You don’t need to lose weight in order for a treadmill desk to protect you from the “sitting disease.” And being thin is no reason to avoid using a treadmill desk either.
As a former personal trainer who’s been using a treadmill desk since 2011, I was inspired to write this article after reading of a study in which weight loss was measured in overweight office workers who used a treadmill desk as part of the study.
After 12 weeks of using a treadmill desk on the job, none of the overweight workers lost weight. I say, big deal.
That’s not the point of a treadmill desk.
The reason for this tool is to offset the harm of prolonged daily sitting. The study, headed by John Schuna Jr., assistant professor of exercise and sports science at Oregon State University, isn’t what I’d call “pointful.”
Furthermore, the participants walked on average only 1,600 steps per workday more than the control group who sat all day.
Sixteen hundred steps?! That’s peanuts.
Do Not Depend on Treadmill Desk for Weight Loss
No, you can’t lose weight while working on financial documents or writing e-mails at the same time. It’s just not going to happen.
However, I wrote an article describing how interval training can be incorporated into the use of a treadmill desk while you do computer work.
So let’s say I want to watch some youtube videos of great TV commercials. I’m walking on the machine at 1 mph, zero incline.
Then I pause the video, raise the incline to 15 percent, set the speed to 4 mph, and jog this for 45 seconds (without holding on).
During this time, I cannot watch any video or read any news, let alone use the keyboard.
Then I return to the baseline easy setting and walk that—while resuming the video (or news story) till I catch my breath and feel ready for the next interval.
Then I crank up the settings for another high incline jog that gets me winded. If I do eight of these, that’s a great exercise session, and I was performing computer activity ONLY during the very leisurely 1 mph zero incline setting.
Maybe this should be described as an aerobic training session incorporating the use of a treadmill desk.
BUT IT IS NOT THE SAME as thinking you can get a good aerobic (and calorie-burning) workout doing ONLY 1 mph at zero incline (or whatever setting you use on a treadmill desk for computer work).
Using a treadmill desk, for the purpose it was intended for (to oppose the sitting disease) will not cause weight loss.
Now of course, if you’ve historically been lying on a couch all day and evening, then buy a treadmill desk and walk 15,000 steps a day on it, then yes, there will be some weight loss: You’ve added 15,000 steps a day into your life and gave up the couch.
But that’s a dramatic upgrade from your baseline of couch potato.
Let’s be fair and assume you aren’t in a recliner all day long, unemployed and watching TV while snacking on junk food.
If you work full time or are otherwise active in your life, and then toss a treadmill desk into the mix and use it for its intended purpose (to avoid excess sitting), then don’t count on this move to knock off 50 pounds—not even 20 pounds.
Do you realize just how little energy is spent walking 1 mph? Even 1.5 mph is frightfully slow. BUT…and this is a big but…it’s sufficient to counteract the sitting disease!
You are not sitting while you’re walking very slowly. That’s all that matters. Countering the harmful effects of prolonged sitting does not require extended periods throughout the day of brisk walking or tough incline sessions.
All it requires is staying off your seat and keeping the legs moving.
What works best for weight loss if not a treadmill desk?
You can’t beat the tried-and-true basics: jogging, brisk walking, hill walking, incline walking or running on a regular treadmill (no holding on) or aerobics classes.
You can do HIIT (high intensity interval training) on any piece of cardio equipment.
An absolutely stellar way to lose weight is that of intense strength training.
But don’t depend on a treadmill desk for weight loss, though it’s the best tool for busy people to avoid the sitting disease.