How many treadmill desks are in use today?
[Editor’s Note Nov 2020]: This article was originally published in 2015, and we retain it below for posterity. There are still no validated market research reports on the global or domestic treadmill desk market being published, though several market research firms purport to sell them. The ones we have seen make grossly incorrect assumptions, which is not uncommon for such a small sector with no publicly traded or even large manufacturers involved (Steelcase bowed out of the market years ago although you might technically still be able to purchase an obsolete WalkStation).
These market research factories pump out reports on a great many industry sectors with virtually no effort on any one of them, so not surprisingly these are worthless. We’re not sure who buys them, and they’re not cheap.
Here’s what we know as the leading site for the treadmill desk industry since 2013. Only two treadmill desk manufacturers represent 95+% of the market today: Lifespan with their low-end consumer-grade units and iMovR with their high-end commercial-grade and high-end residential units. Most of the vendors tackling the market in 2015, named below, have either gone out of business or retreated back to their cardio running treadmill roots and discontinued their ill-conceived office treadmill products (see our reviews of each).
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic annual sales of office treadmills in the United States numbered roughly 15,000 to 20,000 workstations, according to the best numbers we have from sources inside these companies. The market outside the US is miniscule, probably less than 1.000 per year.
At the time of this November 2020 update (as the “second wave” surges), the spike in sales since March, 2020 that has been induced by Covid-19 and the WFH phenomenon has at least tripled to quadrupled 2019’s sales run rates, and would be even greater if consumers could just get their hands on them. With all home fitness equipment seeing meteoric sales growth during the pandemic, and these office treadmills being manufactured in the same factories as running treadmills, supplies have been very short and so we can presume sales would be even greater if inventory was available.
Treadmill Desks in Use Today
At WorkWhileWalking we often get asked “how many treadmill desks are in use today,” and the short answer is that nobody really knows. We have taken some market readings, however, that lead us to estimate the figure to be somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 treadmill desks either purchased or constructed in the United States between 2007 and 2015.
Office furniture behemoth Steelcase was the first commercial manufacturer of treadmill desks, now some seven years in the business. Unverified statistics we’ve seen quoted in major media publications claim sales of 70,000+ Steelcase Walkstation treadmill desks to large corporations as of 2013. Considering that a Walkstation has had an average price tag of $4,000 over the past few years, even with corporate discounts this could amount to a quarter billion dollars in sales. Steelcase representatives have been quoted in the media stating that they sell about $40M/year of this equipment so these figures seem to pass the sniff test.
The next largest maker of treadmill desks, LifeSpan Fitness, was quoted in FoxBusiness as saying they’ve sold “nearly 50,000 treadmill desks” in the past four years. iMovR made a major entry into the market in 2015 with its ThermoTread GT, primarily targeting enterprise customers. Other new entrants include some massive fitness equipment industry players such as InMovement (Brunswick / Life Fitness), NordicTrack and Proform. No sales numbers are yet available from these new players. While Exerpeutic is not really a serious player in walking workstations for offices they do sell a lot of volume of their $500 “toy” treadmill desks through Walmart, Target and the like. Then there are even smaller players like Rebel Desk, Woodway, Signature and TreadDesk. All told we estimate that there could be as many as 30,000 to 70,000 commercially-build tread desks being sold annually worldwide.
For every commercially-built treadmill desk being sold there are estimated to be three more being cobbled together by do-it-yourselfers, salvaging an existing running treadmill with the addition of a fixed or adjustable-height desk (or in some cases just a plank of wood across the treadmill arms). This ratio is evidenced by a statistical scan of Pinterest, Facebook and other social media networks where people post a picture or comment about their treadmill desk every minute of the day. In recent years this ratio has been declining as LifeSpan, iMovR and other commercial manufacturers have gained traction, and as early adopters decide to upgrade to a more attractive and productive workstation than the kludged DIY setup they started with.
Unfortunately there are no market research firms collecting sales data on this industry sub-sector despite its rapid growth rate but if you come across any additional verifiable data points we’d love to hear about it and add it to our guesstimating engine.
What about standing desks?
As for the adjustable-height standing desk market we have been unable to locate any market research that breaks out adjustable-height or standing desks from ordinary sitting desks, although according to the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, the entire annual US market for office desks and tables is approximately $1.1B in size. Anecdotally we have heard reports from just about every single office desk manufacturer in the US that the sale mix of adjustable-height to fixed-height desks has been shifting very rapidly in favor of sit-stand desks in recent years.