LifeSpan Fitness TR5000-DT3 Under Desk Treadmill Review
- Lab tested
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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.
|MSRP / List Price||
Most recently listed at $1,499 on Amazon
Ships via UPS. For faster delivery and possibly better buyer protection, purchase through Amazon instead of directly from LifeSpan.
“Extended” warranty coverage must be purchased as an add-on, Lifespan no longer includes the standard factory warranty in the price of the product. $159.99-$309.99 for the TR-5000 (not available through Amazon).
The TR1200 is only sold with Lifespan’s “Retro” desktop controller for this price. Membrane keypad type with just the basics: speed, time, distance, step count and calorie burn. Users can upgrade to the new OmniHub controller for +$100, with Bluetooth (we have not lab tested this option yet). OmniHub supposedly includes Bluetooth although it’s unclear what software it may work with.
|Walking Belt Size||
20” W x 50″ L
Console: 12.5” W x 3” D x 2” H
3 HP Continuous Duty DC
Treadmill: 119 lbs.
|NEAT™ Certified by Mayo Clinic||
|Where to buy||
Buy on LifeSpan
Buy on Amazon
|Quality and Aesthetics|
|Positives||The most powerful in the line-up of four under desk treadmill base models Lifespan offers, the TR5000 features upgrades over the TR1200 like a 3.0 HP DC motor, a 1"-thick walking deck and a self-lubricating belt.|
|Negatives||A few years ago Lifespan gutted out the TR5000 without changing the model name. This used to a be a "Sherman Tank" of a treadmill base built around a bullet-proof AC motor, but users hated how noisy it was. It also consumed huge amounts of electricity. It is now barely more robust than the TR1200, and like the other three Lifespan model also now lacks any factory warranty - which should be a deal killer for any savvy consumer. Given recent changes at the company, and particularly the rampant consumer complaints about difficulties reaching the company and getting service, we've had to revoke or decade-long positive recommendation on this and all other Lifespan treadmill desk products.|
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.
Onto the review of the TR5000-DT3 / TR5000-Glowup….
The Difference Between “Car Chassis” and “Truck Chassis”
Automotive reviews speak in terms of “car chassis” versus “truck chassis” heritage. The other three Lifespan treadmill desk models (TR800, TR1000 and TR1200) are all “car chassis” frames that are light on the steel, less rigid, and thus subject to a lot of annoying issues like belt drift and squeaking coming from the frame as you walk. Typical of low-cost “consumer grade” treadmills.
The original TR5000’s 145 lb. frame was substantially stronger and better made than the cheaper units, and combined with the strong AC motor made it a “truck chassis” unit. 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 original TR5000, ensured years’ worth of walking longevity.
Unfortunately, all that changed a few years ago when the founders of Utah-based Lifespan Fitness left the company and the Taiwanese factory took over. Surreptitiously, without even changing the model names, they put all the TR Series under-desk treadmills on a weight loss program. They dropped the TR5000’s weight down from 145 to 119 lbs to save on metal and other vital components.
This comports with increased reports from users about difficulty with belt tracking and other service issues since the change was made. In effect, Lifespan changed the construction grade of frame design on the TR5000 from “truck chassis” to “car chassis.” While it used to be comparable to the enterprise-grade ThermoTread GT with its 150-lbs frame and 24×7 duty cycle, the TR5000 is now decidedly no longer in that same heavy-duty class of treadmill bases. It is off with all the other consumer-grade treadmills that Lifespan sells.
This also means the TR5000 is no longer recommended for multi-user environments. Whereas it used to be one of the two go-to machines for corporate, government and education accounts, it’s pretty much designated for home office use only now.
What Horsepower Means on a Treadmill Desk
As far as the TR5000 specifically is concerned, what the free market eventually revealed is what our review staff has been writing about for over a decade, that pulling a dead weight across a treadmill deck at 1-2 mph requires far more low-speed torque from a motor than when a runner is kicking the belt in the same direction the motor is turning. The force required to overcome the friction between the belt and the deck is immense, and running treadmills just aren’t geared for it. The result is always the same: premature motor failure or controller board failure. In other words, a user planning to walk at 1-2 mph should also plan to spend substantially more on a stronger motor and drive train than they would on a cardio treadmill if they want it to last. We go into the engineering reasons behind this in our primer on treadmill powertrains.
Lifespan has long been one of those treadmill manufacturers that lie about their weight ratings. There are no industry standards to speak of, so weight ratings are often what the manufacturers’ marketing departments conjure up, which is something we’ve always focused on proving in actual lab testing when we’ve reviewed these units. Rare is a company like iMovR that conducts both finite element analysis (FEA) on the design of their treadmills and months-long independent testing using specialized equipment. (And, at this point has an in-the-field record spanning many years longer than its warranty term to back up its claims.)
LifeSpan differentiates its three models by weight rating and recommended number of hours of daily use. On their own website, the TR800 Glowup is rated for 215 lbs and 3 hours of daily use; the TR1200 is rated for 350 lbs and 6 hours of daily use, and the TR5000 for 400 lbs and 9 hours of daily use. Talk about made-up-sounding numbers.
The “hours of daily use” rating has little bearing on reality. In the real world, one must account BOTH for the weight of the user(s) and the frequency of preventive maintenance. If a 175 lb. user bought a TR800 and never lubricated the deck it would eventually fail. On the other hand, a 250 lb. user who routinely sprays a little silicone oil between the deck and belt to keep their TR1200 well-lubed is going to have something that will last for many years. Better to treat the daily hour limit as a guideline rather than as a rule, though obvious differences in construction suggest the TR1200 for longer-duration usage than its little brother.
