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LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 Treadmill Desk Review

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LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 Treadmill Desk Review

Overview
Reviewed By

The Editors

Review Summary

Yesteryear's most popular office treadmill, the TR1200-DT3 helped to kick off the treadmill desk revolution, and is still a very good value for the price. Compared to newer units that were designed specifically for the office environment, the TR1200's gym equipment DNA is evident, especially when comparing the display console usability, footprint, noise, powertrain and (lack of) true cloud connectivity options to fresher designs like the iMovR ThermoTread GT. However, at $999 it is a reasonable buy for the home office, with a long track record of reliable use.

Shipping

Ships via freight in 5-10 business days. For 2-day delivery and better buyer protection, purchase through Amazon instead of directly from LifeSpan (same price).

Warranty

Frame: Lifetime
Motor: 3 years
Parts: 2 years
Labor: 1 year

Controller

Standard controller with numerical LED readout displaying speed, distance, calories burned, time or step count.

Weight Capacity

350 Lbs.

Walking Belt Size

20" wide

Top Speed

4 mph

Horsepower/RPM

2.25 HP

Noise Level

48.9 dB measured at 2.0 mph.

Connectivity Features

A Bluetooth sync function that has barely ever worked, intended to connect to a laptop running LifeSpan Fitness Club software.

Where to Buy
Positives

Head and shoulders above the mass of <$1,000 walking treadmills. The TR1200 is full-featured, and perfectly reliable in light- to medium-duty applications, with none of the motor strain and frame flex we've seen in some of its cheaper competitors. Its walking belt has plenty of space for users from all walks of life, and its low entry price make it compelling for users who work from home.

Negatives

Aesthetically, the TR1200's frame and controller are derived from gym equipment. Controller lacks the advanced touch-screen LCD functionality of new treadmills. Bluetooth function is, well, not very functional. derived from a running treadmill the treadmill takes more floor space and is noisier than units like the iMovR ThermoTread GT that were designed specifically for the office environment.

Experts' Rating
Stability
Safety
Reliability
Customer Experience
Quality and Aesthetics
Ergonomics
Innovation
Value
Suitability for Treadmill Desking
Bottom Line

The TR1200-DT3 office treadmill is still a worthy base for any home office fitness workstation, despite its gym equipment DNA. This is assuming that the unit is paired with a reasonable height-adjustable desk (we can't recommend LifeSpan's gym-styled DT5 and DT7 desks). While it lacks the advanced functionality needed for widespread adoption in the corporate arena, the 1200's durability and performance are certainly enough for individual users looking for a basic treadmill without the bells and whistles. However, for only $500 more you can fetch a fresher, more technologically-current, more space-efficient, and much quieter unit like the iMovR ThermoTread GT. For only the $999 sticker price on the TR1200 you pretty much get what you pay for.

Experts' Rating
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Review Details

This review is of LifeSpan's mid-tier walking treadmill base, the TR1200-DT3. To see how it compares feature-for-feature with its brethren models, the TR800 ($799) and TR5000 ($1,499), click the "Specs" tab above. To see how the LifeSpan units compare to all other competitors in the market be sure to check out our Comparison Review of Walking Treadmill Bases.

How the LifeSpan TR1200 Became the Most Popular Office Treadmill Under $1,000

Beginning in 2007 the walking desk industry was dominated by Steelcase in the corporate world and by TreadDesk elsewhere, in terms of commercially produced units. In the early years, the majority of treadmill desk workstations were cobbled together using a cannibalized running treadmill and plywood nailed together with a laptop perched on top, usually in an ergonomically hideous position.

As the consumer market started to emerge from its DIY roots to more mainstream sensibilities, LifeSpan—a brand of gym equipment manufacturer Strengthmaster (Taiwan)—was really the first manufacturer to offer a better commercial-grade treadmill that looked good, would last a long time, and had some snazzy perks that made the aging TreadDesk and Steelcase models look downright vintage in comparison.

