Lifespan Fitness Reviews
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The Lifespan Fitness Backstory
The founding editors of this website got the gumption to launch WorkWhileWalking (and WorkWhileStanding, which eventually merged into this site) back in 2012, specifically because Lifespan Fitness made a bold entry into the treadmill desk marketplace that finally legitimized it. Prior to their arrival, there were only three options for someone who wanted to have a treadmill desk: a) Steelcase’s insanely overpriced and unreliable Walkstation Treadmill Desk, b) the now-defunct, incredibly poorly-made TreadDesk or Signature Treadmill Desk alternatives to the $5000 Steelcase unit, or c) taking the DIY route by hacking a rehab treadmill into a reasonably reliable, slow-speed treadmill desk.
Lifespan was the first legit player to commercialize the treadmill desk with a reasonably-priced range of products to suit almost every customer type. These included the flagship TR1200-DT3 office treadmill, the lower-cost TR800-DT3 and the heavy-duty TR5000-DT3, as well as the DT5 and DT7 integrated treadmill desk workstations with their manually and electrically height-adjustable standing desks, respectively. Tens of thousands were sold to corporations, government, education and residential home offices over the past decade. Lifespan treadmill desks would regularly appear in TV shows from The Good Wife to Alpha House.
Lifespan’s foray into active office workstations eventually attracted many competitors into the field (see our round-up review of all the under-desk treadmill bases and all the top-rated treadmill desk systems); most of which, at this stage of the game, have already joined the Dead Pool. Quite a few big brand names in cardio equipment and a few misguided startups chased this shiny object only to find out that building and marketing a good treadmill desk would take a lot more than just removing the large pedestal console and replacing it with a desktop controller to make room for an actual desk. The only serious competitor Lifespan has ever had since 2015 has been iMovR, which stands stronger than ever with its premium-grade, enterprise-class ThermoTread GT treadmill base, and a wide array of integrated treadmill desk systems build around it such as the Lander Treadmill Desk.
Lifespan’s DNA was definitely formed in the crucible of sports equipment development, though, and this really showed in their rather pitiful offerings on the desk side of the treadmill desk combo. When asked, ergonomists shunned all treadmill desks for a long time because the Lifespan DT5 and DT7 rendition were all they’d ever seen at a trade show. Eventually, Lifespan caved and started to offer an ever-changing variety of standing desk alternatives, sourcing commodity-grade options from their factory peers in China and just bundling them with their treadmill bases. The DT5 and DT7 were eventually removed entirely from the Lifespan website, though they are still being blown out through Amazon.
At present, the only desks sold in bundles with the treadmill bases on Lifespan’s website are the generically-named Lifespan Fitness Standing Desk, which we’ve reviewed separately. Like the DT5 and DT7 desks, the new “Power Desk” line that’s based on this desk commits the same original ergonomic sin. Between the user and their keyboard is situated a deep forearm resting cushion with an embedded console for controlling the treadmill. This forces the user into a shoulder-forward posture as they type with their upper body weight resting on their forearms to maintain stability. At least that’s how the company liked to demonstrate it at trade shows and in videos. Lifespan Fitness’ desk offerings have always been incompatible with the installation of ergonomic keyboard trays, especially the old-school DT5 and DT7 models.
While the company has never had any certificated ergonomists on staff, and always knew vastly more about working out on cardio equipment than they ever did about office workstation ergonomics, the current marketing team understands even less. Shockingly less. Perusing some of their recent social media postings we found numerous publicity shots, like this one here, that will curve your spine just looking at them. Here we have a TR800 “Classic” treadmill desk set to a fixed sitting height, with a birch standing desk converter on top of it. For all the hardware in this photo, there is no ergonomic monitor to hold up the display so the user’s neck is craning down, while the model is fake-typing in a completely unergonomic posture. What exactly is the point of putting a converter on top of an adjustable-height desk? More importantly, what is the point of using a treadmill desk in such a way as to create multiple potential ergonomic injuries? What is the point of setting a treadmill desk at sitting height, not walking height? So many questions.
Another tipoff that Lifespan’s marketing team doesn’t know the first thing about office fitness is that they’ve rebranded all their standalone treadmill bases from “-DT3”, e.g. the TR800-DT3 which they still sell on Amazon, to “Glowup” as in the TR800-Glowup that they market on their own website. (There don’t appear to be any differences between these other than the fact that the prices on the Amazon listings can be as much as several hundred dollars cheaper on some days.) But the term “glowup” really gets us, because as we’ve long said, “if you’re sweating while treadmill desking, you’re doing it wrong.”
