Expert’s Note: see our reviews of the standalone LifeSpan treadmill bases. Since LifeSpan desks are only sold bundled with these bases we did not give the desks (which are not sold standalone), or the integrated treadmill desks reviewed here, separate Experts’ Ratings.
LifeSpan Fitness has been a manufacturer of treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical cross trainers since 1994. While Steelcase dominates the large enterprise market with their WalkStation product LifeSpan is clearly the dominant purveyor of treadmill desks to the home and small business office today, and is starting to creep in on Steelcase’s Fortune 500 territory as well.
Considering that Steelcase had a five year head start on LifeSpan in getting into the treadmill desk arena the younger entrant has made impressive strides and is emerging as a strong #2. The #3 vendor of under-desk treadmills (it’s arguable who that is, but probably TreadDesk) is a long distance behind LifeSpan at this point. It’s fundamentally a two horse race. LifeSpan is also the OEM maker of the treadmill bases that you’ll find in the NextDesk Fit Treadmill Desk and the ModTable Treadmill Desk, which have also been reviewed by WorkWhileWalking.
Like their positioning in the exercise equipment field, LifeSpan focuses on offering middle-of-the-road treadmill desk solutions that are of decent quality at a reasonable price, but their DNA is clearly that of an exercise equipment manufacturer, not an office furniture manufacturer. A consistent DNA marker with treadmill desk manufacturers is if they offer their treadmill bases for sale standalone, without a desk. LifeSpan does, and we strongly encourage you to read our detailed review of the LifeSpan TR800, T1200 and TR5000 treadmill bases in addition to this review to learn all about their core technology. The treadmill base, after all, is where the rubber truly meets the road.
Mix-and-Match is Probably the Better Way to Go
Because LifeSpan is not a world-class office furniture manufacturer we actually prefer to mix-and-match one of the LifeSpan treadmill bases (either the TR1200 for low-impact individual usage or the TR5000 for heavy-impact department usage) with a better desk from another manufacturer, which you can easily do. This has many benefits and will give you the best value for your dollar.
Matching a LifeSpan treadmill base with a different manufacturer’s desk also means that your treadmill’s control console will sit somewhere on your desktop rather than be bolted under the front edge of the desktop. That’s a good thing – bolt-on consoles further extend the distance between you and your keyboard and thus increas the potential for “computer hunch.” While this seems like a minor inconvenience at first, having to reach farther forward to type for long periods of time can be a real pain, and proved quite painful for our stiffening shoulders. It doesn’t help that the desk’s design makes it impossible to install a keyboard tray underneath.
Sorting Through LifeSpan’s Five Different Treadmill Desk Systems
Let’s get down to evaluating the LifeSpan “integrated” treadmill desk systems. The company has an annoying habit of creating very nondescript model numbers, which can be confusing for consumers trying to pick one solution over the other. Think of it as a matrix of three different treadmill base options (the TR800, TR1200 and TR5000) and two different desk options, a one-time setup manually height-adjustable desk (DT5) and a fancier electric height-adjustable desk (DT7). The “DT3″ designation simply refers to the treadmill base itself, without a desk.
The real meat of the LifeSpan Treadmill Desks review is over in the Standalone Treadmill Bases section since the desks themselves are very simple machines. Be sure to read those if you haven’t already to learn about the control console, the drive mechanism, belt technology, warranty information and more. As for the desks, you have two basic options.
The LifeSpan Desk Options
There are a few user reviews that complain about their monitors shaking badly on the DT5 desk but these are probably people who are doing one of more of the following things: a) running the treadmill too fast, b) using a weak or overextended monitor mount, or c) using an oversized monitor. Or perhaps they just have to tighten the bolts on their desk from time to time. Plenty of other reviewers report that they feel the LifeSpan desks are very well built. Some users did complain, however, that the desktop is not very securely fastened to the legs and if they lean too heavily on the front edge the back edge will come up.