In 2011 LifeSpan introduced the TR800, TR1200 and TR5000. These "re-skinned" variants of their running treadmill cousins (TR800i, TR1200i and TR5000i) were designed to address the burgeoning demand from treadmill desk users. It didn't take long for the TR1200 ($999) to become the most popular walking treadmill desk base with consumers seeking something less expensive than a corporate treadmill desk like the Steelcase Walkstation ($4,459 with desk) but safer and more robust than the TreadDesk ($895). The TR1200 was so much better than the "Original TreadDesk," in fact, that TreadDesk now resells LifeSpan's TR1200 above its own product on its own website. Talk about capitulating to the competition.

More Competition than Ever

In all the years that the WorkWhileWalking editorial team has been using and reporting on the treadmill desk industry, it seems that 2015 experienced the greatest inrush of new competition—all of it appearing to gun for LifeSpan at some level. The unit we review here—the TR1200—held the middle ground virtually all to itself up until the introduction of the much more technologically-advanced iMovR ThermoTread GT ($1,499).

For all practical purposes the TreadDesk, RebelDesk, and Exerpeutic treadmill bases are better matched up against this unit's younger sibling, and we refer you to our review of the TR800 to read about how it compares component-for-component with these others.

On the high end, LifeSpan's TR5000 ($1,499 base only) unit is aimed at the corporate, "shared workstation" market, where its sole perceived competition for several years was the Steelcase Walkstation. In 2015 the Thermotread GT joined the fray—which, though less expensive, nevertheless runs circles around the TR5000—and a plethora of pricier units from gym equipment peers NordicTrack, ProForm, and InMovement (LifeFitness). Ostensibly the Woodway DeskMill also belongs in this category by virtue of its outlandish $7,000 price tag, however we don't believe this product will ever make it market.

To see how the competition in all three tiers of standalone treadmill bases stack up against one another be sure to check out our comprehensive Comparison Review of Walking Treadmill Bases.

Built from Durable Treadmill Components

Automotive reviews speak in terms of "car chassis" versus "truck chassis" heritage. We segregate the bottom-tier treadmills (TreadDesk, RebelDesk and Exerpeutic) from the mid- and top-tier units on a similar basis - by the quality of their components. Broadly speaking, units that sell for under $900 are generally derived from cheap, consumer-grade equipment meant to be used sparingly and for short durations throughout the week. Ironically, the circa-2007 treadmill base used in the $4,459 Steelcase Walkstation is of the same breed. An office treadmill is a piece of equipment you plan to use for hours most days, so you want to make sure the one you get is made from quality gear that you can rely on and be proud to own.

Easily Moving a LifeSpan TR1200 Wheeled

Don't sweat the weight, LifeSpan treadmills are easily moved, thanks to the rear-mounted wheels.

The TR1200's 131 lb. frame is substantially stronger and better made than TreadDesk's lightweight 101 lb. frame and Rebel's featherweight 88 lb. frame (see our review of the Rebel Desk for picture comparisons of frame construction quality). Frame flex and creaking are both problems we noticed with the Rebel, and TreadDesk has had similar problems reported. The LifeSpan TR1200 has more metal and reinforced rectangular tubing than its cheaper competitors.

And why is this important? Rigidity is paramount in a treadmill. Excess flex in the frame can lead to early degradation of the walking deck, which leads to an increase in friction, noise, and power consumption. If allowed to go on for long enough, total motor and/or controller failure can ensue. A solid walking deck, like on the TR1200, ensures years' worth of walking longevity.

What Horsepower Means on a Treadmill Desk

Manufacturers love to tout their horsepower ratings, but these are relatively meaningless, as we explain in our article on treadmill powertrains. Instead, low-speed torque rating, flywheel diameter and weight, gearing ratio, roller diameter, sophistication of motor controller electronics, and numerous other factors all play a role in determining whether a treadmill's design is truly robust enough for its advertised weight rating. Cheaper components (no surprise) lead to earlier equipment failure.

