There’s are clever ways to use your treadmill desk to best fight off the “sitting disease,” which if left free to harm, can have serious consequences to your health.

I’ve been using a treadmill desk for almost six years and am a former personal trainer for a health club, so I am definitely tuned into the dangers of the excessive sitting—known as the sitting disease: the new smoking!

Sometimes it’s difficult to spend a good amount of time using your treadmill desk, either because it’s just more comfortable sitting at a computer or because there’s limited “walking friendly” computer activity available.

To get the most out of your treadmill desk to cancel out the harmful effects of prolonged sitting, do the following:

  • Find out how fast you can walk for specific computer activities before it begins interfering with your ability to perform those activities.
  • You may find that you can actually sift through and respond to e-mails at 1.8 mph, when all along you’ve been crawling at 0.8 mph.
  • If you do a lot of writing while walking, see just how fast you can go while still maintaining focus. Height of the desk will play into this; the higher the height, the more uncomfortable this might be for your wrists.
  • The easiest task is straight reading and minimal mouse and keyboard actions; see if you can comfortably read at 2.5 mph.
  • By using the fastest speeds possible you’ll be getting in the maximal number of steps; the biggest bang for your buck if you have limited time on the treadmill desk.
  • Another way to enhance the walking experience is to use an incline, especially on days when you just don’t feel like moving at faster speeds, or if the computer work necessitates a slower speed.
  • For example if I’m writing articles while on my treadmill desk I’ll have the speed at 0.5 mph but the incline at 15 percent. The high desk makes it uncomfortable for my wrists during heavy keyboard work, but the super slow speed takes a little edge off that.

Holding Onto the Treadmill Desk

  • A third way to get the most out of this device to fight off the sitting disease is to use it without holding onto the machine.
  • It will be tempting to some users to hold onto the rails or front of the console while reading, letting go only to use the mouse or keyboard to scroll, click to another page or do a new search.
  • There is no reason why you must hold on while reading. Swing the arms as they naturally want to relative to the speed of the walk. This includes at an incline.
  • If the incline is too difficult to walk without holding on, this means the speed is too fast! Instead of holding on, reduce the speed or reduce the incline.
  • Prolonged sitting is bad for the lower back, but holding onto a treadmill deprives the lower back muscles from doing the job they’re supposed to when walking (which is to stabilize and support the spinal column). This deprivation will weaken them.
  • The only time I encourage holding onto the treadmill desk is when one hand is continuously busy, which means one arm is resting on the console to continuously handle the mouse or keyboard.
  • Placing the other hand in a similar (though passive) position on the console will even things out for the spine. I have done this while scrolling through litigation transcripts to check for mistakes in the question-and-answer sequence between attorney and witness.
  • But once I began reading the testimony (as part of my proofreading business), both hands were removed from the machine.
  • If I had to make a correction to the testimony, my hands would handle the mouse and keyboard the same way they would if I were sitting. Then after the correction my hands/arms would once again be disconnected from anything.

Periodic Spurts of Higher Intensity

Every so often during your computer activities on the treadmill desk, take a break and set the speed to 4 mph and do an arm pumping walk for a few minutes.

Or go to 10 or 15 percent incline and 2 mph and walk a few minutes. Don’t try to perform computer activities during these spurts.

These spurts are meant to add some challenge to the very slow walking that goes with using a treadmill desk while doing computer work.

These measures will ensure that you’re doing all you can with your treadmill desk to fight off the sitting disease.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.