Lifespan marketing materials often refer to walking at your desk as “a workout” instead of what it’s supposed to be: introducing healthy movement into your sedentary work routine. Sweating at your desk is anathema to the goal of treadmill desking, where you want that extra oxygen going to your brain, not your muscles. If you need some cardio exercise you should get it at the gym, not the office. As many years of Mayo Clinic research has supported, the goal is always to keep your heart rate and metabolic rate in the NEAT Zone. Perhaps this is one reason Lifespan Fitness never sought NEAT Certification; they’ve always left the top-end speed of their under-desk treadmills at 4.0 mph, way higher than the recommended 1-2.5 mph speed most office workers use, in order not to turn away customers who literally wanted to jog at their desks—with all the implied injury risks that entails.
Change of Command
Originally founded by ex-IBM sales account manager Pete Schenk after the dot-com bubble burst in the summer of 2000, the company ran with his hand on the tiller for 19 years. Not the actual manufacturer of any of these products, Salt Lake City, Utah-based Lifespan Fitness (technically, Park City Entertainment) had negotiated the exclusive distribution rights in North America and Europe for gym equipment products, and later treadmill desk and cycle desk products—all manufactured by Strength Master, a mid-tier manufacturer of cardio fitness equipment based in Taiwan and China.
It’s unclear how much ownership control the Taiwanese management team had over Lifespan prior to Schenk’s departure, but contrary to impressions the US-based company liked to put out to the world, the Utah contingent never really had much design input into the products they sold. This led to challenges over time. The company was never really in charge of its own destiny, and only had the management bench strength to be a capable distributor, not an actual technology innovation leader in the industry. The company that is always pushing the technology and ergonomic research on treadmill desks has always been and remains iMovR. (iMovR also partnered with The Mayo Clinic to publish the only solid research on things like How Many Calories Can You Really Expect to Burn Using a Standing Desk or Treadmill Desk?)
Lifespan Fitness itself did not employ any engineers. This led to long-standing problems with some features, especially those around Bluetooth and the smartphone app, which never worked reliably and still don’t. Product reliability was always a concern because the Taiwanese factory wanted to make one treadmill base for both cardio fitness and office workstation applications. In fact, the service manuals for the office treadmills and running treadmills (e.g. TR800i, TR1200i) are exactly the same. This instigated a fundamental conflict as to where to set the gearing ratios on the motor-flywheel-pulley-head roller power transmission system. The consequence of this is that the office treadmills have never had sufficient torque at low speeds, like the 1-2 mph speed that most workstation users are walking at. This led to a shortened useful life span for the costly motor, and mounting warranty claims over the years. (We get into all the nerdy details on this issue in our primer on Do Treadmill Desk Weight Ratings Really Matter? if you want to learn more.)
From interviews with Lifespan executives over the years, we learned that the company was never really on very solid financial footing. The tariffs imposed on China only affected some of the products that Strength Master made in their Chinese factory. But the pandemic, sadly, appears to have dealt a rather significant body blow to the company. In March of 2019, insiders tell us that Schenk simply “walked away from the company.” Clearly, the Taiwanese are in charge of what remains of Lifespan Fitness now, with the daughter of Strength Master’s CEO moving to Utah to oversee the operation as its new CEO. More recently, we learned from a wave of departing employees that they were told by the company that they were all being summarily laid off, without warning, “due to covid.”
Ever since Schenk’s departure, the company’s reputation has rapidly devolved, sad to say. Many product descriptions and specifications have been dumbed down, well-hidden or completely removed from the website. There is no phone number to call (and when we called the number we had for the company we just went into a hold queue forever before being invited to leave a voicemail). Lucy the live chatbot is badly programmed and doesn’t know how to answer a single question about the treadmill desk products, only classroom products and gym equipment. The only way to communicate with the company appears to be through email, and we’ve read numerous user complaints on various networks like the BBB about customers not getting any kind of response on warranty claims and other issues. Places, that is, where Lifespan couldn’t scrub out bad reviews, as they can on their own website.
