I think I’ve got the treadmill desk sorted out finally (see all posts in this series).
Here are the parts you will need for a cheap treadmill desk:
- Treadmill (duh!). They all say you should buy an expensive treadmill, and they are right. The one I got was very cheap new, and has lots of problems, like … It forgets how far you’ve gone after 5 minutes (so if you go to grab a cup of tea, then it resets itself). It has massive RF interference problems (now solved — see below). And it picks up mobile phone signals and emits a loud disturbing noise.
How to get an expensive treadmill at a reasonable price? I suggest ebay. Now is about the time when those unwanted Christmas presents should start coming online …
- RF filter. There’s only one I would recommend, which is the Tacima Mains Conditioner and Radio Frequency Interference Filter. Note that a standard “surge-protected socket” is not the same and won’t filter RFI. This looks like one of those bollox “audio buff” annealed cables that are aligned to the earth’s magnetic field and cost thousands of pounds. It’s not — this one really works, and it’s a reasonable price. Make sure you plug only the treadmill into this otherwise the leads going to other equipment will also act as antennae for the unwanted RF radiation.
- Desk (aka “a piece of wood”). I taped a piece of wood to the arms of the treadmill with gaffer tape, and then I piled some boxes up to lift the laptop up to a comfortable height: a lo-tech, no cost solution which has proven sturdy and effective. Even food and drinks haven’t been a problem.
- Padded trainers. Thick padded trainers have really made the difference for me. I happened to have some old trainers, but you don’t need to spend much money on this.
- Anti-static wrist strap. Yes, with some combinations of clothes, trainers and humidity, you will start generating static. This can damage computer equipment easily, not forgetting that it bloody hurts! A cheap anti-static wrist strap cures the problem.
I’ve only been doing this for two weeks, but I feel noticeably better already. The other good thing is it doesn’t feel like exercise. I’ve done about 4 hours today, and most of the time I forgot I was on a treadmill.
Some mainstream press articles about treadmill desks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Quick stats. At 1.3 km/h (0.8 mph), each hour:
- I burn 100 calories (according to the probably-inaccurate treadmill meter)
- I walk 3000 steps (according to pedometer)
- I walk 0.8 miles (obviously …)
I’m now doing around 6 hours per day.
I’ve learned that good footwear is essential for this. Flat-soled gym shoes are uncomfortable after about 2-3 hours. Bare feet were slightly better, but well-padded trainers are best.
My previous postings about the treadmill desk …
BTW to spammers who try to add “treadmill” linkspam in comments, go get a life and a proper job that contributes to society.
I’ve learned a lot about RFI this past couple of days … The treadmill radiates RFI through the power cable, back into the power socket, and from there through the entire house’s ring main. Ring mains, a UK peculiarity invented after the war to save copper, are particularly susceptible to this.
You can easily hear the interference using an analogue radio and placing the radio around the house with the treadmill on and off. This page (currently not available) has some nice graphs from a radio frequency analyzer.
The solution was to purchase a power strip with a big choke and plug the treadmill (and nothing else) into it:
Although the lead from the treadmill to the power strip (and the treadmill triac itself) can still be heard on the radio emitting a lot of noise, it’s much better than having the entire ring main act as a huge antenna, and most importantly it no longer interrupts my ADSL line. Success!
Here’s a fun thing (not). I noticed today that the DSL connection was pretty rough, constantly reconnecting. It turns out after a lot of: run downstairs, check wires, DSL is OK, run back upstairs, still OK, start the treadmill and work, hmm it’s disconnected again, that this cheap treadmill is a big source of RFI that interferes with DSL.
Apparently this is a known problem: 1, 2, 3, 4.
(By the way, anyone considering getting the Roger Black GM-41001 Silver Medal Treadmill … DON’T! It may be very cheap, but it really is a piece of crap).
Why didn’t I get interference yesterday? Good question, but the router has been moved slightly, and perhaps the wire doesn’t pick it up so much.
Sadly, wrapping tinfoil around the phone line and earthing it did not work.
I ordered one of these mains conditioners with a big choke for £25 (about 10% of the cost of the treadmill). We shall see tomorrow if this works …
Finally a crappy photo of my treadmill desk:
Because of network problems, I didn’t manage to start using it until today. The layout is fine (laptop is actually on a pile of books not shown in the photo, in order to raise it to the correct height). The treadmill itself is cheap and nasty, and occasionally emits a disturbing electrical brrrr noise. Not all the time thankfully. Typing and using the trackpad and phone is no different from at a real desk — no problem at all. (I’m typing this at the desk). According to the electronic display I’m burning
more than 1 calorie a minute about 95 calories per hour at 0.8 mph (1.3 km/h).
Like a lot of programmers I spend far too much time hunched in an unnatural position in front of a computer, so I’ve had the idea for a long time of constructing a treadmill desk. It’s the time of new years resolutions and online bargains, so I have finally built one. (Note: The one pictured is not my desk. My camera is faulty at the moment. That is taken sans permission from a group called Office Walkers who are really into this. Mine involves a lot more gaffer tape).
I constructed mine from a £250 [$400] treadmill from Argos, a plank of wood that I happened to have in my shed, and gaffer tape, which is good enough to rest my laptop. If the experiment is a success, I can move to something more permanent later.
How is it? It gets its first real outing when I get back to work tomorrow. It’s not too noisy at low speeds, is reasonably easy to type, but I don’t know how it will be after 8 hours of real work, or if I’ll notice any improvements in a week.
One concern is whether walking for 40 hours a week counts as “real” exercise. There’s a lot of dubious “science” around, about how we “evolved as a species to be upright”, and how it burns 100 calories an hour, but as far as I can find, no hard science, no real studies, just a lot of anecdata. This guy seems to be researching the issues — not sure how much of a genuine scientist he is.
In case anyone is wondering … no, it doesn’t power my laptop 🙂