How does the consistent use of a treadmill desk stack up against typical cardio or aerobics workouts?

The treadmill desk is gaining momentum as a means of getting healthier and lowering the risk of various ailments, particularly type II diabetes, heart disease and low back pain.

I own a treadmill desk. I now have two treadmills in my home, and the original one (for cardiovascular exercise) still gets used: for cardio sessions.

Treadmill Desk vs. Conventional Cardio Exercise

If you’ve been using (or intend on using) a treadmill workstation for several hours a day, this will not  —  I repeat  —  will not replace any structured aerobics routines you’ve already been doing.

Take it from me, a former personal trainer, but also use your common sense when considering this comparison.

In fact, the purpose of a treadmill desk is to prevent the hazards of prolonged sitting, rather than induce a cardiovascular training effect in the body.

This is clear when you consider the speed that people use treadmill desks:

The devices aren’t even designed for jogging, with their fastest speed being 4 mph.

Typically, the user walks very, very slowly. Even a highly fit person will find it difficult to sustain a walk faster than 3 mph while working at a computer.

A sustained 3 mph walk at a 15 percent incline (my treadmill desk goes up to 15 percent) is an excellent aerobics workout.

Problem is, unless you’re not “working” at the computer, and instead watching a long YouTube video so that your hands are freed up, this kind of pace is very unrealistic for someone simultaneously trying to do heavy office work with a keyboard and mouse.

If your office work consists of mostly reading and scrolling with only light typing and mouse movements, you can simultaneously do light cardio work.

But once you’re huffing and puffing, you’ll find that high volume typing just isn’t possible.

You may be walking for two hours nonstop on your treadmill desk while typing up reports, searching the Web, reading and replying to e-mails, etc., but the walk will be way too slow to induce a training effect on your cardiorespiratory system.

But just because there won’t be a cardio effect, doesn’t mean there won’t be other potent effects, namely, keeping you safe from the harm of excessive sitting.

Other benefits await the faithful treadmill desk user: extra calorie burn, alleviation of chronic low back pain, lower blood pressure.

But again, don’t think that five hours a day on a treadmill desk will make you more fit for pickup basketball games, tennis matches, hikes or hilly bike rides.

Using a treadmill desk doesn’t mean give up the step aerobics, brisk walks on the school track, neighborhood jogs or other aerobics sessions, including on cardio equipment.

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.