The TR1200 features a 2.25 HP Turdan motor, 1/4 horse more than the TR800 and 1.0 horse less than either the TR5000 and most other treadmills priced over $1,000.  For users weighing 350 lbs. or less the TR1200 is more than sufficiently powered.  Unlike some of the cheaply-built treadmill bases we've reviewed, the LifeSpans all have strong motors, large rollers (reducing wear and tear on the walking belt, lengthening the life of the motor and other components), and spring-mounted motor mounts that keep a constant tension on the drive belt, making service calls a rare occurrence. Some units on the market, like the Rebel Treadmill, achieve the same torque ratio by using a smaller motor and smaller rollers but spinning the motor much faster. They also leave out the spring mounted auto-tensioners. This reduces the cost of the treadmill slightly but results in reliability issues that become a huge hassle down the road.

The TR1200's efficient power consumption is the equivalent of running 1 to 2 standard light bulbs.

power consumption of LifeSpan treadmill desks and Rebel 1000

The TR800 and TR1200 are nearly identical in current draw. The Rebel's downgraded motor, flywheel, and rollers attain the same torque by running at higher RPMs, resulting in a power draw equivalent to the LifeSpan TR800 and T1200 bases, but at a significant cost to component reliability.

Treadmill Weight Ratings

Here's a rule of thumb we can state with some conviction: There are no industry standards to speak of, so oftentimes weight ratings are what the manufacturers' marketing departments conjure up.

TreadDesk advertises a 320 lb. rating yet users half that weight report creaking and squeaking from their treadmills. Rebel Desk advertised 300 lbs. until we put a 300 lb. user on one of their new units in our second day of testing, causing the unit to fail catastrophically after only 20 minutes of normal use. (Rebel Desk has since lowered their rating to 250 lbs.) The ergonomically nightmarish Exerpeutic Workfit 2000 claims it has been "tested with users up to 400 lbs."  Well, not in this test lab it wasn't, and we'd be very surprised if it could withstand such punishment for any extended period of time just by the extreme flexing of the deck that is apparent even watching their demonstration video.

LifeSpan differentiates its three models by weight rating and number of hours of daily use - something that no other office treadmill manufacturer has done. The TR800 is rated for 300 lbs. and 3 hours of daily use; the TR1200 for 350 lbs. and 6 hours of daily use, and the TR5000 for 400 lbs. and 10 hours of daily use. We have no issue with the TR1200's and TR5000's weight ratings.

We are, however, somewhat skeptical of the "hours of use" rating. You can't rate ideal daily usage of these treadmills without accounting for the weight of the user(s) and frequency of preventive maintenance. If a 150 lb. user bought a TR1200 and never lubricated the deck it may eventually fail. On the other hand, a 300 lb. user who routinely sprays a little silicone oil between the deck and belt to keep his machine well-lubed is going to have something that will last for years and years without incident. It's therefore best to think of the daily use rating as a guideline rather than a rule. That said, most users who plan on walking at their desk regularly will find the TR1200 suitable. For heavy users and multi-user workplaces, LifeSpan's TR5000 or iMovR's ThermoTread GT would be better options to consider.

Anyone who doesn't trust themselves to actually lubricate their treadmill every 40 hours, as LifeSpan recommends, should also think about upgrading to one of the two heavier-duty units (TR5000 or ThermoTread), as they'll have the power to overcome friction that might kill a lesser-powered unit. Not that we'd ever recommend skipping on lubrication. The TR5000 has a wax-impregnated belt that ostensibly self-lubricates (albeit only until the wax runs out in a couple of years), and the ThermoTread is much easier to lubricate than the LifeSpan units - taking less than a minute to get the job done.

The Joy of Walking in Wide, Open Spaces

Most walking treadmill belt widths are between 15.75" and 18". As we state in our article on treadmill belt widths, 18" is a bare minimum for healthy walking on a treadmill, especially for hours on end. For some people, especially those who are wide-hipped, have a "duck-footed" stance or who just tend to vacillate a little more in their stride than the very straight forward-and-back marchers, 18" may not cut it. That's why we love the 20" belts on the TR1200.

