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Buying a sit-stand-walking desk

My job has increasingly become almost completely coding focused which means I’m sitting, a lot. I need to get up and move. Knowing my personality I decided the right way to do this is with a sit/stand desk using a treadmill. But I also need to be able to sit and I don’t have the room to move the treadmill around. So I’m buying the 72 inch iMovR Omega EVEREST desk which has enough room to put the treadmill and my chair next to each other. I’m picking the TR1200-DT3 treadmill. I’m adding an ERGOTRON LX HD Sit-Stand Desk Mount LCD Arm and it’s lighter non-HD sibling. I’ll also need to pick up two VESA mounts for my Apple hardware. Apparently being healthy requires breaking the bank. See below for the absurdly painful process by which I figured this all out.

1 Stand? Walk? Sit? What?

I sit. A lot. For a solid 8 hours a day. I used to at least wander around when I was on calls but I do a lot fewer calls these days and I try to use video where I can. Which means I’m leashed to the desk all day long. I need to move!
The obvious first step was to get a standing desk. But I know me. There is no way in heck that I’m going to stand around using the desk for hours at a time. It’s just not my personality. Sitting for hours at a time I can handle. But standing for hours at a time? Forget it. My feet ache just thinking about it. I need to move!
So the obvious solution was to get a walking desk. That is, a standing desk with a treadmill underneath it. But this quickly brought up another problem - I’m not going to walk all day either! I can easily imagine myself walking a lot more than standing but neither is going to be a total substitute for sitting. So I need a set up where I can sit part of the day and walk part of the day.
I rejected a bunch of options (see A↓) before deciding on just getting a 72 inch sit/stand desk. The desk is wide enough to fit a treadmill next to my office chair while still being small enough to fit in my office.
Figuring out that the desk, treadmill and chair would fit in my weirdly shaped office (with three doors!) was fun, see B↓ for notes on the open source software I used, Sweet Home 3D.

2 Which 72 inch desk to get?

You can see my complete list of sit/stand desk requirements at C↓ and see a bunch of desks I evaluated at D↓. But something funny happened that ended up changing which desk I wanted. There is a company called iMovR who owns a company called Work While Walking which has a show room in Bellevue, Washington near where I live. So I got to visit them and try out their desks. When I went there I was pretty sure I wanted to buy the ThermoDesk ELITE. But I ended up really wanting the Omega EVEREST. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say, I was sold it by, I believe, Ron Wiener, the CEO of iMovR who was in the office that day. But just because he is a good salesman doesn’t make him wrong. :)
What makes the Omega EVEREST different than all the other candidate desks I looked at is it’s keyboard tray. They actually cut out a part of the desk and put in an inclined tray. This turns out to be a big deal because it means that while you walk the keyboard is at a very steep angle. This lets you type with your arms naturally hanging in front of you. This reduces the pressure on the arms and also makes it easier to hold on to the desk while walking. I tried it out using a Microsoft sculpt keyboard and it was pretty awesome. From a stability perspective it’s also a bonus because you are walking closer to the cross bar of the desk which is the center of gravity.
That having been said it is not perfect. During “normal typing” the desk did not move. But as soon as I started any shaking at all the desk shook pretty badly. The desk I was using was on a flatter carpet than I have at home (meaning my office could be even shakier) but the trial desk didn’t have any heavy items on it (which ideally would make it more stable). So really, I have little or no idea how the desk will behave in real world conditions. So much for a “try out”.
In addition the Omega EVEREST is missing things that other suppliers provide. The main one is a cable management system and built in power strip. Apparently they are evaluating some solutions in this area but don’t expect to have anything for at least another month or so.
But I decided to take the risk and put in an order for the 72 inch Omega EVEREST.