LifeSpan claims their desks comfortably fit users from 4’10″ to 6’8″ tall. The desktop dimensions are 46.75″ wide by 36.5″ deep. Both desks can be adjusted from 36” to 52” in height. The good news is that an NBA player will be very comfortable with one of these desks. The bad news is that because the lowest setting is only 36″, a LifeSpan desk is treadmill-only. It could never be used in the future as a “sit-to-stand” desk like other adjustable-height desks can. Again, this is one more reason we recommend you might want to mix-and-match the best LifeSpan treadmill base with a top-breed adjustable height desk from manufacturers such as ThermoDesk, ModTable, or NextDesk.
With a truly adjustable-height desk you can vary the height in a matter of seconds. Not so with the DT5. Changing desktop height on the DT5 requires at least two people (realistically three people if you have a lot of stuff resting on the desktop that you don’t want to move.
The choice is basically between the DT5 at $500 and the DT7 at $1000. The DT-5 is a one-time setup height-adjustable desk, meaning once you set it up you won’t want to make the effort to change the desk height again. This is fine if you plan to be the only user of the treadmill desk. If the intent is to have multiple people using the same workstation then it would be imprudent to force them to use other peoples’ height settings, and impractical to conscript one or two extra people to help change the desk height every time a different person wants to use the workstation. It’s also worth noting that some people like to change their own desk height from time to time just to reduce the muscle strain one can get from being in the same position for many hours on end, for months on end.
The DT7 powered height-adjustable desk competes directly with ModTable Mod-E, GeekDesk, VersaTable, NextDesk and other electrically-adjustable desks and as such is similarly priced but has a smaller desktop surface area and doesn’t look quite as nice as ones that are made by real office furniture manufacturers. Hence we think your best bet if you choose a LifeSpan treadmill base is to match it up with a nicer desk from a different manufacturer. See our reviews of desk options.
The DT7 desktop adjusts at a speed of 2.5 mm per second and has two memory pre-sets. Memory presets are a terrific feature. LifeSpan choosing to have only two presets is a head scratcher. The GeekDesk Max, for example, has four memory presets.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not budget-constrained or if you are shopping for a treadmill desk to be shared by several users in a heavy duty application then the comparables here are the LifeSpan TR5000-DT7 ($3000) versus the Steelcase Walkstation ($4000 or $4500 for the wider desk) and the Signature DZ9500 with XR300 base (street price around $2,000). If your employer prefers buying from Steelcase because they already buy their furniture from the same company then you should have an easier time lobbying for the deluxe Steelcase Walkstation unit.
If, on the other hand, you’re on a budget, the LifeSpan delivers more value for the dollar and doesn’t lose out on any must-have features. LifeSpan knows they don’t have the name brand of Steelcase, hence they sell their product for less. The comparable Signature workstation is even less expensive but doesn’t have the same breadth of features or the reputation of the LifeSpan unit and is based on a running treadmill rather than the more robust walking treadmill architecture of the LifeSpan series.
In any case, your best bet will always be to pair a LifeSpan DT3 treadmill base with a separate adjustable-height desk. The ModTable and Thermodesk lines of desks are comparable in price to a LifeSpan DT5, but are easily adjustable and can support keyboard trays.
The Cherry on Top
LifeSpan’s Fitness Club membership – a $69.95/year value – is included FREE with every treadmill base or integrated treadmill desk purchase. See our full LifeSpan Fitness Club Review for all the details.
Second most popular treadmill desk line after the Steelcase Walkstation but much more affordable and clearly the value leader. TR1200 and TR5000 are rock solid treadmill bases for individual and department/shared use, respectively, and earn our Experts' Choice designations. High user ratings except in a couple of areas.
Avoid the TR800 treadmill base altogether. LifeSpan’s desks are not the best. As an established fitness equipment manufacturer their treadmill mechanisms and desktop control consoles are where you’ll find their best technology. Control console Bluetooth interface gets negative remarks from users (a little buggy, but not a vital function). TR5000 is top-of-the-line but a little overpriced for a single-user workstation; ideal for multi-user.