Many of us could do with moving more. Studies shows that one in four of people in England do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week, and even more worryingly, the average UK adult spends around nine hours a day sat down.
Whether it’s on the train, in the car, at our desks or on the sofa, it’s a fact of modern life that many of us spend our days sitting for prolonged periods. Throw in our hectic schedules and the unpredictable British weather and finding the time and inclination to exercise can feel impossible.
That’s where the best underdesk treadmills come in. These clever bits of fitness kit are designed to increase your step count and help keep you moving throughout the day. They’re all over the internet right now, but are they actually worth the hype? Our GHI experts put one to the test to find out…
What is an underdesk treadmill?
An underdesk treadmill – also known as a desk treadmill or walking pad – is a walkingspeed treadmill with a flat base and no handles that is small enough to fit under your workstation.
Unlike standard running treadmills, which can withstand many miles of pounding, these compact machines are designed to be used at lower speeds – most have a range up to 5mph.
Some highend models come with a builtin desk, but if you don’t want to spend over the odds, you’ll need to purchase a standing desk or a standing desk converter (the more affordable option) to complete your workfromhome setup.
Our fitness pros tested the MoveLight Walking Treadmill from the exercise equipment experts at JTX. We’re big fans of the brand’s toprated cross trainer and exercise bike, too.
How we test
Our resident fitness pro tested the JTX MoveLight Walking Pad over the period of two weeks, using it for at least 30 minutes each day. They followed the accompanying instructions to set up the machine and tried all the different speed settings before providing detailed feedback on their experience.
Back at the GHI, our expert testers assessed it for comfort, cushioning, design and ease of use. They considered everything from how loud the motor was to how easy it was to move from room to room. After all that, the walking pad was awarded a final score.
The GHI underdesk treadmill review
The JTX Movelight Walking Treadmill is a cinch to set up and use. It arrives fully assembled (so there’s no need to faff around with screws and bolts) and the detailed instruction manual means you will get to grips with the machine in no time at all.
The treadmill itself is just the right size, so it won’t take over your entire living room or office, and it has a wheeled base so you can stash it under the sofa or bed when you’re not using it. At 30kg, it was light enough for our expert to wheel it around on their own.
It comes with a basic remote control for adjusting the speed while you’re walking and has a clear LED display, which shows your step count, speed, distance and time, so you can monitor your progress as you move. Top tip: if you wear a fitness watch, we’d suggest strapping it to your ankle because steps aren’t tracked accurately when your wrists are stable on the desk.
The smooth belt felt comfortable to walk on, even during lengthier sessions and the motor proved sufficiently quiet, so we were able to take walking meetings on the machine without attracting any unwanted attention.
The benefits of an underdesk treadmill
It’s a convenient way to exercise
Having a walking treadmill at home will help you be less sedentary and meet the NHS guidelines, which recommend 150 minutes of moderateintensity physical activity a week. “You can get your steps in while working, when watching TV in the evening or just whenever you have 10 minutes spare during the day,” points out Steph McInally, expert fitness trainer at The Gym Group.
They’re particularly handy during the winter months as they allow you to exercise from the comfort of your living room, regardless of the cold, rainy weather outside. There’s also the safety element – you don’t need to worry about walking in the dark or slipping on rocky, uneven paths.
Walking does wonders for your wellbeing
According to Hollie Grant, founder of Pilates PT, daily walking can be hugely beneficial for your health, beyond just burning calories. “It can strengthen the muscles and joints, improve your heart health, prevent Alzheimer’s and boost the immune system,” she says.
“Regular walking can also help you feel more energised, less stressed and, in turn, help you sleep better.”
It’s low impact
We’re often led to believe that we have to push ourselves to our limits with speedy runs and sweaty HIIT workouts, but there’s plenty of evidence to show the humble walk can be just as effective. One 2013 study found that walking briskly could improve your heart health just as much as running, while another recent study claimed that walking 7,000 steps a day lowers the risk of premature deaths by 50% in mature adults.
Grant also points out that walking – unlike running and highintensity training – doesn’t place lots of stress on your body. “It’s a lowimpact, moderateintensity physical activity that requires no skill, meaning it’s safe for most individuals including those who are pregnant, postnatal, injured or elderly.”