3 Which treadmill?

A treadmill for a walking desk is not your normal treadmill. First, you want it to be small. Most normal treadmills are fairly large beasts with a waist high stand in front to display status. A walking treadmill needs to fit neatly beneath a desk. Second, you want it to be slow. This is not an exercise treadmill. The goal is to work while walking. From what I’ve read most folks can’t type sanely much above 2 MPH. Some folks can do phone calls and such at up to 4 MPH. But the point is I need a treadmill specifically designed for walking desks. So the qualities I am looking for are:
  • Can hold at least 300 lbs (no, I don’t weigh even close to that but one wants room to grow =)
  • Is 20 inches wide (more space means an easier gate left to right)
  • Should be at least 50 inches or so long (enough space for a good gate front and back)
  • Is very quiet
  • Requires very little maintenance
I have a list of treadmills I evaluated in the Appendix, see E↓. But unless I’m missing something the only serious contenders are all from LifeSpan, specifically the TR1200-DT3 and the TR5000-DT3.
TR1200-DT3 My impression from various sites is that this is the workhorse of walking desk treadmills. Lots of people use it and various folks actually white label it. It has a 20 inch wide belt and when I tried it, it felt solid and sounded very quiet. About the only negative issue I have with it is that you have to lubricate it every 40 hours of use or so. This seems to be a fairly quick process but I do have to remember to do it.
TR5000-DT3 This costs $1000 more than the TR1200-DT3. It looks cooler with aluminum step strips and is rated for more weight and longer use times. It also has a built in lubrication mechanism which means it should only be lubricated about once every six months. I tried it in person and it does feel a tiny bit better in terms of tread than the TR1200-DT3 but not enough to be worth the price difference. But the real issue is the fan. It has a fan that has to keep running for 15 minutes after turning the unit off. In a normal office I doubt you would hear it, it’s really quiet. But I am in a home office and it would drive me nuts to be sitting at my desk listening to this silly fan for 15 minutes. It’s not a huge deal but I don’t want to pay $1000 for the privilege of listening to this fan!
So my choice is the TR1200-DT3.

4 Where do the monitors go?

I have two big monitors, one is a 27 inch Mid-2010 iMac and the other is a 27 inch Cinema Display. I like them to be directly in front of me in a slightly V shape. And I’ll want that set up both when I’m standing and sitting. After a little math I figured out that I need two monitor arms. The gory details are explained in F↓. In the end I decided to go with one ERGOTRON LX - HD Sit-Stand Desk Mount LCD Arm and its light non-HD variant. The HD is for my iMac and the non-HD is for my Cinema Display. As a side note, in the future I hope to get a 40 inch 4K (or higher) monitor like the Philiips BDM4065UC, I checked and it weights about 19 lbs. So even my non-HD arm will be able to handle it no problem. So hopefully I can re-use at least one of the two arms when I upgrade.
I also have to buy VESA mounts from Apple so I can hang my machines off the arms since the iMac and Cinema Display don’t come with Vesa compatible mounts.

A Options I considered and rejected for how to switch between sitting and walking

A monitor poll with keyboard tray One can now buy what are effectively floor mounted monitor poles (like this one) with attached keyboard trays. The idea is that the tray can be lifted to a standing position or lowered to a sitting position. In theory I could place the pole in front of the treadmill and then rotate the monitor/keyboard tray 90 degrees to sit. Getting a pole that could handle both of my monitors was a challenge since most can’t handle the weight. Most of the poles have leg arrangements that I don’t think would work well with a treadmill. Most didn’t rotate at all but focused on just moving up (standing) or down (sitting).
Moving the treadmill out of the way Another option is to have a single desk and just physically move the treadmill when I’m not using it. This turns out to not be workable because my office is really small (about 73 sq ft) and so there just isn’t room to drag the treadmill around. Also dragging the treadmill is a real pain since it’s reasonably heavy and it has a controller and power attached to it that I’d need to be careful of when moving it. In fact, my office is so small that even if the treadmill folded up against the wall there wouldn’t be room to push it from under my desk.
Use a ball chair I can buy a ball chair and sit the ball chair directly on the treadmill. This could work in theory but in practice I’d hate it because there is no back support. There are ball chairs with back support but they come with bases that won’t fit comfortably on the treadmill thus defeating the purpose of the exercise.
Use a stool There are stools, like TreadStool, that are specifically designed to be used on treadmills. But the back support sucks and I have a really awesome Herman Miller Aeron that I love and want to sit in if possible.
Raise the floor I’ve actually seen this done in the real world. You put down flooring around the treadmill and desk so that the floor is level with the treadmill. Then you can roll a chair on and off the treadmill. In my case I have my Aeron and it’s legs are about the same width as the railings on the treadmills. This means that if I move even a little, the chair will fall off the railings onto the treadmill. The Treaddesk Treadmill, btw, would be perfect for this setup since it doesn’t have any railings. But honestly, getting enough material to build up a six inch or so “fake” floor is more effort than I wish to expend.