The good news with the TR5000 is that it comes with a self-lubricating belt, which basically means that it is impregnated with wax that will gradually melt with usage and save the consumer the effort of lubricating their treadmill. Until the wax runs out. At which point they will absolutely need to start lubricating their treadmill just like any other. So this is one of those gimmicky features that sounds great when you’re comparing models, but it’s really a very short-lived benefit.
A Controller More Fit for the Gym Than the Office
That’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 used to have a Bluetooth sync button for uploading your stats into the LifeSpan Fitness Club Software, but it never worked correctly. Lifespan finally removed it and relabeled this controller the “Retro” style. It recently introduced a new “OmniHub” controller, which we have not yet tested in the lab, that purportedly has Bluetooth incorporated. It isn’t clear whether there’s any software to go with it, and there are no user reviews of this new controller yet, it’s that new. Users can upgrade to this new touchscreen hub for an extra $100.
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 TR5000’s running treadmill-based design never had what it took 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 TR5000s 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).
Why Would Anyone Need a Warranty for a Treadmill, You Ask?
If you buy a $30 electronic tchotchke you might not care a whit about whether or not it has a warranty. But a treadmill? Come on. We were absolutely floored at Lifespan’s new Taiwanese owner’s decision to eliminate the standard factory warranty from their treadmill desk products. They now offer it as an “extended” warranty, which you must buy together with your treadmill so it’s really just a scheme to make the treadmill price seem cheaper than it really is. Technically they give you 30 days the purchase date of the treadmill to add the extended warranty, but good luck finding a way to register for that warranty on their website, whether you bought it from them or on Amazon. And if you can even find their phone number (it’s not on their website anymore), good luck ever getting anyone to answer it.
We’ve read report after report of users receiving a defective treadmill and have massive frustrations trying to get Lifespan to replace it or repair it. By late 2021 we started hearing horror stories from ex-employees, too. There is no good scenario here. At a minimum, you certainly wouldn’t want to purchase a highly mechanical device like a treadmill without a warranty to back it up, so you’ll want to spring the $160 (3-year coverage) or $310 (5-year coverage) for the “extended” plan, for sure.
But the more important question is will you be able to get service when you need it? Check the 1-star reviews on Amazon (you won’t find them on Lifespan’s site where reviews are culled to keep only the positive ones) to see how many people have run into enormous challenges getting their lemons repaired. And apparently, they’ve been shipping more lemons than ever. Sadly the brand has really gone downhill with the recent brain drain of the US staff.
After ten years of recommending the TR5000-DT3 (a.k.a. the TR5000 Glowup) as a very good option for the heavy duty profile multiuser environment, we’re saddened to have to fully revoke our endorsement for the product, and all of Lifespan Fitness’ treadmill desk products, for that matter. When company founders and people with 20 years of institutional memory all leave the company, and a foreign company takes over by remote control, bad things can happen. And that’s exactly what’s happened here. Profit margins have been squeezed and squeezed to the point that reliability is lacking and customer support is virtually non-existent. This is not trivial when you’re talking about an all-in investment of a few thousand dollars and large, heavy objects weighing hundreds of pounds that aren’t easy to return or get serviced.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of alternatives in the market these days. Plenty of companies, including startups like TreadDesk, RebelDesk and UnSit, as well as large fitness equipment companies like NordicTrak, Proform and LifeFitness have made failed runs at this market, only to find out that it isn’t as easy as it looks. The torque demands on the powertrain of a treadmill desk with a user walking at 1-2 mph are far, far greater than on a cardio treadmill with someone running at 8 mph, and it’s remarkable how many engineers and marketing departments miss this little detail when they chase this market. Fifteen years after Steelcase launched this industry with the Walkstation more companies have entered the dead pool than are still producing treadmill desks. For all intents and purposes, only Lifespan and iMovR remain.
As for Lifespan, the TR5000 is the next step up from the TR1200, and while the current TR5000 Glowup with its DC motor it’s dramatically less powerful than the original TR5000-DT3 with its AC motor, it’s going to be marginally more reliable than the TR1200. Add the “extended” warranty on top, though, and you’re right at the same cost as an enterprise-grade, bullet-proof iMovR ThermoTread GT, so you might as well go for the better unit from the more solid company at that point.
Should you DIY a treadmill desk instead? There are pluses and minuses, and should you choose to go that route there’s an entire, voluminous section of this website to help you do it, including common mistakes to avoid. We’ll just say that it’s usually a lot more complicated than people think it might be to hack a treadmill desk out of a running treadmill. But if you’re looking for a one-and-done commercial solution, it really comes down to the TR5000 versus the ThermoTread GT.
Be sure to check out the complete round-up of lab-tested Treadmill Desk Reviews and the related round-up of Standalone Under-Desk Office Treadmill Bases. After you order your treadmill desk, but before it arrives be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Treadmill Desk.
Recommended Accessories for Treadmill Deskers
It’s worth mentioning that iMovR’s EcoLast TreadTop Standing Mat is a must-consider add-on accessory for any office treadmill. 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 shaped specifically to fit the 20″-wide belt tracks of the most 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.
LifeSpan offers its own lubricant and recommends applying it to the deck after every 40 hours of use. However, we recommend the iMovR Treadmill Lubricant (100% Silicone) for its superior formulation and ease of application. See our primer on How to Lubricate A Treadmill for easy video instructions on how to keep any treadmill in tip-top running condition.
To protect your floors and your equipment, and reduce noise, static and vibration, an under-treadmill equipment mat is a great investment to consider as well. You’ll also want to check out reviews of the most stable monitor arms for treadmill desks to address one of the most important concerns of working at an active workstation, proper monitor height for avoiding the next strain.