The spaciousness of a 20" belt is more than a luxury; it'll free you to make more lateral movements in your stride, which makes walking on a treadmill desk much easier on your hip, knee, and ankle joints. It also means you won't occasionally strike the landing strips with your feet, especially when reaching for items to your left or right (phone, pen, etc.), a common problem with 18" wide belts. On the downside, having a wider belt obviously widens the footprint of the unit, consumes a little more power and increases the noise signature a tiny bit, but it's highly worth it, in our opinion. The fact is that the TR1200 consumes almost exactly the same amount of power as the TR800 and the Rebel 1000 units with their 18" belts.

Is That a Treadmill I Hear?

A good walking treadmill base will be so quiet that the people around you will only hear your footsteps, not the motor or the belt scraping along the deck. One of the biggest differences we've experienced between LifeSpan's treadmill bases, one that they don't disclose in their specifications, is the distinct noise signatures of the three models. The TR1200 is the quietest of LifeSpan's office treadmills, at 48.9 dB (measured at 2.0 mph). At 49.2 dB, the TR5000 is only slightly louder on the dB meter. However, the TR5000 requires a loud cooling fan on its AC power inverter, which can be annoying, if not exhausting, to have to listen to. For this reason the TR1200 is much easier on the ears, despite the audio meter readings. Both models feature extra-thick, long-lived, 2-ply belts.

Prior to the introduction of the iMovR ThermoTread GT, the LifeSpan TR1200 was the quietest office treadmill on the market. The new GT registered at 42.7 dB during testing. Remember that decibels are on an exponential scale, so the six decibel difference is dramatically noticeable side-by-side. For the price, though, the TR1200's noise signature is quite reasonable for all but the most aurally sensitive users, and most solo workers in home offices would likely find it perfectly adequate.

A Controller More Fit for the Gym Than the Office

Lifespan Treadmill Desk Power ConsoleThat's how we'd describe the three LifeSpan treadmills' controllers, which all look like they were ripped off a gym treadmill. The console is your typical treadmill brick, with a simple display and some rather unsightly membrane keys. It has all the basic functions you would expect on a treadmill. You can track distance, time, speed, calories burned, and steps taken, and a convenient USB port lets you charge your cell phone. However, the LifeSpan controller lacks the more advanced functionality users would want for their office treadmill, and the requirement of long button pressing sequences to switch display modes or restart the treadmill can get cumbersome. The controller can't track the walking stats of more than one user, and doesn't measure time spent off a treadmill, when you're sitting or standing.

The controller has a Bluetooth sync button for uploading your stats into the LifeSpan Fitness Club Software, but users have reported that it's a finicky feature that fails about half the time. In any event, it's a clunky way to see your individual stats. Every LifeSpan user we've ever met—including everyone on our own editorial staff—gave up trying to use it after a couple of weeks of frustration over lost data and wasted effort.

Not Well-Suited for the Enterprise Environment

Enterprise customers—large corporations, government agencies, educational institutions and the like—have a particular concern with potential liability when it comes to having treadmill desks on their campuses. While this problem stems from perceptions spawned by YouTube "treadmill fail" videos and not reality (see our article on What Legal Departments Need to Know About Treadmill Desks), as the saying goes, "perception IS reality." For this reason the TR1200's running treadmill-based design doesn't have what it takes to achieve widespread enterprise adoption.

While adequate, the membrane keyboard is very yesteryear. This is particularly evident in a side-by-side comparison with the touch-screen LCD display console that the ThermoTread GT offers; one that features multiple user profiles, intuitive smartphone-like features and graphics, and has a built-in "click wrap" liability waiver screen to make the corporate legal department very happy. Without this latter feature most corporate, government, and educational institutions would be loath to allow a treadmill desk on the premises, any more than they'd allow an employee to rent a car that didn't have a liability waiver on its GPS navigation system.

The other problem with all the LifeSpan treadmill units is that their top speeds are set to 4.0 mph, far greater than the maximum recommended 2.5 mph for treadmill desk use. While attempting to capture a little more market share by allowing users to "go cardio" and sweat all over their desks, the downside is that corporate legal departments have been known to order employees to ship LifeSpan treadmills back once they learn they've been brought on campus. In fact, UL certification standards have changed since these units were designed a half decade ago, and they might not even pass current safety standards without some redesign.

