Are walking pads good for you?

kEnneth Luczko works remotely as an engineer for a technology company, which means his fingers dance on the keyboard all day. One might assume that’s the extent of her schedule. But when 5 p.m. rolls around, she has taken at least 15,000 to 25,000 steps without even leaving her apartment.

Luczko, 26, is a fan of hiking. He bought one about a year and a half ago after watching a TikTok video and now uses it every day. It’s basically a portable treadmill under the desk: less bulky than the ones he might have in the basement and without handrails. Walking pads have more limited speed options than regular treadmills and typically have a lower incline, so you walk on a flat surface. Sometimes Luczko crawls along at 0.5 or 1 mile per hour with his, and other times he speeds up to 3 mph. Doesn’t all that movement make it difficult to, well, work? “It actually helps me get into an incredible state of flow when I’m coding,” he says. Additionally, Luczko credits the walking platform with fueling his recent 100-pound weight loss: “It was like a gateway drug to going to the gym and going for walks outside.”

Walking pads, which cost between $150 and $200, are trending on social media platforms as a way to get your heart rate up and incorporate some movement into an otherwise sedentary day. While experts agree that the devices should complement, not replace, your regular exercise routine, they can be a smart alternative to plopping down in your office chair and staying there.

The Health Benefits of Walking Pads

Walking is one of the easiest ways for many people to get more exercise, but it’s also one of the easiest things to eliminate from our daily routines, says Akinkunle Oye-Somefun, a doctoral candidate at York University in Toronto, author of a recent meta. Analysis of research on treadmills. Since the pandemic-related shift to remote work, he says, more people are sitting for at least eight hours a day, rather than walking to and from the office, going out to lunch or going around the block for a breath of fresh air. fresh air. That is a problem. Sitting all day produces a number of “harmful results,” says Oye-Somefun, including weight gain, increased risk of disease, and stress on the back, neck, arms, and legs. “The tension in the extremities begins to be noticeable after just an hour of sitting,” he adds. “It’s good to stop sitting,” and walking is better than just standing.

In addition to reducing the time you spend sitting, treadmill desks can provide a variety of benefits. Steps increase, and research suggests that logging at least 4,000 a day can reduce the risk of dying from any cause, including heart disease. You don’t even have to go that fast: Researchers have found that office workers who walked 1 mile per hour on a treadmill burned an extra 100 calories per hour. Now there is even specific research on walking platforms. A small study, published in 2023, concluded that wearing one during the workday improved people’s energy levels, helped them feel less sore, reduced hip and back pain, improved their mood, and made them feel more concentrated and creative.

Read more: Why walking is not enough when it comes to exercise

Plus, it (probably) won’t affect your work. One study found that people sitting on treadmills performed cognitive tasks almost as well as those sitting, and researchers concluded that the benefits outweighed any concerns about concentration. “Everyone is realizing that I can walk while I work and it doesn’t affect my productivity,” says Oye-Somefun. “’I get mental clarity, I can answer calls, I can write.’”

What to look for when choosing one

James Rethaber reviewed three or four walking platforms before finding one that ticked all his boxes and now uses it every day, usually while listening to webinars or taking a short break. As vice president of technical operations for Fit for Work, a company that specializes in industrial ergonomics and workplace injury prevention, he helps people understand what to look for when choosing a walking pad.

To start: weight capacity. “I’m not a small person, so I needed to make sure I had a big capacity,” Rethaber says. Some walking pads can only support 200 pounds; others are designed for people who weigh 300 pounds or more. The higher the weight capacity, he notes, the heavier the treadmill desk will be. The width of the belt (where you walk on the machine) also matters. Traditional treadmills typically have a tread width of 18 to 22 inches, while walking pads are in the 12 to 18 inch range. If you have limited space, look for one on the narrow side, advises Rethaber. But if you have a wider walking stance and room to spare, you may appreciate a larger belt, which also reduces the risk of accidentally stepping (or slipping) off the track.

Functionality also varies between walking platforms. Some have a single purpose: They are designed to be used only under your desk, with a maximum speed of about 4 mph. Others have a dual purpose and can be used while working, or to walk, jog or run faster while away from the desk. In those cases, the speed rating is usually 8 to at least 10 mph, Rethaber says, and you can add folding handrails when you’re going fast.

