In November 2021, I bought my first under-desk treadmill. The weather was getting colder, COVID was still COVID-ing, and I was desperate for more ways to stay active during the day. It was a rather impulsive purchase, in that I didn’t spend a ton of time researching, but a co-worker with a very similar personality and activity level had been using one for over a year and told me how much she loved it.
Would I recommend one to folks who work from home? Hell yes. Do I wish I had thought it through a bit more? Maybe… but I’ve made it work, and (as you’ll see) I’m not too precious about it. Let me share the good, bad, and “good enough” of my under-desk treadmill situation.
You obviously need a standing desk to use this, but I highly recommend a desk that adjusts between sitting and standing. You won’t want to stand ALL day, and having used a standing desk for years, I know I can’t write anything of substance while standing. Emails? Yes. Newsletters? Yes. A book? Not a chance–I need to be sitting for that.
My standing desk situation is pretty old, and there are much better options now, but I have an IKEA desk that’s stationary, and a base for my monitor and keyboard that raises and lowers. It works, although it’s not aesthetically pleasing and I’ll likely upgrade to a motorized desk that raises and lowers soon. (My sister found one on Amazon that she highly recommends, it’s a FEZIBO height-adjustable electric desk.)
In my cursory research, you can spend a lot of money ($1,500 and up) on an under-desk treadmill. They have models that are suitable for corporate environments, that get a lot of use and would suit a company’s insurance needs. For most of you, this is overkill for an at-home set-up that will be used just an hour or two a day. Unfortunately, if you need a treadmill that supports more than 265 pounds (where most models, even moderately priced ones, top out), you’ll have to spend more ($1,000 and up) on a brand like Lifeline. Here is a good article comparing treadmills by weight capacity.
There are also plenty of cheap-ish models on Amazon, averaging around $350. Those would probably be fine, but read the reviews. Some of them are good for walking but not running, others need a special type of electrical outlet, some have more serious weight restrictions (topping out at 250 lbs), and they can vary widely in terms of accuracy of speed, loudness, stability, or maintenance required.
I have a Treadly brand under-desk treadmill. I bought it with my own money and in no way am I working with the company. Would I recommend it? I’d give it a 7/10. I have the Treadly 2 Basic, which is on sale right now for $749 and comes with free shipping. The Treadly 2 Pro is $100 more, and comes with an app. (That’s the only difference that I could see.)
Pros: It shipped really fast, despite saying it could take 6-7 weeks. Set-up was easy, although the manual left a lot to be desired. (I had to Google a few things.) It’s not too heavy at 77 lbs, and comes with wheels so you can move it around more easily.
It can be used with the handle up or down–I use it down under my desk. The remote makes it easy to start, stop, speed up, or slow down. It also comes with Bluetooth speakers, which is nice when I’m playing music while I work. It’s quiet enough for me, although not always quiet enough for my sister. (She bought one too.)
I’m quite tall (5’10”) with long legs, and the Treadly is long enough for me to feel comfortable with my usual walking stride. It’s also wide enough that I can swerve a little bit as I type without feeling like I’m going to fall off. It has helpful guides that mark the center of the belt, so you can set it up under your desk more easily.
It’s been pretty reliable, although I have had problems with it speeding up or slowing down randomly. (We’ll get to their customer service.) I’ve used it daily for anywhere from 5,000 to 17,000 steps a day, and it’s held up nicely. It comes with lubricant, which makes the belt spin even more freely. You can walk up to 5 mph with the handrail up, and 3.7 mph with it down. That’s plenty fast for me. If I’m on a call or typing, my ideal speed is around 2.1 mph, although I’ve found with practice I’m still slowly increasing my comfort at higher speeds.
Cons: It doesn’t work well on carpet, even very thin carpet, even though it says it does. You might be able to get a glass desk mat or furniture risers to give it a bit more room–that’s what my sister has done. I use two books under the very back (not under the belt, just the supports) to give it a bit more lift in my carpeted office. I’m making it work, but ideally you’ll have some kind of hardwood or tile floor underneath you
I’m still having issues with it speeding up randomly, then stopping. It usually happens once or twice a session, and it’s super annoying–it’ll speed up, then slow way down, then just stop, and I have to reset it and start all over again. I’m living with it, because…
Their customer service is AWFUL. I reached out to them three days after I started using it, to tell them about the speeding-up issue. You can’t DM them. You can’t call them. You have to email them, and it’s a huge pain. (It’s 2022–do better.) After going back and forth over the course of two days, they told me to return the unit for repair. I said, “I’ve had it three days. I’m not going to return it, then wait six weeks for you to fix it and ship it back. Can you just send me a new one?” They refused, and because I didn’t want to bother, I just deal with it. For this reason alone, I don’t want to send them ANY business. I even tagged them in my honest IG review, and they saw the story, but no one reached out. That’s just poor service–buyer beware.
Of note–unless you have two separate workspaces, one for standing and one for sitting, you’ll need to move the treadmill around a lot. Where will it “live” when you’re not walking on it with your desk in standing mode? I’ve seen folks drag it out and stand it up against a wall, which isn’t a great aesthetic but whatever. I pick up one end and lean it on its side against the underside of my desk, which gives me enough room to slide a chair in, but now I can’t close my office door. Oh well–I have my priorities. Just think about what you’ll do with it in between walking sessions and have a plan.
So there you have it–everything you’ve been asking me about my under-the-desk treadmill, all in one place. I’ve loved getting extra steps in during Zoom calls, although I only do it with people on my own team who I know don’t mind me moving around on screen. I can also type pretty effectively while walking–I walked about 17,000 extra steps today! I also love how it feels like I’m learning a new mind/body connection–taking a routine task (typing) and combining it with another routine task (walking). That has to be good for my brain.
I hope you found this helpful in buying your own under-the-desk treadmill! Let me know if you decide to buy one, how you like it, and if you’ve discovered any hacks for making the most of your extra steps.