When I was in my 20s, I worked as a bartender. It was killer on the soul, but was great for my pocket, and even better for my health. I was on the go constantly. In fact, that’s pretty much the story of my younger life. Growing up on a farm, playing sports, active jobs — I had no idea how lucky I was to have a lifestyle that kept me in shape.

And then I became a writer. In order to do my job, I had to sit down. A lot. Like ten hours a day a lot. This wasn’t a huge deal for a while, and then I hit my late 30s, and had a grim realization. I didn’t know how to juggle my writing needs with the needs of my body.

I read about a standing desk, which at the time seemed incredibly boring for some reason (really? i’m so old and decrepit that just standing around is going to make me healthier? ack!) and then someone told me about a treadmill desk. Walk and work? Two birds with one belt? My Type A girl went, “yes, please.” Now I’m on my second treadmill desk. And I really, really love it.

Many writers use treadmill and standing desks (Mary Robinette Kowal has a beautiful standing desk). Some set up their treadmill at home (like I do — I like the privacy and the fact that I can step on it at any time of day or night), while others go to the gym (you can buy a lightweight laptop holder like this if you use that option).

There’s a new book out called “The First 20 Minutes,” that argues that if you’re sedentary then just 20 minutes of movement can make a drastic change in your life and health. I agree — although I kind of believe it’s just a beginning.

I personally aim for an hour a day. I usually crank the elevation to 10 and walk anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 miles per hour. It’s not enough to get my heart going terribly hard, but it’s enough to make me sweat. Sometimes I go longer, sometimes shorter or sometimes not at all. I also often walk very slowly while I’m in G+ meetings or on the phone.

I also keep some hand weights next to the treadmill for when I need a break, or just want to work on something else. If I leave my laptop at the treadmill (and I often to), I find that it’s a great standing desk if I am just answering email or checking social media.

I get a lot of questions about which treadmill desk to buy, and while I can’t recommend a certain brand, I can offer some suggestions on what to look for:

  1. Noise. If you can try out the treadmill at the store, I highly recommend it. Remember: the treadmill will sound quieter in the store than it will at home, due to space, etc. If you can’t hear anything but the slap of your feet, you’re probably in good shape.
  2. Elevation options. Some people don’t care about elevation, but I find this is really important to me. I can’t walk very fast while typing, so I like to crank the elevation and go slowly. (Plus, it’s really really good for my ass).
  3. Handles. This is VITAL for me. I look for flat, long handles that I can rest a shelf on in order to put my laptop on it. If you want to use a desktop, you’ll need to find a way to make that happen (I used to put the desktop on a desk next to the treadmill, and used a monitor arm to hook the monitor to the treadmill). Know what setup you want to work at, and make sure it’s the right height for you (so that you don’t injure your back or your arms). We use an old exercise step that rests on a wide board, and raise it and lower it with the risers depending on who’s using it.
  4. Size and Comfort. If you’re just walking, you don’t need a huge, running-oriented treadmill. Pick a size that you can fit somewhere without folding it up (you’re less likely to use it if you have to unfold it every time).

Do you have more questions about treadmill or standing desks? Feel free to throw them my way. I’d be happy to answer anything!

Some additional resources:

Treadmill Desks
Trek Desk makes treadmills specifically for desking.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.