MyCiTi bus terminal) has helped me to maintain a basic fitness level. I’ve also noticed that my general running fitness has increased. My husband, who is on a treadmill desk at work too, has – to my annoyance – become a lot fitter than me!

I find that using the treadmill desk also gives me a confidence boost, just because my body feels so much better after a walk, which is probably the endorphins kicking in too! It’s such a bonus to combine physical activity with social or personal computer activities.

Did you have any challenges adjusting to the treadmill desk?

Not at all. Fortunately I touch-type so I rarely have to look down anyway, plus I already knew that you shouldn’t walk too fast. I think that’s the biggest eye-opener for many people – that you’re not running on a treadmill desk. I generally walk at about 1.8 km/hr. And yet, after walking for 1.5 to 2 hours, you do feel it in your muscles; my legs feel firmer.

It’s amazing also how easy it is to increase your activity levels for the day. Very soon you’ve walked an hour while doing an activity you would usually do seated. Because of the monitor at the treadmill desk, you also realise how much time you can spend doing “nothing”, just browsing and sending emails!

Do you think treadmill desks could work in an office environment?

I do! And even if you don’t enjoy typing documents while walking, there are so many other opportunities to use it. If you start with phone calls or general emails, that’s already a huge win. Webcasts and conference calls could work too: I find I’m more engaged and focused when walking… I don’t get side-tracked as often by the internet. I’d prefer dedicated rooms with treadmill desks, so that everyone is in the same mindset, and so that you’re not the focus of attention while others are seated.  

Elisabeth uses the TR800 treadmill desk.

Using a treadmill, bike or standing desk? Share your story in the comments section or get in touch with us here. We’d love to hear from you!





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