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As someone that spends most of the day working on a computer, it's a valid concern of mine to worry about the long term health consequences of spending too much time sitting.
I've been a fairly active person most of my life. However, over time my life had become more and more sedentary with my full time careers. It took a few years and several pounds before I realized just how necessary it was to begin incorporating exercise into my daily routine.
I started adding exercise into my routine by taking walks outside. I spent several months walking at least 3-4 times a week and it was a HUGE benefit to my health, both physically and mentally. I love the fresh air and warm weather. Unfortunately, I'm a wimp in the cold. For at least half the year, I knew I needed to find something I could use indoors if I wanted to maintain my newfound athleticism.
The pandemic really increased the demand for at-home exercise equipment, especially for remote workers. As a result, there's a wide range of products available on the market that previously were more limited and expensive. Some examples of these are:
- standing desks
- leaning stools
- balance boards
- under desk pedaling devices
- under desk walking pads/treadmills
I actually already have an adjustable desktop standing desk, but I find that standing for long periods of time tend to make my legs and back hurt. Movement is necessary to not get sore. I've also read that pedaling, ellipticals, and other motions can actually be much more distracting to the brain than walking. Thus, I decided that an under-desk walking pad was the best solution for me.
What exactly is an under-desk walking pad? It is a treadmill without the vertical control panel and hand rails: only the walking surface with the belt. This allows the device to slide under a desk so that a computer can still be comfortably used. The cost for these devices historically have been very high. However, due to increased demand and more competition, there are actually several cheaper options now available with basic features and durability. I decided to buy the GOYOUTH 2 in 1 Under Desk Electric Treadmill that is sold on Amazon. I've had it for a little over 6 months now, so I wanted to give a thorough review for anyone else trying to decide whether this product is worth buying.
Spoiler alert: It's a great option to get many extra steps in per day. While still not as enjoyable as an outdoor walk in the fresh air, it is easy to use intermittently throughout the day to stay active.
First, let's start with a list of reasons why I chose this product over the other options:
1. I didn't want to invest in the more expensive brand name machines until I had a chance to try a walking pad for a while to see how I liked it. Name brand models easily sell for over $800. I wanted a less expensive model to start.
2. There are a huge variety of less expensive models available. How did I choose which to buy? Like all millennials do, I checked the reviews. It is important to me to check reviews not just within Amazon, but also elsewhere on the internet too.
3. Among the budget options, specifications and features vary. A big difference between the name brand models and budget options are the quality of the materials and the power of the motor. The higher end walking pads easily can work as running pads, capable of supporting a lot of weight and fast speeds. As expected, the more budget options have lower weight limits and sometimes can only go up to 3mph, which is a moderate walking speed at best. I am a fast walker and wanted the option to walk at a brisk pace of at least 4mph. From my research, it's not really great to to utilize the advertised top speed on the walking pad, as it may be pushing the limits of the motor and not work as nicely under the edge conditions. Because I wanted to walk at 4mph on a regular basis, I wanted to make sure the device had an advertised top speed of at least 5mph or greater.
4. Some walking pads have support handrails that can be setup or collapsed. In my research, I found that some models with support handrail require they be setup and used at speeds over a certain threshold, such as 3 or 4 mph. Having a support bar raised would prevent the walking pad from working as an under-desk walking pad. For better or for worse, I wanted to avoid this safety feature because I planned on using the walking pad under my desk at 4mph.
Once I considered all these criteria, the GOYOUTH 2 in 1 Under Desk Electric Treadmill was the obvious winner. The product offers a weight limit of 220 lbs, which is sufficient for me, and a max speed of 6mph, which is actually higher than several comparable products. It was well reviewed both on and off Amazon, and fit the bill.
When the product arrived, it came in a large box, packaged nicely with foam. There was no damage, and setup was simple. There were some bags of supplies that included a remote control, a spare battery for the remote control, an allen key to adjust the track, and oil to maintain the treadmill belt. There was also an instruction manual that was easy to follow.
To get started, all that needed to be done was plug in the machine and turn it on. The machine turns on via a large switch on the pad itself, but to actually start the belt moving and change speeds, the remote control must be used. It audibly announces actions, such as "Power On!" and counts down with 3 loud beeps whenever the device is preparing to start moving. The sounds can be disabled with a mute button on the remote.
There's also some preprogrammed programs that change the speed at various intervals, but honestly, I just use the basic on/off feature and set my speed as desired.
I was happy to see that this product was easy to setup and use. There was no initial setup needed and everything worked great when I turned it on. Very intuitive. Treadmills always make noise while in use, so don't expect this machine to be "quiet", despite advertised as so. There definitely was a moderate amount of noise being generated, but it didn't seem too loud or offensive. Low speeds were not too loud at all.
I went ahead and set it up under my desk and was excited to give it a try the following day at work.
The following day at work, I turned on the walking pad to a slow pace at first and found that I quickly got used to the coordination of walking and using my computer. It was a little awkward initially, but after walking for a few minutes I got into the zone and hardly noticed I was walking at all.
The true test for me was turning the speed up to 4mph. To really get my blood flowing, I like to "casually" walk at this brisk pace. At 4mph, the noise of the walking pad was quite loud. There was no way that I could be in a meeting while walking at this pace. Even just listing to a meeting would be challenging unless the audio is turned way up, or a headset is used.
Typing is also not very comfortable when walking this quickly because there is too much bouncing on each step which makes it difficult to keep your hands exactly over the keys - which is not surprising. I think it's safe to say that I shouldn't really expect cruising along at a fast pace to be easy to type. Working on a computer at a slower 1-2 mph pace is very doable.
Thankfully, there is almost always at least one hour per day where typing on the computer is low and it would be possible to get my power walk in.
The first few days of using my walking desk, I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy it was to get steps in. I would start it up in the morning and power walk while checking my morning emails and reviewing code. Just by completing these tasks at a fast pace I was shocked to find that I had easily walked for 30 minutes and over 2.5 miles without really feeling it.
In the afternoons I am much less motivated to get my blood flowing. I would start the walking pad and keep it as a very slow 1mph pace which makes it very easy to fully use my computer. Again, to my surprise, I could use it for 40 minutes and hardly realize that much time had passed. There's just something about being distracted and having a goal to accomplish that almost makes the mind forget that it's moving.
For the six months that I've owned this product, I have yet to run into any issues. It still works great! I do follow the maintenance instructions and apply oil to the machine every 30 hours of use or so, which is about once a month if used daily. I don't use mine quite that much.
I had taken a short break in using it over the summer when the weather was warm and I could get outside. However, now that temperatures are dropping, I have found myself returning to it more and more. I've used it several times this week already and it accounts for about 5000 steps per day that I would have otherwise not have accumulated.
One downside I have noticed is the machine will get a little warm when used for more than 30 minutes at a time. I assume this is normal, as it tends to be an effect noticed by all mechanical and some electrical machines. It doesn't get hot enough that I get worried about it, but to be safe, I do always make sure I turn the machine off between sessions.
All things considered, I think this was a great purchase and investment in my health!
Staying healthy is about consistency and making real changes in your life and daily routine. For the cost, it is worth being able to add those extra steps into my day and will surely pay off in the long run!