A person using the treadmill desk walks slowly on the treadmill while continuing to perform office tasks at the desk. The aim of a treadmill desk is to integrate movement and gentle exercise into the working day of an otherwise sedentary office worker. To increase productivity and health, a user incorporates standing and walking into their work routine.  At slower walking speeds, most able-bodied people can undertake desk-based tasks such as typing or talking on the telephone.
The New York Times credits Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, as the popular inspiration for the treadmill desk. He developed the concept as part of his work with non-exercise activity thermogenesis, constructing a treadmill desk by placing a bedside hospital tray over a $400 treadmill. Dr. Seth Roberts, a professor of psychology from UC Berkeley designed a treadmill desk in 1996, and may be the earliest user.
Styles and costs
There are several types of treadmill desks available on the open market. Some incorporate a treadmill base with a desktop built over it; another style is portable; while others are fabricated by original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and are treadmill with desk included. A commercially sold treadmill desk & base costs between US $1,500–$6,500, depending on product quality, and self-made treadmill desk can be constructed for as low as $500.
Benefits of behavior modifications
A treadmill desk is not typically used for a cardio workout, as most users find walking at a speed of 1–2 miles per hour the ideal range. Still, one may opt to walk at more brisk paces at 3+ mph for this sake. According to a study by James Levine at the Mayo Clinic, users can burn an estimated 100-130 calories per hour at speeds slower than 2 miles per hour. According to a 2007 Mayo Clinic study of office workers with obesity, "If sitting computer-time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure could increase by 100 cal/h. Thus, if obese individuals were to replace time spent sitting at the computer with walking computer time by 2–3 h/day, and if other components of energy balance were constant, a weight loss of 20–30 kg/year could occur." However, when Levine and associates actually conducted a 12-month trial in 2013, findings showed that subjects lost an average of 1.4 ± 3.3 kg (3 ± 7.2 lbs), with a higher rate of weight loss among obese subjects at 2.3 ± 3.5 kg ( 5 ± 7.7 lbs).
Recent studies suggest that prolonged sitting is linked to an “increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even early death.”
- CNN's Edge of Discovery: Treadmill Desk
- Good Morning America: Walking While You Work
- USA Today: Researcher sees future where people walk at work
- Gelf Magazine: Could a treadmill/desk mashup be the solution to America's obesity problem?
- Forbes: Take Up Thy Desk And Walk
- Scientific American