B Notes on Sweet Home 3D

My office is really small. How could I be sure that the desk, the treadmill and my chair would all fit in without blocking any doors? Historically I would solve this problem using some graph paper and cut outs. But hey, it’s 2015, let’s use some of that computer stuff! So I downloaded Sweet Home 3D. This is open source software that that lets one easily model spaces. It has tons of super powerful features and can do 3d renderings and lots of other stuff I never figured out and didn’t want to use. What I did need though was a model of a treadmill. I had to go to their Import Models page and download a few furniture libraries to find what I wanted. I actually first tried the Free 3D Models page but never successfully managed to import any of the models individually.
The only other trick I needed was that when defining the shape of a room I need to start with Plan/Create Walls and NOT Plan/Create Rooms. The other way was really painful.
Other than that the program worked as advertised and I was very quickly able to enter the measurements for the room, the doors, the windows and the furniture. And it showed that I could actually get a 72 inch desk into the office space along with the treadmill and the office chair and not block any doors and still leave myself space to walk around. Yeah!!!!

C My sit/stand desk requirements

  • 60 inches between the table legs. My Aeron is about 30 inch’s wide and the treadmills I’m looking at are also around 30 inches. So 60 inches gives enough room for everythis to sit together. More is better. Typically table tops with legs this wide are 72 inches long.
  • 30 inches of depth. I’ve seen 24 but that is a bit narrow for my taste.
  • Electric motors with memory. I am too lazy to crank and I like the idea of setting my preferred position and then being able to automatically return to it.
  • An excellent warranty.
  • Maximum height of at least 46 inches. This actually depends on the design of the table. For a normal table I need to have my hands horizontal and account for the 6 inches or so that the treadmill will raise me. So in my case that reaches around 46 inches. Note however that many tables top out at 45 inches. This is bad because unless the table has 4 legs the higher the table is the less stable it will be and the least stable position is at it’s maximum. I don’t want the table swaying while I’m typing and walking. So I actually want a height even higher than 46 inches not because I require it to position the table top properly but because it means that when I’m at 46 inches I haven’t topped the table out and thus made it maximally unstable.
  • Minimum height of 24 inches or so. I really like the table to be low so I can type more naturally. The bottom of the table top on my current table is 25 inches by way of comparison.
There are nice to haves like a good power management set up or being really pretty but those just aren’t as important.

D Some desks I evaluated online and didn’t buy

D.1 Ones that looked reasonable

Ergo Depot Jarvis This uses the Jiecang base and it has an awesome price. The company is actually based in Portland so it’s not out of the question for us to drop by and try out a desk.
Ergoprise S2S Height Adjustable Standing Desk This is apparently another Jiecang base. So presumably if the base is o.k. then the desk should probably be o.k. It’s certainly a great price. I’d love to try it out. The great news is that they do have a showroom. The bad news is that it’s in Texas.
Ergoprise Uprise Standing Desk I don’t know which base this desk has but it’s measurements seem right. Again, the show room is in Texas.
Humanscale Float It goes up to 47 inches which just makes the bar. It’s lowest setting is 27 inches but that’s o.k. because it has a keyboard tray which lets the keyboard be lower. The legs appear to be 60 inches wide. So this could work. But it costs around $2,300!!! Given how much time I’m going to spend with this desk price isn’t the end all be all but I’d like to see if I can do something cheaper.
Human Solution Uplift According to Work While Walking this desk uses the Jiecang base which they say isn’t very stable at high heights. But over all it looks like a reasonable option. My big issue is, I can’t try it out!
NewHeights Elegante XT I couldn’t find any measurements for the distance between the table legs but it would appear to be at least 65 inches or more, at a guess. So that is fine. Height range is from 24” to 51” so that is great. The only thing I really don’t like is that they have a cross brace between the legs. I’m worried about hitting that brace while walking.