Read more: Your brain doesn’t want you to exercise

While some walking platforms are nearly silent, others “sound like jet engines,” so check the decibel rating of any you’re considering, advises Rethaber. “If you’re around other people, I always recommend looking for a treadmill that has a lower decibel rating,” he says. “And having a sound-absorbing pad underneath, like a rubber mat, can really make a difference.”

It is also helpful to consider whether a potential walking platform is equipped with special features. Some include a tracker that shows the amount of time and number of steps you have completed in a day. You can also find models that have the ability to sync the number of steps you’ve recorded on your walking platform with popular fitness apps, so all of your day’s activity is in one place.

Ergonomics also matter

Walking pads should be comfortable to use, emphasizes Rethaber, who is a certified professional ergonomist, meaning he specializes in optimizing the way people interact with their equipment and workspaces. He recommends building your workstation around your walking platform, rather than trying to squeeze it into a set space. If you just slide it in, “things will be too low or too far away,” he says, opening the door to muscle tension and soreness.

Ideally, the keyboard should be situated at a height that allows your elbows to bend slightly below 90 degrees, he says. Frequently handled items, such as a mouse, phone, and a notepad, should be within easy reach. And the top third of your monitor should be at eye level. (If you wear corrective lenses like bifocals, you may find it more comfortable to have the monitor below eye level, Rethaber adds.)

Luczko, the work-from-home engineer, selected a walking platform with two wheels on the front that fits perfectly under his desk. “The desk has an automated function to raise or lower it, so I just press the button, it raises it and I move (the pad) right under it,” he says. At the end of the workday, he folds it up and rolls it to the side of his office until he is ready to return to action.

Guarantee the security

If you don’t have balance problems, walking pads are just as safe as walking on a normal surface, Rethaber says, especially considering that most people use them at low speeds. Unlike a regular treadmill, there are no handrails; Clients sometimes ask him if that worries him. He tells them that if they feel the need to use handles, it’s probably a sign that they are walking too fast or while performing a task that requires intense concentration. In these cases, it is best to slow down or sit down.

Read more: Put your shoes back on. Here’s the problem with going barefoot.

It is also important to consider what shoes you are wearing. “I always recommend wearing sports shoes, because they have soles designed for this and give you the cushioning you need,” he says. Slippers and flip-flops are not appropriate for walking, and neither is going barefoot.

How to get the most out of your walking platform

Madelyn Driver, 30, bought a walking platform about a year and a half ago. Allows you to exercise indoors during the workday when the weather is unpredictable. “I incorporate it into my routine to get a quick energy boost before a meeting or sometimes I have longer meetings with the entire staff,” she says. “It allows me to take several short walks, and sometimes longer walks, without interrupting my workflow.” Just one hour of slow walking can mean 5,000 to 6,000 extra steps, she adds.

Driver has noticed that when he uses his walking platform, his mood improves throughout the day and he has lost a few pounds due to the extra calorie burning. “I think the biggest mistake I made was that I had to exercise at the same intensity as when I’m in the gym,” he says. “You’re not trying to log marathon miles and you’re not trying to get out of breath when you’re on these walking platforms. “I’m just moving slowly.”

Read more: Walking backwards is the best exercise you’re not doing

If you’re new to walking platforms, Rethaber recommends following the driver’s lead and starting at a low speed, like 1 mile per hour. “Watch how you react to that,” he says; You’ll quickly discover which tasks you can perform while walking and which require sitting. You can adjust the speed as you feel more comfortable. The same goes for duration: walk for 5 minutes here and there as your body adjusts to your new routine.

There’s also some etiquette at play. It can be helpful to consider your company culture when deciding exactly when to walk, Rethaber says. For video calls, “I don’t use them as much out of respect for others,” he says. “So they don’t hear the impact, or if they’re susceptible to motion sickness, they don’t see me moving up and down.”

It takes trial and error to figure out exactly how to make a walking platform a regular part of your workday. But the payoff is worth it, Rethaber says: The devices make achieving better health a doable part of the workday.

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