How many calories can you burn by using a treadmill desk?

December 25, 2022
do treadmill desks help you lose weight?

Sitting disease, in a nutshell, is a wind-down of the body’s metabolism that occurs when we sit for too long at one time. The most direct effect is a lowering of the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate – or BMR. Think of it as your heart rate when you’re just sitting still. We burn a few calories just keeping the vital organs working, digesting our last meal, pumping blood through the veins, exercising the brain cells, etc.

Merely standing raises the body’s BMR significantly, as the heart has to work harder to keep the body erect. Walking at a slow pace of 1 to 2 mph raises the BMR further still, and with it our background calorie burn. The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. James Levine – the “father of the treadmill desk” – and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot, estimates this burn rate to be between 100 to 130 calories per hour, but this will vary by age, weight and other factors.

Read our synopsis of the most detailed research ever conducted on caloric burn for standing desk and treadmill desk users that was published by iMovR in 2018 in cooperation with major medical research institutions including Mayo Clinic.

Most treadmill desk users report very moderate weight loss as a result of their new regiment. Crash diets and crash exercise programs can have some very negative health effects, too, so a very gradual loss rate is actually a good thing to strive for. The primary goal for using a treadmill desk shouldn’t be weight loss but rather the reversal and prevention of sitting disease.

In the process of reviewing the various treadmill desk vendors we often wondered whether some of them have actually read the research on the true health benefits of treadmill desking before crafting their marketing pitches. For that matter, we question whether they even read their own users’ reports posted all over the internet. Treadmill desk marketers who promote weight loss as the first bullet point on their list of product benefits are missing the point and potentially setting inappropriate expectations with their customers.

We’d really like to see those calorie burn counters banished from treadmill desks altogether. They belong on exercise equipment, not treadmill desks. For one thing, the algorithms are tuned for cardio exercise – not slow walking – so they’re bound to be very inaccurate. Don’t think it’s OK to eat a bag of salty, greasy potato chips with lunch just because your “calorie tracker” shows that you already burned off those calories that morning.

The only indicator that really matters is the clock showing how many hours you replaced sitting with moving. This is the primary health benefit of treadmill desks. Moderate weight loss is one of the many long-term benefits the treadmill desk users will enjoy along with improvements in blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, focus and productivity, as well as prevention of thrombosis, lower back pain, and other aches and pains caused by the overuse of our chairs and sofas.

If you want to get a personal feel for using a treadmill to make sure it will work for you, you should read our article on guidance to see how you can test one out for yourself.

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