D.2 Ones that didn’t look so reasonable but kept popping up so I evaluated them

Anthro Elevate II Their widest table only goes to 60 inches for the table top. I couldn’t find specs on the leg width but it’s safe to say it’s going to be less than 60 inches. It’s maximum height is 47 inches which is just over the bar but not by a lot.
ConSet I’m not sure I completely understand their specs. I looked at their 72 inch Veneer (the one without a cross brace to avoid hitting anything with my legs) and it says that its height is 63-123cm for the base and that the top is 22mm thick. So this would argue that height is 85mm to 145mm which translates to 33.46 inches - 57.09 inches. Which seems off.
Evodesk This is the lower end brand for NextDesk (see below). Given the problems they have already with their high end brand I think I’ll avoid the low end one.
GeekDesk Their large frame is 55.1 inches wide which goes to the outside of the legs and is too narrow for my needs.
NextDesk Terra Pro Out of the block the desk that really got my attention was the NextDesk Terra Pro. 4 legs! It’s gorgeous!!!!! The only problem is that NextDesk doesn’t have standard 72 inch widths. I submitted a request for a custom desk but never heard back. I found that they got a D from the BBB. Seriously, you have to knee cap your customers to get a D from the BBB. Next.
StandDesk It’s maximum height is 45 inches. Also while it offers a 70 inch wide table top it appears to use the same base which only has 50 inches between the legs.
Stir Kinetic Desk The M1 starts at $3000 or so and the F1 at $4000 or so. To be fair price isn’t an instant killer. I was willing to seriously consider the NextDesk Terra Pro and that starts at $2,700 or so. But here’s the thing. To me the Terra Pro is gorgeous. I really don’t like the Stir desk’s aesthetics. So I don’t want to pay that kind of money for something I don’t love.
TrekDesk Whatever its other issues this desk is simply not designed to allow one to use it as both a treadmill and a normal desk.
UpDesk Their site just doesn’t have enough details to be sure what I’m dealing with. They have a 72 inch desktop but I don’t know what width the legs go to. The high is 50.5” which is fine. But without more data I just don’t know if they will work.
VersaTables Zero Gravity Tables It goes 25 to 55 inches high which is great. It’s largest desktop is 72 inches. But I couldn’t find any more technical details on things like leg width or weight tolerance.

E Some treadmills I evaluated online and didn’t buy

E.1 Too small

LifeSpan TR800-DT3 The belt is only 18 inches wide which isn’t as wide as I would like. I also saw it in person and it even looks pretty flimsy.
WoodWay Deskmill It only has a 15.75 x 39 inch walking surface. That’s smaller than I want.
Rebel Desk Treadmill This one is a bit slow at a maximum of 2mph but honestly, I gotta figure in practice that is fine. The maximum weight is 250 lbs which is currently o.k. for me but um.... yeah... well... um.. yeah. But what makes me unhappy is that it’s only 18.1 inches wide. I’m a big guy and want more space.
TreadDesk Treadmill It’s belt is only 18 inches wide which is a concern. Also it doesn’t seem to have side rails so when you want to stop walking for a second you can’t just step up to the rails. Instead you have to put your feet on small strips that are right next to the moving tread. This just seems to beg for problems.

E.2 A desk I didn’t want was built in

Exerpeutic WorkFit Treadmill Desk This is actually an integrated treadmill and desk. The desk isn’t the shape I want so next.
NordicTrack Treadmill Desk NordicTrack actually sells the treadmill with a desk, which I certainly don’t want. The treadmill also goes way too fast and has an adjustable incline. The reason having “more” features is bad is that these are just more things to break. Given that the package costs $2000 I’m skipping this one.
Pro-Form Thinline Treadmill Desk Their base model has a great size but it looks like its desk is actually an integral part and needed to control the treadmill and the desk is completely the wrong shape.