Lifespan Fitness doesn’t feel like the same company we knew so well in the formative years of the treadmill desk industry. It is sad to see what remains of its remote controlled husk today. The product offerings appear to have been thinned out and maximally cost-reduced, and the warranties have been completely removed from the treadmills. If you want a warranty on your treadmill you now have to buy it as an “extended warranty” upgrade. Calling it an “extended warranty” implies that there’s some standard manufacturer’s warranty that it is adding more years to, but there is none documented anywhere on the website any longer. What used to be the standard warranty for the first decade that these products were sold in the USA is now the minimum extended warranty you can tack on for $270.
We suppose that’s one way to keep prices down in the face of tariffs and rampant deep ocean freight cost increases since the pandemic, but we simply can’t recommend any product that has no standard warranty at all. These aren’t $20 phone chargers, they’re $1,000 – $3,000 treadmills and treadmill desks. Caveat emptor should you choose to plunk down your cold hard cash on a Lifespan Fitness product today. (Note that we do find the original TR800, TR1200 and TR5000 treadmills, in DT3 (standalone base), DT5 (with manually-fixed height setting) and DT7 (with electric height setting) still being sold on Amazon. It’s unclear whether or not these are sold with an intact manufacturer’s warranty; none is mentioned in the Amazon listings but neither are the extended warranty options. Buying through Amazon may at least give you a modicum of consumer protection if you have a problem in the first 30 days.)
Not surprisingly, Lifespan’s website traffic has also been notably degraded since the pandemic, at a time when fitness equipment, treadmill desk and standing desk categories are all booming. We used to know many of the people in the organization from trade shows and other interactions; almost to a one have moved on to other employment over the past few years. These days we learn much more about goings on at the company from departed employees than from anyone still in active management. It is a bit depressing to see the most recognized pioneer in popularizing the treadmill desk concept fall so far from its perch.
Check out our full collection of office fitness equipment brand roundups.
Lifespan Fitness Under Desk Treadmill Bases
There was a time when the TR800-DT3 was a very decent-rated treadmill-desk product, that actually led the category for small-footprint under-desk treadmill bases. Unfortunately, the company has hit the rocks in recent years, losing all of its senior management in the USA. Since then the quality of the product has gone dramatically downhill, and this TR800-DT3 unit (aka the TR800-Glowup, as it is marketed on Lifespan’s own website) garners more 1-star user reviews on Amazon than any other treadmill desk we’ve ever lab tested in over a decade. Component and construction quality has degraded, the standard factory warranty has been completely ELIMINATED, and customers complain frequently of being shipped used product, product with missing parts and DOA product. We’ve investigated and found that dramatic changes at the company, especially since the pandemic, warrant removal of our previous high ratings on the TR800, and in fact all of the Lifespan TR Series underdesk treadmills. Sadly, we now need to caution consumers that this one-time leader of the treadmill desk industry has become known for atrocious quality and customer service issues, destroying what was once a proud reputation.
Yesteryear’s most popular office treadmill, the advent of the TR1200-DT3 back in 2011 helped to kick off the treadmill desk revolution. The original design had a great reputation for being a solid middle-of-the-road offering. Not too expensive and relatively reliable for a typical single-user, home office usage profile. The company had a decent service network and to the degree that it was as good as anyone else’s, an industry leading warranty. Things started to change around 2018, however, when the founders and eventually the entire Utah-based management team would see the last of their days with the company after nearly 20 years. Lifespan would succumb to its debts and be taken over by Strength Master of Taiwan, its exclusive manufacturing partner. In the ensuing years, and particularly through the pandemic, the company went through a series of component quality reductions and price increases in the name of profit margins, going so far as to eliminate all treadmill factory warranties (you now have to pay more for an “extended” warranty, within 30 days of purchase, and good luck doing that if you didn’t buy it at time of purchase from Lifespan directly) in order to have any warranty at all. And even if you did, good luck getting through to service. There is no longer even a phone number on the website. So with all these headwinds against the company, and the massive brain drain of personnel that built the once-proud brand in the USA, we sadly have to revoke our long-standing recommendation of Lifespan’s treadmill desk products, including the TR1200-DT3 (aka TR1200 Glowup).
