Team Pick: Treadmill Desks As Described By The New Yorker And Susan Orlean

Vanessa’s Team Pick:

I work at a desk. I imagine many of you do? If you’re anything like me, this gives you some level of anxiety. You know, because sitting is going to kill us all and your vision is getting bad because you squint at the screen and oh my god human beings are supposed to be out in the fields tending the crops and chasing fairies and magical elves, not in an office building eating a sad desk lunch! HELP!

Okay maybe you’re less crazy about it than I am, but seriously, spending 40+ hours a week at a desk is kind of not the best thing. So people have been coming up with solutions to help us poor corporate desk warriors. What do these solutions include?

The standing desk. The yoga ball. The kneeling desk. And the one I just discovered today, my favorite of all the options, the one I want right now oh my god please someone get this for me: The Treadmill Desk.

It is exactly what it sounds like – a desk on top of a moving conveyer belt where you can walk slowly all day and do lots of work. What?! I know. But! My favorite part about the treadmill desk is not that it’s the best (I haven’t tried any of these out so I have no idea) and not that it’s the newest (people have been writing about it for months, so I’m just late to the game). No, the best thing about treadmill desks is the hilarious yet informative article Susan Orlean wrote about them for this week’s New Yorker. Seriously, it’s stupendous. Let me be clear: I am not just team picking the treadmill desk. Oh no, that would be silly. I am team picking the article in the New Yorker that Susan Orlean wrote about treadmill desks. Whew, okay, glad we’re all on the same page now.

do. you. die.

do. you. die.

In case you don’t know, Susan Orlean is an author and staff writer for The New Yorker who happens to also have a very funny Twitter feed where she used to talk a lot about her chickens.

Here’s an example of why this particular Orlean article is so swell. It opens like this:

“I am writing this while walking on a treadmill. And now you know the biggest problem with working at a treadmill desk: the compulsion to announce constantly that you are working at a treadmill desk. It’s a lot like the early days of cell-phone calls, when the simple fact that you were doing what you were doing seemed so amazing that most conversations consisted largely of exclamations about the amazingess of the call.”

And it only gets better. Orlean also includes a lot of feelings about her FitBit, and I happen to be obsessed with my FitBit, so the article was really perfect for me, ya know? I just felt like we were on the same page, me and this article. It was a magic moment.

The New Yorker has a paywall on their website, but if you can somehow track down this full article and read it (either online or in print) I strongly encourage you to do so. And then I beg that you buy me a treadmill desk, because oh my god I want one. Please. I also wouldn’t mind a one on one tea party with Susan Orlean to discuss my new treadmill desk. Just sayin’. My birthday is December 21.

What’s your ideal work desk? Do you work outdoors? If so I hate you slash simultaneously want to be you. Tell me all about your butt / chair / desk / worklife situation. Ready, set, treadmill desk, GO!

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. i have a semi-unsedentary job but i really want one for all my computer time at home.

    now to popularise treadmills which are self-powered or even energy generating!

  2. I’m a teacher so this doesn’t really apply to me, but one kid in my class who has ADHD could definitely benefit from a treadmill desk!

    • Yes! I work in an after school program, this would make homework time so much better!

    • as a former kid with ADHD (who has now fully evolved into an adult with ADHD) OH MY FUCKING GOD, this would’ve made my life so much easier. probably would’ve actually done well in high school!
      but seriously, someone should really get on making these part of the school budget. personally, they would’ve helped me way more than the extra time on tests.

      • as a non actually adhd, but still problematically hyperactive former kid/now adult, i am still holding out for someone to invent a desk with a chair somehow attached so you can continuously tip it back and fidget in it without the embarrassing and painful backwards fall that inevitably happens. i will settle for nothing less than a chair acrobatics desk.

        • YES. this also would be brilliant! I actually really like using one of those big exercise balls instead of a chair. it’s not quite the chair acrobatics desk, but enough fidgeting is required to stay seated on the ball that it sorta alleviates my need for extraneous fidgeting.

  3. I’d kill to work from a hammock every day. Does swinging occasionally side to side count as physical activity?

  4. Ohhhhmagosh, this is all so excellent!

    Except for the typo in the title. Is there a way to correct the spelling of Orlean’s name in the headline? I know the link probably isn’t editable, but still!

  5. I work on the ramp at an airport. So I spend most of my time running around loading, unloading, and towing planes. I can’t imagine sitting at a desk all day. I think I would probably eat a lot and be that annoying co-worker that’s always roaming around bothering people at their desk!

    • sitting at a desk all day is one of the weirder things we ask grown ups to do in this world.

  6. I used to think treadmill desks were stupid. I felt the same about standing desks, because I am by nature a sedentary creature and seek to lounge and sprawl whenever possible.

    Then John Green started talking about how awesome his treadmill desk is and now I want a treadmill desk.

    • John Green was actually who convinced me to get one! I was really uncertain about it at first; like you, I enjoy lounging. But I have to say, I am very please with my treadmill desk. I’d recommend it to anyone!

  7. I feel like this would work really well at first, and then one day I’d be like “I have to get shit done, but I’m so tired” so I’d put a chair on the treadmill. And then it would stay there. Forever.

  8. I really want to read the full article, but re- the treadmill desk itself, I think instead of healthy productivity I’d be enacting an unsuccessful one-woman version of that OK Go music video.

  9. I have a sedentary job, too, and I have a sit/stand desk. I also had a person ergonomic evaluation to properly position all of my equipment, and I can call the ergo department any time should I feel uncomfortable. Of course, I work for a disability insurance company, so we have something of a vested interest in keeping people working safely. I would love a treadmill desk, though. They are trailing a few in a different department right now, and I’m hoping they become an option in mine soon!

  10. I wrote how I set up my walking desk a few months ago.
    yes it’s expensive. Yes my health is worth every penny of it.

    It can be done cheap. Lot’s of examples on the web.

  11. Oh my god, I would love one of these. I used to scoff at the idea of standing desks let alone walking ones. But I just saw a physiotherapist who told me gently but firmly that if I kept sitting the way I’ve been sitting I’m gonna have serious back problems later in life. A walking desk or a standing desk would be ideal.

    I’ve been thinking about ways to have a less sedentary lifestyle, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re a desk jockey.

    • yes, thinking about ways to have a less sedentary lifestyle is one of my great pastimes. for now i’ve invested in a fitbit and it sounds hokey but it really goes motivate me to walk more — i love seeing how many steps i’ve taken at the end of the day! a regular ol’ pedometer would do the same thing, i’m just weirdly fond of my lil’ fitbit.

  12. I saw these a few years ago. At the time I was working as a custodian and then in building facilities/maintenance and I was walking miles each day and thought how dumb it was. Now I am working at a desk and somehow this is imperative to my life because I really don’t know how to incorporate exercising for the sake of exercising into my busy schedule :/
    Thank you for bringing them up again, now I need to go find a treadmill on craigslist.

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