• Jean Mansen

A Tip a Week: Consider a Treadmill Desk

I am in love with my new office mate. It's no secret. My husband helped my office companion move in and get settled. He cleared out old furniture to make a beautiful, cozy spot. And, like all crushes, this one inspired me to spruce up my wardrobe. I'm even getting more exercise.

My new office companion is a treadmill desk. I love it. It has changed my relationship with work as nothing else has since I started using a computer.

I heard about a treadmill desk from an acquaintance who used one to control her Type I diabetes several years ago. She noticed immediate results, including over blood sugar levels and improved sleep. I filed this information away but thought that it had little to do with me. I don't have diabetes and I hike six to nine miles a day with our dogs.

Then, my back started to hurt, and my neck started to hurt, and I developed severe, crippling muscle spasms and migraines. Fast forward two years, two substantial spinal surgeries, two long recovery periods, and I was finally better and able to resume working a few hours a day. But, sitting at a keyboard was excruciatingly painful. I began observing that I was doing more of my job standing, walking, and hiking (listening to audiobooks, for example). I ran the idea of a treadmill desk past my spine surgeon, and he immediately faxed me a prescription.

As a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, I had a ready pool of individuals in similar work situations from which to solicit opinions. Several used standing desks (I was afraid I'd slouch) and a couple had invested in treadmill desks and sent me links and detailed accounts of their experiences, all of which were positive. No one lived close enough for me to try one, so I took the plunge and bought mine. They come with a generous money-back guarantee, but the hassle of rearranging one's office, unpacking and repacking the desk and treadmill (two large boxes delivered via semi-truck), means that returning it won't be as easy as returning a pair of shoes to your favorite online retailer.

Treadmill desks come in various price points. I choose one that two EFA members also recommended. LifeSpan makes a range of treadmill desks and bikes. Here's what I purchased. You'll note that Jimmy Kimmel and Victoria Beckham are devotees. If you can try one before buying, I recommend that. If not, try reading on a treadmill at a gym at about two 2 mph. One friend took to my treadmill desk immediately, while another felt motion sick after just a minute of trying to read something on the screen. My husband never got the hang of it. Everyone reacts differently.

I bought new walking shoes so that I wouldn't track mud from my hikes onto the treadmill. I also found that I got a warm glow walking on the treadmill and bought several wicking sports tops and a pair of yoga capris. I work at home: someone working in an office may have other concerns. I open the windows.

I purchased The Chicago Manual of Style online. It was too difficult to use the hardback book. One editor has two screens. I don't think I'll make that investment, at least for a while, but I sit when doing final edits and close reading.

All in, it has been a life-changer and has allowed me to work pain-free, longer hours, and with greater focus and joy. I highly recommend a treadmill desk to anyone who has space and inclination.

My other office companions approve. They have the desk chair to themselves most of the day.