What if I told you there was a fairly simple and inexpensive way to work or learn from home during these isolating, challenging times? It could also increase your stamina and attention span, minimize back pain and shed weight, all while giving you a feeling of accomplishment. I'm talking about a do-it-yourself treadmill desk.
It could be part of your new normal. The process comes down to an investment of about $20 in materials, less than an hour of labor, and a few personal modifications to make sure it’s all safe and secure.
Let me walk you through this...step by step. It’s really no sweat.
When COVID-19 restrictions first sidetracked all of us in March of 2020, I quickly realized my senior year at South Torrance High school was going to be challenging in ways I would have never imagined.
I’m a very active person, performing with the school’s color guard team, and throwing both the discus and shot put for the track team. Also having done 12 years of Girl Scouts, my Gold Award Project ideas had been brewing. The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA.
If COVID-19 was going to turn everything upside down, I needed to find a right side up. Beyond keeping my grades up, I wanted to also feel physically, mentally and emotionally balanced.
With distance learning now in place, I was inspired to reflect on my own needs.
My own experience working from my bedroom – actually lying in bed a lot of the time – made my own anxiety levels go up. I was reading about depression and anxiety being at all-time highs, and teenagers like me struggling just to keep our sanity.
Doing more research, there was data showing obesity rates increasing. It seemed COVID-19 was encouraging inactive lifestyles across the board.
In fact, ever hear of the “Quarantine 15”? That’s the term some are using to explain all the weight gained during our stay at home experience. Comfort foods are sometimes our way of fighting off stress, and our cravings for fats, sugars and salts increase after stressors hit our bodies.
More research shows our bodies are connected with our minds and our ability to focus on difficult cognitive tasks is directly linked to inadequate physical activity. It’s “healthy body, healthy mind.”
When watching my dad and brother try to find the right balance working from home, they looked ill-equipped sitting on a sofa, or working hunched over at their desk for up to 10 hours a day. They couldn't go to their local gym for physical activity either.
For many of us high school athletes, afterschool practices and athletic training programs have been reduced to zero. It’s a change in our lifestyle that has us longing for anything to get us moving.
Walking on a treadmill one morning, the pieces were coming together. Why couldn’t we do some multitasking? Learn or work while walking.
The idea of a treadmill-desk hybrid isn’t necessarily new. But it has never seemed to be more necessary than now, especially with so many of us at home without access to the gym. Online searches for treadmill desks revealed that they seemed to be more of a fad over the past few years, and an expensive one at that. They ranged from a $300 attachment to a $3,000 investment.
I started out using a skimboard as my first prototype to start working out the ideas and designs I wanted. I sketched them on ruled notebook paper as I walked on the treadmill. My dad – as my handyman – then helped me put it together. Drilling holes, sanding things down and making everything level, it may not have looked much different than building a surfboard (while merging functionality and mobility). Plus, it gave us a reason to reclaim my mother’s treadmill that had been acting as a clothesline for years.
For my own desk, I figured out ways to make it more fitting to my needs, adding charging outlets, and even an elevated platform for note taking.
Did you know: Just walking 1 to 2 miles per hour increases focus, concentration, blood flow and oxygen.
And doing things standing up, rather than constantly sitting with poor posture, can encourage better back health (and less back pain).
Also interesting is that studies show walking is a great solution for those who may be struggling with staying focused, including those who rely on medication to stay focused.
At this point in my Girl Scout Gold Award process, I am happy to say I have been working with Beach Cities Health District to bring my project to life. I have built a prototype for its Center of Health & Fitness and have developed video tutorials, as well as conducted small group classes to show how to use it.
From here, each step I take in this project — and on my treadmill — is one step closer to achieving my Girl Scout Gold Award.
To learn how to use this desk, watch the video tutorial here: https://youtu.be/OwU5EqgLU4E
To learn more about how to make this desk, visit https://malukudaughter.wixsite.com/walkandwork
Freelance journalist Tom Hoffarth assisted in the writing of this story.