If comparing to the other three weaker treadmill base models from Lifespan (the TR800, TR1000 and TR1200), the TR5000 is the Hulk. But that’s not saying much in comparison to what it used to be before Lifespan quietly gutted its design without so much as changing the model number. They removed the powerful AC motor and replaced it with a much cheaper and weaker DC motor, and they reduced costs further by thinning down the steel frame and lowering component quality as they did with the other models. At the same time, they entirely removed the standard factory warranty, forcing customers to pay for it separately as an “extended” warranty, all in the name of making their new higher prices look not as bad. All that is bad enough in itself, but what really compelled us to remove our long-standing “buy” recommendation on the TR5000 and all the Lifespan treadmill models after a decade is their removal of the phone number from their website and the barrage of complaints we’ve seen in recent years where customers simply can’t get service for their units without agonizing effort, if at all. With change of ownership and a complete “brain drain” of the founders and US-based management team, the Taiwanese factory behind Lifespan is now running the company by remote control, and from what we can see, running it into the ground.
Check out our full roundup of treadmill bases
Lifespan Fitness Integrated Treadmill Desk Workstations
Lifespan’s entry into the treadmill desk market is literally the event that led us to start developing this reviews and advice website back in 2012. As the first commercially-produced treadmill desk offering reasonably priced, reasonable quality alternatives to the first treadmill desk (a severely overpriced one from Steelcase), we know that many thousands of our readers over the years started their foray into treadmill desking with a Lifespan Fitness TR800, TR1200 or TR5000 under their feet. The pandemic has taken many victims in the business world, too, and we’re sad to report that the once-great Lifespan Fitness product appear to have contracted a bad case of “long Covid.” The company is now wholly owned and operated by its former exclusive manufacturing partner in Taiwan, with not even a phone number for retail customers to call in the United States. Prices have been dramatically increased while the treadmill products have had their warranties completely eliminated as a “shrinkflation” tactic to maintain profit margins. (Prepare to include one of their “extended” warranty plans in your purchase price, starting at $270, if you still choose to take a chance on the company.) Specs, photography and other outward indications reveal the company’s complete lack of understanding of the ergonomics of working at a walking workstation, leading customers to set up potentially injurious desk configurations. Not surprisingly, the company’s website traffic and market share is dwindling quickly as the American senior management team that ran the company for 19 years have walked out the door, taking their deep institutional knowledge with them. We’ve had to rescind our buy recommendations across the board on the Lifespan products as for the prices Lifespan they now charge you could step up to a much higher-quality product, with a solid warranty, much higher longevity, far more extensive desk size and color options, and first-rate American engineering and customer support.
Check out our full round up of treadmill desks
Lifespan Fitness Standing Desks
Lifespan’s “classic” standing desks, for many years known as the DT5 (height set manually with pins) and DT7 (electric) were notoriously limited to one size, one color, and a deep cushion strip and control console that positioned the user into an atrocious ergonomic position. That’s how much this distributor of Asian-made gym equipment knew about the proper ergonomics of computer workstations when it first jumped into the office fitness industry a decade ago. To address these shortcomings Lifespan eventually introduced a more conventional standing desk that stood independently over the treadmill, but their lack of experience in standing desk furniture is once again glaring with this offering. Extremely limited in sizes and colors, it’s a commodity standing desk at a premium price, with an extremely short warranty reflective of its poor manufacturing quality. If you really wanted to buy a Lifespan treadmill base (presumably for its low price point) you’d be far better off pairing it with a desk designed specifically for walking desk ergonomics made by iMovR, and have far more decor choices as well.
Check out our full roundup of electric standing desks
Lifespan Fitness Bike Desks
Multiple design flaws stem from the fact that this was originally designed as an upright cardio exercise bike, simply re-skinned and re-positioned as an office fitness product to broaden out Lifespan’s popular treadmill desk line (which has seen far greater success). Poor reviews from verified buyers on Amazon confirm what our review experts have long said about this product. If you don’t want to be disappointed and have to hassle with returning it, move on to one of the many competing products that are twice as good at half the price.
Check out our full roundup of bike desks
Lifespan Fitness Standing Mats
A generic equipment mat, the LifeSpan Treadmill Mat is ironically not ideally suited for use with their own walking treadmills. It is too large in area, and about one-third of the thickness one would want. For $50 it is one of the few made of rubber (albeit not made entirely of 100% recycled rubber), manufactured in the USA. But for an office treadmill you’re better off with a thicker mat that’ll provide more shock and noise absorption; one that is properly sized so as not to interfere with the desk legs, create a potential trip hazard, or expose an unsightly perimeter of rubber around your treadmill base.
Check out our full roundup of standing mats