Home users could care less, and that's where most TR1200s are destined to be found. Enterprise users will want to veer towards the ThermoTread GT, which was designed for enterprise requirements and will satisfy the concerns of any legal or insurance expert (we've checked).

Decent Warranty

If you want to save money on a treadmill you're going to get less warranty coverage—that's just a fact of life. Like all the LifeSpan units the TR1200 comes with a lifetime warranty on the frame. The motor—the most important part—comes with a pretty good three year coverage. All other parts are covered for two years, and labor is covered for one year.

Good for Standing Around, Too

It's worth mentioning iMovR's EcoLast TreadTop Standing Mat as a great add-on for the TR1200, or any office treadmill, for that matter. When you want to take a pause from walking the last thing you want to do is stand on the cushion-less hard deck of a treadmill for very long, lest your feet start to suffer. These TreadTop mats are premium-quality, 100% polyurethane standing mats that are cut to size to specifically fit popular office treadmill models. They can be used atop the desk or astride the treadmill if you have a sit-stand-walk workstation, or both. Be sure to check out our 5-star review of the TreadTop Anti-Fatigue Mat. For LifeSpan units you'll want the 18" x 30" version that'll fit comfortably between the side rails.

The Takeaway

So let's sum it up. The LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 is the most popular walking treadmill base under $1,000 because it suits most home office situations. It is a terrific treadmill base for building your walking workstation around, if:

  • You've got the space to accommodate it.
  • The person(s) using it all weigh less than 350 lbs, and—according to LifeSpan—will use it for no more than 6 hours per day.
  • You want a machine that'll last for many years without incident but you're willing to lubricate it after every 40 hours of use.

That said, there are reasons to spend an extra $500 to get the ThermoTread GT:

  • You want the smallest possible footprint and the quietest unit available.
  • Multiple people will be sharing the unit in a departmental setting, especially if some are on the heavier side.
  • You want a desktop console that's better-looking and offers more functionality for your workday (as well as some futureproof updateable software).
  • Your office is worried about liability and wants a built-in, "click wrap" waiver before they're willing to buy a treadmill.

The LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 is a far better value for the money compared to the Steelcase, Woodway, TreadDesk, Rebel, or Exerpeutic and will outlast them all. This review is of the base only. We never recommend LifeSpan's DT5 or DT7 desks as they are ergonomic nightmares (read our review of the LifeSpan Integrated Treadmill Desk for details). You can find a much better desk designed specifically for treadmill desk use, such as iMovR's Everest, Olympus or Denali. See our comprehensive Comparison Review of Adjustable Height Desks for even more good choices for pairing with a LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 base.

LifeSpan Fitness - Standalone Treadmill Bases Price
TR800-DT3 Treadmill Base $799.99
TR1200-DT3 Treadmill Base $999.99
TR5000-DT3 Treadmill Base $1,499.99
LifeSpan Treadmill Specs Lifespan Fitness TR800-DT3 Treadmill Base Lifespan Fitness TR1200-DT3 Treadmill Base Lifespan Fitness TR5000-DT3 Treadmill Base
Price $799.00 $999.00 $1,499.00
Prescribed Usage Up to 3 Hours Daily Up to 6 Hours Daily Up to 10 Hours Daily
Warranty Limit Up to 3 Hours Daily Up to 6 Hours Daily Up to 10 Hours Daily
Side Rails Scuff-Prone Plastic Scuff-Prone Plastic Polished Aluminum
Motor Rating 2.0 HP Continuous Duty 2.25 HP Continuous Duty 3.0 HP Continuous Duty
Belt Walking Area 18" x 52" 20" x 56" 20" x 56"
Belt Thickness 2-ply 2-ply 2.5mm Upgraded
Console Dimensions 12.5" x 3" x 2" 12.5" x 3" x 2" 12.5" x 3" x 2"
Treadmill Dimensions 66.5" x 29" x 9.25" 70.5" x 29" x 9.5" 70.25" x 29" x 9.5"
Deck .75" Phenolic .75" Phenolic 1" Phenolic with Reversible Brace
Max User Weight 300 lbs. 350 lbs. 400 lbs.
Treadmill Weight 120 lbs. 131 lbs. 145 lbs.
Warranty Term Frame: Lifetime
Motor: 3 Years
Parts: 1 Year
Labor: 1 Year
Frame: Lifetime
Motor: 3 Years
Parts: 2 Years
Labor: 1 Year
Frame: Lifetime
Motor: 3 Years
Parts: 2 Years
Labor: 1 Year

