Building a treadmill desk is literally no harder than getting a used treadmill and mounting a shelf to a wall, and can be put together for under $150. Perhaps the hardest part is just deciding to do it and then getting used to how everyone will insist on taking a picture of you working and walking at your desk. Should you decide to build your own, the specifics will undoubtedly be different, but hopefully you'll be inspired by the desks shown here.
Step 1: Motivation for building a treadmill desk
Recently, I asked myself why I didn't have the energy to constantly work on projects and generally get things done. After coming home from work, I would cook dinner and read a book, but generally not accomplish much else. Except on days when I worked at home. Changing up my commute between biking, taking a train or bus, and driving seemed to have no affect, so I looked at how the conditions were different between home and the Instructables lab. Most notably, I worked at a standing desk at home, while I sat at the lab. The physical work was largely the same – working at a computer and talking on the phone – as was the environment in terms of natural light and noise level.
Around this same time, I heard John Ratey speak at conference. He's been studying how exercise – even low levels – strongly contributes to brain function in the elderly and attention and behavior in school children. The short of it is this: the more active you are, the better your health and brain function.
In a typical week, I was getting about an hour of biking, running, swimming, or, if I was lucky, kitesurfing, every day. However, I was also awake and sedentary for double digit hours everyday. So, I decided to take it up notch and start walking while I worked at my computer at the lab. If it did nothing for my health or energy levels, it would at least make the Instructables lab more eccentric, and that in itself was enough.
I hate exercise in almost all forms. And it shows. So when I heard Eric talk about a treadmill desk, I knew that was for me! It's like exercise that you don't have to pay attention to. Plus I HATE sitting at a desk all day! Snooze-city.
What finally spurred me to action was that I hurt my back from sitting too much! No kidding! So I built myself a make-shift standing desk out of a milk crate and some coffee tins. Not so awesome. The treadmill seemed like a double-tasker. Standing desk + free exercise when I wanted it.
Also, I wanted Eric to think I was cool. And concerned about brain function and all that junk. So. You know. There's that. I think it worked.
I've tried a standing desk before, and while it's certainly nice as a change of pace I found standing still while working was hard, harder than sitting at a desk. Within 20-30 minutes I would catch myself slumping in all sorts of new and damaging ways, then my feet would get weird numb spots, and eventually I'd head back to my chair. It seemed to work for Eric, but he's an alien robot.
Then Eric got excited about a treadmill desk. I gave him a week to test it out, then tried it myself. This turns out to suck far less than a stationary desk of either type, and is in fact pleasant, because you're moving. I'm perfectly capable of strolling at 1mph for days at a time, much better than 20 minutes standing. I don't count strolling at 1mph exercise, but simply movement; it's more about not spending my day slumped over, melting into an office chair.
My additional quirk is that I need to feed Corvidae while working. She fits nicely in her sling, but walking with her hanging in front of me for an hour just doesn't work - she's too heavy, and I need to give her a bit of head support. The solution turns out to be a tall chair of the drafting stool variety, with a small enough base to fit on the treadmill. I sit for that time period, taking most of her weight on my legs (feet on the chair ring) and support her head with a pillow or my elbow on the arm of the chair. When she's awake again, the chair gets kicked off the treadmill, and the baby goes back on the floor or on my back as I walk.