Cheap DIY treadmill desk that won’t murder your wrists.

I sit at a computer the better part of my day. I try to mitigate this some by walking around (pacing) while I’m on the phone. On days I work I’m lucky to get in 7,500 steps, this is below the 10,000 generally considered to be healthy.

One day I stumbled across an article about a DIY treadmill desk, essentially you bungie cord a board to your treadmill, set your laptop on it, and then walk and work. That piqued my interest, but my first thought was that it would kill my wrists. If I don’t keep my hand level with my wrist/arm I feel it very quickly. I’m well aware of the permanent damage you can do to yourself by keeping poor wrist posture.

You can buy some really good looking treadmill desks that can be adjusted up and down, but its a large expense for something I wasn’t sure I would even be able to use. I was on the fence if I could even walk and type at the same time.

I wanted something I could try out cheaply. I built a reasonable facsimile for about $50.

My idea was this:

  • Use a TV wall mount to attach a spare monitor to the wall in front of the treadmill
  • Set my laptop on a table next to the treadmill.
  • Build a raised desk attached to the treadmill’s rails. This would be where the keyboard and mouse would sit.

Parts I had to buy:

Total: $51.50

Parts I already had:

  • Treadmill
  • laptop
  • extra monitor
  • keyboard
  • mouse and pad
  • build tools and fasteners
  • table to put laptop on

Building it

The general idea is that you’re going cut one of the shelf boards into legs and attach them to the intact board.

The top of the desk should be level with your elbow when held at your side. I stood on the treadmill and measured the difference between my elbow and the top of the rail, this was 7.5 inches. My U-bolts were 2.5 inches wide. To give myself some room I took the elbow measurement and added 4 inches (U-bolts size plus extra) to it. 11.5 inches was the length of my desk legs.

After cutting the legs I needed to know where to drill holes for the U-bolts to go. I measured from the top of the leg down 7.5 inches and made a mark, this was where I needed to drill for the first hole for the U-bolt.

I assembled the desk in place. I attached the legs to the treadmill with the U-bolts, and then placed the remaining board on top and screwed it into the legs.

My last step was mounting the monitor to the wall. I followed the instructions that came with the mount. You’ll want the monitor to be positioned in such away that you don’t have to look up or down to see it.

Below is what it looks like completed. Not the prettiest project I’ve ever done, but functional. Fortunately I work at home and no one ever sees my office.

20141023_215456727_iOS20141023_215517791_iOS desk2

How does it work?

Surprisingly well. I set the treadmill to 1.6 MPH. I’m able to walk and type and use the mouse OK. Walking doesn’t mess with my concentration. I gave Kerbal Space Program, Team Fortress, and DOTA a try, no problems at all. I did have to train myself a bit not to step off of the treadmill when circle strafing in Team Fortress.. I would naturally step to the side and eventually make it off of the treadmill.

I don’t use the treadmill desk full time. I have a normal sit down desk that I use for the majority of the day. I use the walking desk for an hour or so to make sure I meet my 10,000 step goal for the day. I do roughly 1,000 steps each ten minutes I walk at 1.6 MPH.

Future Improvements/If I did it again

If I had to do it over again I would use actual real solid wood for the desk. It would look better, be stronger, and last much longer. Engineered wood was some good uses, furniture isn’t one of them. Especially furniture built by a guy like me.

I would take off the control console of the treadmill and run all of my wires through the middle of the metal support posts.

I would also think long an hard about a better mounting method than the U-bolts… they’re ugly.

 Three Week Update (11/10/14)

After three weeks I still use the treadmill desk everyday. My goal is to have 10,000 steps walked out before 5PM. This usually results in me walking on the desk for an hour or so starting at 3PM.

I normally walk at 1.6 miles and hour. I can walk at 2.5 miles an hour and still work, but at anything over 1.6 miles an hour I tend to think more about walking than what’s on the monitor.

Instead of continuing to use my laptop, I purchased a 25 feet long HDMI cable and connected the treadmill’s monitor to my office PC. I have a wireless keyboard and mouse, so when I want to walk on the treadmill I just move them over there. This works better as there is no loss of continuity when switching from my usual desk to the treadmill. I also do not have to plug in and unplug my laptop every day.

I also took the time to bundle up all of the cables and hide them. This did a lot for improving the appearance, but I still wouldn’t call the setup an attractive piece of furniture. If the particle board were to deteriorate or I were to break the desk I would definitely spend the money on a commercially made desk for the appearance alone.

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