It can help with productivity
Physical rewards aside, walking while working can also improve your concentration and productivity levels. “If you sit down to work for long periods, you often find yourself feeling lethargic, but getting your steps it can help improve your focus, creativity and general productivity,” says McInally.
Evidence backs this up, with research showing that walking can increase your creative output by as much as 60% and enhance your productivity by a massive 46%.
What are the drawbacks of an underdesk treadmill?
It can’t replace time outside
For Lesley Brown, senior physiotherapist at Ten Health & Fitness, it’s important an underdesk treadmill doesn’t stop you going outdoors and getting that allimportant natural vitamin D, which is necessary to regulate the circadian rhythm.
“Time in nature and away from screens is also extremely important for your mental wellbeing, so make sure to prioritise this,” she advises.
It could be a trip hazard
Grant highlights that walking while working comes with the risk of tripping and injuring yourself. “When you’re multitasking, it’s crucial to go slowly, pay attention to how your body feels and be conscious of your technique,” she says.
She also recommends being mindful of your posture: “If you significantly increase your screen time without the posture to cope, you may struggle with backache or neck pain. It’s worth supplementing this type of activity with something like Pilates to support the extra time spent standing.”
Regular breaks to reset your posture and avoid slumped shoulders are also a good idea.
It’s not for everyone
Keep in mind that while walking is low impact and generally safe for most people, an underdesk treadmill isn’t for everyone.
“It may not be suitable for those with balance difficulties, anyone undergoing cardiovascular investigations or certain neurological conditions, and those who use mobility aids such as crutches or a frame,” says Brown.
If you have any underlying health conditions, she advises consulting your doctor before embarking on a new exercise regime.
How often should you use an underdesk treadmill?
McInally suggests starting with around 20 to 30 minutes each day, depending on your personal fitness levels and daily routine. “This should be ample to get a good number of steps in and experience the physical benefits,” she says.
If you find your body is responding well, you can slowly increase this to up to an hour, but make sure you don’t jump in too quickly and spend hours at a time on the treadmill. This can put you at risk of an overuse injury, she warns.
Wearing the right footwear – comfortable, supportive trainers or specialist walking shoes – is also important and make sure you stay hydrated as you get your steps in.
Our verdict: is it worth buying an underdesk treadmill?
If you spend most of your days sitting down and you’re after for a convenient way to increase your activity levels, then it’s a resounding “yes” from us.
The JTX MoveLight Walking Treadmill revolutionised our fitness pro’s workfromhome routine – not only did they reach their 10,000step goal each day, but they experienced fewer afternoon slumps and felt more productive on the whole. It was also a total lifesaver when the weather was atrocious and they couldn’t face heading outside to exercise.
For under £500, it’s a worthwhile investment for your health and work. Walk this way…
The MoveLight Walking Treadmill is available to buy from JTX and Amazon.
Priyankaa is our senior health and wellness writer, specialising in experttested reviews and roundups on the latest health and fitness products. From walking boots to running machines, Priyankaa has written about hundreds of products and is passionate about providing indepth, unbiased reviews. Plus, as an avid runner and gymgoer, she knows exactly what to look for when finding the right gymwear, fitness tracker or earphones.
Priyankaa has an MA in Magazine Journalism from Cardiff University and over five years’ experience in health and fitness journalism. Priyankaa has written for Stylist’s Strong Women Training Club, where she regularly wrote about diversity in the fitness industry, nutrition tips, training advice and her experience completing various fitness challenges. She has also written for a variety of publications including Business Insider, Glamour, Bustle, Metro, HuffPost UK, galdem and more. Outside of work, Priyankaa can usually be found trying out a new gym class, seeking out London’s best eats or watching a Spanish TV show in a bid to keep up her language skills. You can follow Priyankaa on Twitter @_priyankaajoshi and on Instagram @priyankaajoshi
Yanar was our former Fitness Group Testing Manager. She managed health and fitness product testing across all the magazines, overseeing all testing processes and ensuring our lab and panel tests are conducted to the highest standards. Yanar spent 15 years as a health and wellness content editor and writer for national titles such as Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Women’s Health. Yanar is a Level 3 qualified PT, trained yoga teacher and a registered yoga therapist. She has been into fitness and wellness her whole life. After many years running races and marathons, she now trains and competes in CrossFit and Olympic lifting. She passionately advocates strength training for women to build a stronger mind and body for life.