Exercise While Working: My New DIY Walking Desk

October 8, 2008

The new "desk".

We were meant to walk, not sit.

So, I really dig working from the house and the coffee shop but the back and the waistline take a beating with this sedentarianism. I eat well. I have a food plan that I’ve followed more or less religiously for the past three or more years. I’m not a huge exercise fanatic, in that I absolutely don’t like exercise for the sake of exercise. There are few “activities” I enjoy — playing street hockey with the kids, getting out on the bike (I didn’t get to much of that this summer), and a few other things, but mostly I see it as taking away from my “earning time.” It’s a completely unhealthy situation.

A couple of weeks ago, someone I follow on Twitter (sorry, I forget who — but it was probably Kottke) pointed out a site that introduced me to this idea.

Thanks to being self-employed, fear has set my switch to “work” and barring a huge influx of cash or months of psychiatric care, this isn’t going to change. So this whole “walking desk” idea is a winner for me. I built it in the garage with a $7 piece of half-inch plywood, 2 feet of scrap 2×4, circular saw, jig saw and a few 1 1/2 inch screws in about 20 minutes. Of course the plywood sat in the basement, untouched (just like the treadmill) for almost two weeks. It’s attached to the treadmill with a bungie cord, and it’s really amazingly stable.

After finishing it, I tried it out with the ol’ Dell Craptop (just in case) and everything was at almost exactly the right height and nothing broke. I’ll modify the design so that Ang can use it to read her 2,200 page Nursing book as well.

The other nice thing is that there is room for most of the stuff I need. When I don’t want the laptop I close it. The iPhone sits up top in the treadmill’s book holder and I have space for coffee and pens and even a book or two.

New "use" for the chronically "un-unsed."

So now I get the exercise that I need and it takes up zero time. In fact, and this needs some longer-term vetting, it feels as if I’m more “in the zone” at 1 mph than sitting in the chair. Some of the brain cycles that usually get used up with all variety of things are being used to keep me upright, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

It feels really natural.

I did 88 minutes last night and walked 2.06 miles. Today in the time it took to write this and answer a bunch of email, I’ve walked almost two more miles that I never would have.

What is the ongoing cost? At 1.5 kWh per hour on the treadmill (and I’d bet it’s much lower at my pace), and Dakota Electric’s winter rate of 7.25¢/kWh, I’ll be spending $.10 an hour. Extend that to 3 hours a day, 5 days a week and you get $1.50. Also, I’d burn about 2500 calories in that time, even at this slow pace.

But what about my carbon foortprint? I’m a vegetarian, who works at home. Also, I planted a few trees this summer. You’re welcome.

More to come?

6 Responses to “Exercise While Working: My New DIY Walking Desk”

  1. thingles Says:

    This is great Ira. You’ve got me tempted to whack something like this on my Precor treadmill. It’s already in my office after all.

    You can type while walking though?

  2. Ira Says:

    It really works great. I had reservations, but after putting in 4.5 hours over the past two days, It’s really not noticeably different than sitting here at my desk.

    Dare I say, I may prefer it. I’m going to give it a few weeks, to see how it goes, but I really felt productive this morning. Much more so than now. I think I breathe better standing up.

    I think the right playlist helps too.

  3. GeekDesk Says:

    What a great post! We got into our business basically out of a similar motivation (full disclosure: we sell adjustable-height desk frames); being able to MOVE and change position while working was is absolutely compelling. Your treadmill desk looks great!

    Some of our customers have done a similar thing using our frame and a mini-stepper (like this one from Target: http://tinyurl.com/4rloaf). If one already has a treadmill, your pricing is hard to beat (smile), but for those how don’t, it’s another option. : )

    Lastly, just to support your intuition, which is dead-on: Studies have basically *proven* that mind-work productivity is enhance by being able to stand and move. Here’s a reference to one study, for example, done at Cornell: http://tinyurl.com/4x9ot7

  4. Micaela Says:

    Love the new desk, what a great idea! I hate sitting down all day.

  5. Ira Says:

    Day 3: The hours just melt away. Still feel really productive. Been on it for 74 minutes and getting at least 80% productive time versus probably 50% at the typical desk.

  6. Brad Rhoads Says:

    Great post! How do you expect to “modify the design so that Ang can use it to read her 2,200 page Nursing book as well”?

    Also, we’d love to have you both join us at http://officewalkers.ning.com.

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