Sitting all day, as most of us office workers do, could pose health risks—at least that’s what many researchers tell us. So-called standing desks, or office desks with adjustable height so you can work sitting or standing, are one proposed solution. Why not add physical activity to your work routine, by taking a stroll on the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk Combination ($1,499, direct) while getting things done.
“Preposterous!” you say, “Doing my job while bouncing on a treadmill would be impossible.” Or, “To walk while working, I’d move so slowly as not to sufficiently raise my heart rate.” Let me first agree with both of those statements, but also debunk them. Accomplishing all manner of work tasks isn’t quite the point, nor is a full cardiovascular workout. The idea is to add some movement into your daily work schedule and maybe improve your circulation.
Second, I’ve rated this Treadmill Desk Combination based not only on its hardware and performance, but also whether it’s at all realistic to use in an office setting. Let’s start with the machine itself.
Hardware and Performance
The LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk Combination is exactly what it sounds like: a treadmill with a desk. The durable laminate desktop measures 46.5 inches wide by 31 inches deep and weighs 88 pounds. It isn’t directly attached to the treadmill (which weighs 115 pounds), so it doesn’t shake during use. Wise. With substantial surface area, the flat desk easily holds a 17-inch laptop with ample room to spare. LifeSpan suggests you’d be able to fit a printer and monitor, too, and sure, it’s possible, but after testing, I see the treadmill desk as a transitory place to work, not a permanent one.
The desk height adjusts with spring pins to accommodate users between 4-feet 10-inches and 6-feet 8-inches tall. Along the front, just behind the treadmill control panel, is a firm but padded and quite comfortable armrest.
LifeSpan puts a three-year warranty on the 2.25-horsepower high torque motor (designed to work for up to six hours per day), a two-year warranty on parts, and a lifetime guarantee on the frame.
A subtle hum emanates from the machine while it’s in use, and it’s fair to say the rustle of one’s clothes or sharp heel strikes generally make more noise than the treadmill itself. The TR1200-DT5 model features two of LifeSpan’s trademark features: Intelli-Step, a technology that counts, records, and displays the actual number of steps you take (in addition to total distance traveled), and Intelli-Guard, which automatically stops the 20- -by-56 inch belt if you step off. The treadmill also comes with a safety clip that attaches to your clothes on one end and magnetically secures to the console on the other—if you fly backward, the magnetic side pops out and the belt stops.
Like any other treadmill in a gym or home, the LifeSpan desk treadmill has an integrated LED console which displays steps, time, calories burned, distance, and speed. You can enter your weight and age for a more accurate estimate of calories burned.
Bluetooth technology lets the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk Combination connect wirelessly to your Windows or Mac OS X computer to automatically track results while you exercise, though you must sign up for a LifeSpan Fitness Club account ($69 for a lifetime membership; not reviewed here).
Unlike other treadmills I’ve used, the TR1200-DT5 only supports speeds between 0.4 and 4mph. It also accelerates and slows down at a much slower pace than other treadmills. Whenever I cranked the speed up or down, the belt took much longer than expected to reach the desired pace.
What You Can Accomplish While You Walk
In testing the treadmill, my most productive experience was on a rainy afternoon when I had set aside nearly an hour to watch live blogs and other social media coverage of a tech event. It was a task that didn’t require my complete and focused attention, as I would be jumping from website to website and would be reading only short paragraphs at a time.
Walking on the treadmill at a leisurely 2mph pace, I was able to get the information I needed while also covering more than a mile and a half of virtual ground. I tried to walk at a 4mph clip, but found it was unmanageable. My fine motor skills suffered too much at that pace to use the keyboard or trackpad.
I could imagine walking for up to an hour a day while completing tasks that don’t require deep focus and only use the keyboard and mouse minimally. Reading news, catching up on social media, and maybe even culling through an email inbox to answer, archive, or delete non-critical messages.
The fastest speed at which I could comfortably work was 2.2mph.
What Tasks Aren’t Treadmill-Friendly?
Typing at length proved much more difficult than Web surfing. (I’m moving at 2mph as I write this.) After less than 10 minutes of walking, the treadmill faded into the background of my awareness. But the act of moving causes other tiny distractions. A lock of hair bounces into my view. My office ID dangles around my neck—should I remove it or try to ignore it? Are my socks slipping? If you can master reading a book at the gym while using cardio equipment, you’d probably have greater success than I did at focusing on the task at hand. But I write best when I’m comfortable, in a quiet place, and still in both mind and body.
In other words, I would not hop on the LifeSpan Treadmill Desk if I had to write anything of length. Certainly image processing is out of the question, as it requires a very steady hand. And I would never in my right mind take a phone or video-conference meeting, much less a face-to-face meeting while working out. My momma taught me better than that.
Total Body Health
Considering what office tasks I could and could not (or would not) do on the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk Combination, and the fact that I have a hard time imagining using it for more than an hour a day, it seems like a risky investment. Having worked in office buildings with fitness centers, I’ve enjoyed the ability to dash off for a 15-minute power walk, rain or shine, but part of the appeal was getting away from the work at hand to refresh not only my body but my brain as well. If you’re a workaholic who never takes a break, eat meals at your desk, and answers your mobile phone in the bathroom, then yes, do whatever it takes to get out of your chair and moving more. Personally, though, I’d rather have a treadmill in the office that prevents me from working for a spell, as that mental time away from the task at hand is as important to me as improving my circulation.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc