How To Make a Treadmill Desk Look Less Ugly

Extremely healthy treadmill desks are also extremely unattractive. But smart interior design ideas can make them pretty.

Photo: Lifespan Fitness

Normally the first week of January is when people hit the gym to make good on their New Year’s resolution. Not this year. This is the kind of winter that makes you think about leaving Chicago forever how nice it would be to work out at home. Or, perhaps, you could work out while you work—at a treadmill desk.

I’m sure you’ve read about how we’re all killing ourselves slowly by sitting all day (if you haven’t, I’m truly sorry to make your day worse), which makes the idea of a treadmill desk pretty appealing. 

I tested out one of these numbers, made by Lifespan Fitness, at NeoCon this past summer (remember that season?). I had been intrigued after reading Susan Orlean’s story in The New Yorker about her treadmill desk. After walking and simultaneously typing for a couple minutes at about 1.5 miles per hour on the demo, I was pretty convinced it was doable—but I wasn’t sure. So I reached out to a couple Chicagoans who use a treadmill desk regularly.

First up, intellectual propery litigation attorney Bill Frankel, who has a LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 (about $1,500 on Amazon) in his corner office on the 35th floor of the NBC Tower: He switches back and forth between his sit-down desk, where he finds it easier to read papers and books, and his treadmill desk, where he prefers to field phone calls and attend to tasks on the computer. He has a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, which he moves from his sit-down desk to his treadmill desk, where he has a second monitor. One average, he walks about three hours a day. “It may sound crazy, but I simply enjoy walking and working at the same time,” he says, though he admits that taking notes and drinking coffee while in motion is challenging.

Josh Golden uses the same model at his web development firm Table XI. He got it last January, and not long after he started using it, lost seven pounds without doing anything different, besides walking while working. “I take almost all conference calls at two miles per hour,” he says. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? I’m sold. Sort of.

I work from home, and while I love the idea of burning calories while working, I am a design editor. And this thing is not so attractive. Could a carpenter build you a simple, Parsons-esque tall desk, perhaps with steel legs and a nice reclaimed wood top?

Local designer Paul Schulman had another suggestion—to build a nice wood frame around the treadmill part, too. And that got me thinking—you could also paint, upholster, or wallpaper this frame. So what do you think, design/fitness junkies? Are you with me?



6 months ago
Posted by Light Emma

A treadmill desk allows you to do two important things all at once. It took me a while to get into this working style but I’m starting to like it now, especially that I’m now seeing some big improvements in my health and productivity. I started first with this standup desk until I’ve fully adjusted to this working style to move on to the more strenuous treadmill desks.

6 months ago
Posted by JS1026

Not all treadmill desks are ugly! Check out They have adjustable height desks and treadmills that are office appropriate, affordable, and really good looking (glass-top with stainless steel anyone?) No upholstery or wallpaper needed!

6 months ago
Posted by PatG7851

I agree with the last comment. It's easy to combine the best treadmill bases with beautiful furniture options, thereby, getting the best from the fitness world as well as the furniture makers. Checkout for some great bundled options of sleek looking furniture with walking treadmill bases.

6 months ago
Posted by thsjb

I'm a big fan of the LifeSpan treadmills myself. Having used a few alternatives, these are by far my favorite. I do agree with your opinion that the treadmill desk could definitely look better. The wood top idea in particular is a good one. Check out the UpLift Solid Wood Treadmill Desks ( - the mesquite and cedar options look especially nice.

6 months ago
Posted by Office Walker

Well one option is to create your own treadmill desk by building a desk over a traditional treadmill or a treadmill designed for "office walking." This is a group that uses and discusses office walking:

One advantage of using a traditional treadmill is that you adjust the grade on a treadmill that isn't available on an "office walking" treadmill. I enjoy walking with some grade when using my desk treadmill.

I made my treadmill desk using components from Container Store but doubt that this would be aesthetic enough for you. The above link has some pictures of alternatives.

5 months ago
Posted by

I agree, treadmill desks make you feel like your entering the gym instead of an office. Your office should be a place of inspiration and creativity. While there are some treadmill desks out there that definitely look extremely bland. has some brands that have be very creative with the idea and you won't even realize it's there's a treadmill behind the desk in many cases. I would suggest the Signature Glide1000 or the Executive Treadmill Desk to completely hide the "workout" portion of the desk.

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