It's worth mentioning iMovR's EcoLast TreadTop Standing Mat as a great add-on for the TR1200, or any office treadmill, for that matter. When you want to take a pause from walking the last thing you want to do is stand on the cushion-less hard deck of a treadmill for very long, lest your feet start to suffer. These TreadTop mats are premium-quality, 100% polyurethane standing mats that are cut to size to specifically fit popular office treadmill models. They can be used atop the desk or astride the treadmill if you have a sit-stand-walk workstation, or both. Be sure to check out our 5-star review of the TreadTop Anti-Fatigue Mat. For LifeSpan units you'll want the 18" x 30" version that'll fit comfortably between the side rails.

When it comes to treadmill lubricant the two most popular choices are LifeSpan's Treadmill Lubricant and iMovR's EasySpray Treadmill Lubricant. Both are 100% silicone oil but the multi-viscosity blend and improved nozzle design makes the EasySpray lubricant our experts' top pick.

Another very popular accessory for any treadmill desk setup is an under-treadmill mat - also known as an equipment mat, or anti-static mat. There are several good ones available, which we review in our Treadmill Mat Comparison Review. Our top pick for the TR1200 is the iMovR RightSize Under-Treadmill Mat, which is ideally sized and also much thicker and more durable than the others.

2 Comments
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  • SirWired
    February 11, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I bought my TR1200-DT3 off of Craigslist for $500. It only had 78 miles and 48 hours on it, making it a steal, even though it had not been lubricated during it’s life. (Which I swiftly corrected!) (FYI, you can check the total number of hours and miles using the “Engineering Menu”; instructions are in the user manual; this is a boon to used buyers, and in a corporate environment where somebody needs to keep track of maintenance needs.)

    I hauled the ‘mill home in my station wagon and had my wife help me lug it upstairs. The only sign it was not new was that some of the bolts securing the side rails to the deck were loose; this was easily remedied with a wrench. A lube, and a little tweaking with an allen wrench to center the belt and I was good to go!

    Setup was easy, and I swiftly used the Engineering Settings to turn off the beeping and the “pause when stepping off for 30 sec.” option. (I work from home, so this is not an issue.) While my version of the console (an older one from a couple years back) does not have the ability to do this, you can also tell it to pick up at the speed at which you last paused it. This is not a good idea in a corporate environment, but it’s great for a home office.

    I sent Lifespan a question about the motor and maintenance instructions, and while it took them a day, they responded with full answers to my questions, even though I had made it clear I had purchased an older unit on the used market.

    I’ve only been using it a couple weeks, and I’ve already put 60 miles on it! Even after 3 hours of non-stop use, the motor is merely warm to the touch, and the motor control board is cool to the touch. I’ve been maxing out the six hours a day, with the only ill-effects to my slightly tired feet! The treadmill doesn’t mind at all!

    The review has a minor error: There IS a feature to limit the top speed of the treadmill (to 2MPH) if desired. Maybe this review was correct when written, but this is no longer the case.

    • SirWired
      February 11, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      One more thing: I forgot to mention it in my review, but I haven’t had any major issues with the Android App / Bluetooth. Sometimes it does not connect, but terminating the app (with a simple swipe in the app switcher) seems to fix it without an issue.

      The “LifeSpan Fitness Club” website will also upload your results to Google Fit, which is nice. I kind of ignore the website otherwise; it’s a bit kludge-y and clearly designed as some sort of overall corporate fitness-promoting app, which is a bit of overkill for a single home user just trying to track their treadmill use. The Android App is much nicer (no experience with the iOS version…)

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