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December 2014


Friendly Advice: $20 treadmill desk
Cynthia Eaton


walking desk
The author at walk, er, at work, writing this article. Look closely and you'll see a simple board upon which rests my beloved laptop. (photo by Kai Tvelia)

It's fitting that I'm walking while I write this.

The FA is likewise taking a step forward by initiating this Friendly Advice column. Our goal is to share hints, tips and tricks to make your work life perhaps a bit easier, more efficient or more enjoyable.

For this inaugural piece I'm sharing a solution I recently developed to a problem that I suspect is common to many of us. To work in academia, generally speaking (phys ed instructors excluded), is to lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle.

Especially for English professors like me. We read a lot. We write a lot. This means we sit on our derrieres a lot. This can mean that we must make extra efforts to keep our bodies as fit as we keep our minds.

I personally find it nearly impossible to get to the gym as often as I'd like because I tend to keep busy with teaching, professional obligations and parenting two small children. Time is limited and, two kids and two knee surgeries later, I cannot just lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement like I used to.

So I've been lusting lately for a treadmill desk/walking desk. You've seen these online perhaps? I did my homework, researched Consumer Reports' reviews and tried scouting the best prices. Trouble is, they can cost up to $3,000 and the least expensive one that's Consumer Reports approved is still over $700.

And I already own a treadmill!

Then it occurred to me. Why buy new if I can just modify my current treadmill? So I did. And it was easy. Gloriously, splendiforously easy.

Here's how I did it:

  1. Measure the distance between the treadmill arms. Measure the length of the treadmill arms.
  2. Buy a thin board at our local hardware store that fits these dimensions, with just a 1/4" overlap.
  3. Use my kids' duck tape to securely strap the board to the treadmill arms.
  4. Place laptop on board.
  5. Walk and type.

I had feared that maybe I'd need a little time to get used to walking and typing. It took about 5 seconds. Seriously. Typing, clicking, scrolling, all while walking. Easy as can be.

Of course I cannot incline the treadmill very far and I cannot set the pace as fast as I normally do—but at least I'm upright, off my derriere, walking and burning calories.

It fits my lifestyle perfectly. And it feels really good.

If you have a treadmill or are getting one this holiday season, give it a try! It might just help you achieve your New Year's resolution for 2015.