F Figuring out the monitor arms

My main computer is a Mid-2010 27 inch iMac. According to Apple this version of the iMac weights 30.5 lbs but unlike some models the stand on its back can be removed and it can be mounted using a VESA 100 adapter that Apple sells. But this review on Amazon says that once you remove the stand the computer weighs around 27.5 lbs. This turns out to matter because most monitor arms top out at 30 lbs.
My other monitor is a 27 inch LED Cinema Display which Apple says weights 23.5 pounds. It seems like it has the same stand as my iMac so presumably if I remove the stand then it should weight around 20.5 pounds.
So from a weight perspective I want arms that can handle 20 - 30 lbs.
The top of the monitors should be roughly at the height of my eyes and the desk will be roughly at the height of my waist. So let’s say it’s about 28 inches from my waist to my eyes. The iMac is about 17.5 inches high without the stand. So the ball of the arm will be 17.5/2 = 8.75 inches down from the top of the mac. So this leaves a distance of 28 - 8.75 = 19.25 inches from the ball of the arm down to the top of the desk. Put another way, from the middle of the monitor to the desk top needs to be roughly 19.25 inches. So I need an arm that can raise the monitor 19.25 inches (or so).
Note that the height I want when standing isn’t identical to when I’m sitting so I really want an arm that is easily adjusted in the vertical axis.
Figuring out the monitor arm reach is more complex. For one thing, do I buy a single arm with two attachments or two separate arms? In general I have found that a single arm with two attachments tended not to be able to meet my weight requirements and they usually were fixed in the vertical dimension. So I’m looking for a solution using two poles, one for each monitor. I find that the best layout for the monitors is in a slight V shape (rather than just flat) and I want that V to center on me when I’m either on the treadmill or sitting at the chair. I want the base of the V to be 24 inches from the front of the desk. Each monitor is 25.5 inches wide and when configured as a V the distance at the base is 48 inches. Using some simple trigonometry I figured out that this requires arms that can extend just over 18 inches.
So to summarize requirements:
  • Must be able to extend 19.25 inches up while extended 18 inches out.
  • Must support 20 - 30 lbs of weight without function restriction (some arms lose reach if weight gets too high)
  • Must support Vesa 100 adapter
  • Must be vertically and horizontally adjustable with a single hand
  • Must have adjustable springs so I can adjust them based on the monitor weight

F.1 Arms that met my requirements

Ergotron LX HD Sit-Stand Desk Mount LCD Arm Meets all weight and size requirements. Costs $230. The reviews not just for this arm but for Ergotron’s products in general are consistently stellar.
Cotytech Expandable Apple Desk Mount Spring Arm With the 19.7” pole the base can go up to 16.95” and then the arm itself can raise up another 13.4” to a maximum height of 30.35 inches. Far above the 19.25” we need. It’s maximum length at maximum height (which we don’t need) is 21.3 inches, which again is more than we need. It looks like it’s designed to be moved with a single hand. I only found ErgoDirect selling it with the 19.7” pole for a total cost with shipping of $180.94. I am concerned about the comment made here that the base may not be wide enough to fully extend the monitor. I’m also a bit concerned by how few reviews I can find in general.
DoubleSight Displays DS-30PHS Their documentation doesn’t give exact measurements of the parts of the arm so it’s difficult to be completely sure if it meets my needs but it would appear so. It’s pretty inexpensive at around $100 but this review in particular really worried me. The lack of reviews in general is worrisome.
ERGOMART Heavy Duty Monitor Arm SAA2718 It requires a six inch extension kit to give it the full 19.25 inches vertical height so it’s total price was above $300. This is much more expensive than well rated competitors so I skipped it.
Humanscale Monitor Arms M8 Seems to meet all requirements. It also costs $400. Next.

F.2 Arms that looked like they should meet my requirements, but didn’t

Ergotron MX Desk Mount LCD Arm Can’t raise nearly high enough.
Innovative iLift Oh soooooo close! It’s maximum vertical range is 18 inches. If it just had any kind of extender it would work.
Crimson DSA12 The technical drawings confused me a bit but I don’t think it can raise high enough.
3M MA140MB It’s maximum height is 18.5 inches which is pretty darn close. Maximum extension length is 19.5 inches which is fine.
ERGOTECH Freedom Arm for iMac Doesn’t raise high enough.

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