Treadmill Desks and Safety – Some Worthy Precautions
Treadmill desks are extremely safe. Don’t get spooked by articles that claim thousands of people per year injure themselves by falling off a treadmill. None of those people were walking at 1 – 2 mph. More likely these people were victims of a prank or they themselves unwittingly set the belt speed higher than they could sustain. We’ve yet to hear of anyone falling off a treadmill desk, much less getting seriously injured doing so.
That said, it does require some extra attention to safely mount and dismount a treadmill if the belt is in motion. Want to avoid the problem altogether? Simply don’t mount or dismount unless the belt has come to a complete stop.
We are often asked whether it is really necessary to strap the emergency stop cord to your body. Candidly, most people never use it even when running, which is the only time it might, possibly, prevent some injury. It is a UL certification requirement that treadmill desks have these cords but it is highly questionable whether they have any value at all to the treadmill-desk user. We don’t want to upset our lawyers by telling you not to use it so we won’t go that far, but anyone can walk into a gym and observe for themselves how few people bother to clip the emergency stop cord to their clothing. Many people believe there is a potentially greater risk of injury from accidentally pulling the cord and having the belt stop very abruptly, than there is from you getting too far away from your console to hit the STOP button or step safely off the treadmill.
The biggest safety issues for treadmill-desk users are potential minor injuries (muscle aches, really) from improper ergonomic settings, insufficient stretching and pause breaks, or simply walking for too many hours at a time. Though it’s possible users who dive right into long treadmill-desk sessions without first preparing one’s body, will strain muscle ligaments. Strains can come and go quickly, or they can linger. It’s why stretching is critical to your health.
To summarize the above best practices from a safety perspective:
- Stretch before and after your walking sessions, and take sufficient stretching breaks during your walking
sessions to prevent muscle stiffness or strains. A really good stretching idea is actually to take a walk around the office or around the block to change the pace and terrain a little bit. Make sure to stretch all of your leg muscles as well as your hip flexors and your back in your stretch routine. Hamstring, quadriceps, calf and glute stretches are extremely important. Some good ones include: touching your toes from a standing position (make sure you are not bending your knees), curling your leg at the knee towards your glute and holding your ankle, child’s pose with arms stretched out in front, the sun salutation (lie face down, then raise your head and torso up as far back as you can without lifting the lower body), seated toe touches (again, without bending legs), and seated leg crossing. These are mere suggestions. Find the stretches you like, what works for your body and make that your routine. Spend five minutes working your way through these stretches every time you get ready to walk on your treadmill and you won’t notice muscle cramping or fatigue by the end of the day.
- Drink more water than you usually do, and keep a wind tower blowing very gently across your entire body to keep you from sweating.
- Use a headset for phone calls, ideally a wireless one.
- Route all the cords and cables safely out of the path between you and your keyboard and away from the walking area.
- Avoid sudden treadmill stoppages by using an adequately-rated power plug for your treadmill desk and not plugging anything else into it.
- Establish a protocol with your co-workers for how you’d prefer they get your attention while you are on your walkabout.
If you want to make sure a treadmill 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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