DIY Treadmill Desk

I wanted to post about the do it yourself treadmill desk we made for our treadmill.  Here are some photos of the completed treadmill desk:

Finished Desk front

Finished Desk Back


Finished Treadmill Desk Back

We have a “regular” treadmill, not a treadmill dedicated to be used with a desk.  We have a LifeSpan TR5000i Non-Folding Treadmill  (affiliate link*).

Since I work from home and have a one story house and I do a lot of stuff on computer, I can easily end up sitting for many hours every day.  It can be hard for me to get in enough steps and burn enough calories, even on days that I do formal exercise. So, I wanted to find a way to burn an extra couple of hundred calories a day and where I wouldn’t be sitting so much.  However, I still wanted to be able to do my preferred activities (use a computer).

The obvious solution was to be able to use the computer while walking slowly on the treadmill.  I did some research on treadmill desks and soon realized I wanted to make my own rather than buying one.  This was for two reasons.  First, most treadmill desks I found are meant to be on the treadmill all the time.  I wanted to have a desk that could be easily removed from the treadmill, particularly since my husband didn’t particularly want to have the desk on there when he used the treadmill for faster walking.  To have an easily removable desk, I needed to look at DIY alternative.

Second, most treadmill desks that you can buy are very expensive.  Some are very nice, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on this project.

When I looked up treadmill desks, I found a lot of sites with DIY alternatives.  I really liked many of them.  However, my choices were limited by the fact that my treadmill has curved arms.  Therefore, many of the DIY desks that I found wouldn’t work as the plans relied on the idea of a desktop being put on top of the arms and often attached to the arms for stability.

I was lucky that my height is such that a desktop at the level of the arms of my treadmill is the perfect height.  Nonetheless, the curved arms threw us a curveball.

For example, I like this desk which uses bungee cords to hold the desk onto the arms of the treadmill.  This was a simple and elegant solution.  The costs were minimal (if you already own a drill, which we do).  But, there were two problems.  First, I have controls on the arms of my treadmill.  I can adjust speed and incline and can check my heart rate.  I was willing to turn them off and give them up if I had to, but I didn’t really want to.  Second, and more importantly, I had those curved arms.  We experimented by taking a shelf out of an armoire and laying it on the curved arms.  It was very wobbly and we could see that it would be unstable even if attached by bungee cord.  We could envision ways to put in something to stabilize the shelf, but then it wouldn’t be easy to disassemble the treadmill desk when we wanted to use the treadmill without the desk.

Then, there was this article with a great video on making a treadmill desk using brackets to attach the desk.  Charles really liked this one and felt that he could easily do it.  We would need to find the brackets and would have to solve the stability issue, but thought it could be easily done.  So, off we went to Home Depot.

And, we immediately found that it was not as easy to do as we had thought.  We could not find brackets of the correct width and length to fit on our treadmill.  The closest we found to a solution was to use U-Bolts instead of the bracket in the video.  But, we still had the stability problem.  And, making a desk top that would be attached using U-Bolts wouldn’t be easily removable when we didn’t want the desk on the treadmill.

We then looked at the third alternative.  This is a desk that fits over the treadmill arms, but doesn’t have to be attached to the arms, since it has its own legs.  This was the option we decided to go for.  Basically, the idea was to be a table of the right width and length and then to construct “legs” so that it could be placed at the proper height over the arms of the treadmill.

We bought this table which we found at Target on sale for $25.49 plus tax (regular price was $29.99). It was in this box:

Table Box

The problem, of course, is that this table is 28″ high so it is too short to fit over the arms of the treadmill and to then have the legs touch the ground.  Here we placed the table over the treadmill arms and the shortness of the legs is apparent:

Table Short Legs

The solution as detailed in the link above, was to make the legs longer, by placing the legs into PVC pipe.  We needed to buy the pipe, leg tips for the finished legs, and a pipe cutter so we could cut the legs to the exact length we wanted.  We bought two 10′ sections of the PVC pipe ($2.96 plus tax for all the pipe), which Home Depot cut in half for us to make it easier to transport:

Treadmill desk shopping

When we got home, we measured the exact height we wanted for the desk.  We ideally wanted the desk to stand a little bit above the arms so we could still reach under and use the controls.  After measuring, Charles began cutting each pipe to the exact length we wanted:

Cutting Pipe

He used this cutter, which was$27.98 (plus tax).  He could have bought one that was cheaper, but he felt this one would last longer and might have future use:


As each leg was cut, we put a rubber tip on the end of the leg ($5.56 plus tax for 4 of them):

Leg Tips

As we cut the legs, we tested that the desk was at the proper height:

In progress treadmill desk

In the above picture 3 of the 4 legs have been completed.  When all 4 legs, were completed, we placed the desk on the treadmill.  In these two pictures, you can see that the desk does not touch the treadmill arms:

Side underneath


The best part is that the desk is easily movable.  Basically, we have room at the back of the treadmill to move the desk back there and then the treadmill can be used with no desk present.

And here I am with the desk in use.  In this picture, I am using my notebook computer to play Hearthstone while walking on the treadmill at a slow pace:

Using Desk

I’ve had the desk almost 3 weeks now and am very happy with it, although there is one negative which I’ll discuss below.

First, it was very cheap (all these amounts are before tax):

Table – $25.49

Pipe – $2.96

Leg Tips = $5.56

Cutter – $27.98

It was $34.01 for the actual components of the desk, plus $27.98 for the pipe cutter.

Second, it works perfectly for me.  I basically use it when I want to walk slowly on the treadmill (usually between about 1.2 and 1.4 mph) for long periods in lieu of sitting.  I’ve found that at that speed I can surf the web and can do light typing.  I haven’t tried writing anything really long, but have made forum posts and have played Hearthstone with no problem.  I don’t plan to use this all day in place of my desktop computer and dual monitors.  However, I hope to use this for a couple of hours a day to lessen the amount of sitting that I do.  I also have found that for me I can use this when walking 2 mph, although I need to be doing more passive activities such as watching video on my computer, rather than doing typing.

The negative?  The PVC pipe for the legs works, but is not very stable.  The desk sways a bit if I have my hands on it when I’m typing.  I’m not really doing heavy duty typing on it so it isn’t a big issue for me.  I think I could cure the stability problem, by lowering the height so that the desk is actually resting on the arms.  But, right now I can still reach under and use the controls so I don’t really want to do that.  Another alternative might be to put something to brace the legs so that they are more stable. I might do that at some point.  But, really, I’m happy with it as it is.

(* Amazon affiliate link.  If you were to buy through an Amazon affiliate link I would receive a small amount in compensation.  However, if interested in this treadmill, I would suggest checking around for a better price than that shown at Amazon.)


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