Monday, January 14, 2013

Treadmill Desk Update: 1 Year

It has now been a full calendar year since I acquired my LifeSpan TR1200-DT treadmill desk.  Due to vacation and illness, I didn't finish the year quite as strong as I was hoping, but taken as a whole the experience was positive, and quite encouraging.

If you are reading my blog for the first time, here are a couple of posts that you might want to read first:


I've been doing (roughly) monthly updates of my weight loss and general walking statistics, and here is the final tally for the year.

The final weight didn't wind up being as low as the initial weight loss rate suggested, but I'm still quite pleased.  I think that without the cold I've been fighting for a couple weeks (I didn't walk while sick), I could have finished the year at a new low, but as is I got pretty close.  Technically the weight loss was 39 pounds at the 1-year mark, with the record over the year being 42 pounds (first set at the end of September, and matched just a few days ago).

The walking data behind the weight loss:

  • Hours: 1620.5
  • Hours/Day: 5.2
  • Steps: 5,661,224
  • Steps/Day: 18,087
  • Calories: 376,158
  • Calories/Day: 1,202
  • Calories/Hr: 231
  • Miles: 1882.4
  • Miles/Day: 6.0

So that is indeed 5.6 million (!) steps, close to 400K calories burned, and starting to think about 2000 miles walked (I think I could have hit it without the cold).  I haven't done any significant walking in 2013 yet, so these are roughly 2012 numbers.  I report all of my walking data to, and they provide a nice summary for all of my activity from last year.  1964 miles, so I walked close to 100 miles off the treadmill (I use the app Jog Log to keep track of non-treadmill data on my phone).  I'd like to get something like a Fitbit that can keep track of ALL of my activity, not just when I remember to use the app, but aside from going up and down stairs a few times a day, I think I've got most activity covered.


Just for grins, I like to see what the breakdown of the cost of this treadmill is for different metrics.  And that breakdown is:

  • Per day: $3.54
  • Per hour: $0.80
  • Per mile: $0.70
  • Per pound: $23.28

I've read comments where people say that this is cheaper than going to the gym, and that just can't be true, at least not for a while.  I'm still over $100/mo for this thing, and a gym membership can be obtained for as low as around $20/mo if you time it right.  So I would need to own and use this treadmill for anywhere from 2-5 years, depending on quality of gym, just to match gym prices; even longer to be cheaper.

It's also not comparable exercise.  If I were to spend 5.2 hours per day in a gym, one would hope that I'd lose a whole lot more than 40 pounds over the course of a year, I'd be in far better shape, and likely would be a lot stronger too.  But spending 5 hours a day in a gym is neither desirable nor practical.  The beauty of the treadmill desk is getting physical activity while I do something else; in this case do my job to earn money.


I've stated previously that I'm not really dieting.  This is both true and misleading.  The misleading part is that I've done SlimFast shakes for years and years; typically one shake per day (lunch), but often two (and breakfast).  If they have done anything at all, it is to slow the rate at which I gained weight.  I've sure never lost weight by drinking the shakes.  I would also do their snack bars, and sometimes their meal bars as snacks.  I've described this for a long time as a "loosely-interpreted" SlimFast diet.  I would need to be a lot more sensible about the dinner and be more rigorous about snacks in order to truly qualify as following their diet.  So the high point of the graph above… that technically occurred while "dieting".

There were 2 key changes I made to my eating habits when I got the treadmill.  First, those snack bars; sometimes they were SlimFast, sometimes Fiber One.  Those have been replaced with apples and bananas.  I normally do a bowl of cereal for breakfast, but if I feel that I'm not losing weight like I should be, back to the SlimFast shake I go.  I'm not sure it makes a huge difference.  The other key change is that when I'm in position to drink a tasty beverage, I go for the diet variety.  I can drink a lot of soda when we go out; large cups, numerous refills.  So no, I'm not fooling myself that the diet drink is offsetting the large pizza I'm about to eat.  But normally I'd drink sweet tea or Dr Pepper, and in my kinds of quantities those are some real calories.  At home I tend to drink water with meals; if we go out I'll just get whatever diet flavor is available.  This hasn't been too much of a sacrifice, as I have long preferred, legitimately, Diet Pepsi over regular Coke and Pepsi.  But man I really don't like Diet Coke.  I choke it down, but it isn't pleasant.  I have found that Coke Zero is infinitely better, and it might even be pushing Diet Pepsi aside for my preferred drink.  Diet Dr Pepper is pretty good too, but it is rare to find it at restaurants.

That's really all I did, fruit and diet drinks.  Otherwise I eat normally.  We go out a couple times a week, and I order whatever I traditionally would have.  I get dessert.  I get refills.  I get refills.  I get refills (I drink a lot).  There is very little that I have deliberately chosen not to eat simply because I'm worried about my weight.  We may decide to eat in more often than going out, but that is usually a budget decision more than a diet one.

This is not to say that I have been perfect even within these loose guidelines.  When the weight started to creep back up in Sept/Oct, that's largely because I had added some snacks to my regular routine.  As I've stated before, once-in-a-while stuff is not too hard on my weight.  Sure, I might gain an immediate pound or two, but that will work its way through my system in a day or two then I'm back to normal.  Regular stuff is really hard to combat.  Even though I may only be adding 100 or 200 calories of intake each day, you have to do that much more exercise each day to fight it off.  So I removed those snacks and the weight started decreasing again.

I show the weight numbers because it is something that is easy to document.  I do look and feel thinner, but that's more subjective.  But if this were truly about trying to lose every possible pound quickly, then I really have barely scratched the surface of possible activities that I should be doing.  I should be rigorously counting calories, and documenting them.  I should be controlling portion sizes.  I should be avoiding sweets.  The bottom line is that I just don't want to eat (or live) that way.  I'd much rather enjoy my meals than be, say, 20 pounds lighter today.  That's my choice; others may feel differently, and others could have lost significantly more weight than I did in a similar time frame.  I know I'm healthier by not sitting in a chair all day, and that's sufficient.

New Products

I haven't done any more industry research like I did before buying my LifeSpan, but I have kept an eye on LifeSpan's products.  Although I likely won't be buying anything new anytime soon, I've been reasonably pleased with what I'm seeing.  At the time of purchase, LifeSpan offered a single desk+treadmill combination, priced at $1299.  They have now expanded this to 3 models, still starting at $1299 but adding heavier-duty models at $1499 and $2499.  They are also now selling treadmill bases alone (no desk), again in 3 flavors, starting at $799.  This is comparable to what I had priced a year ago for treadmill-only options, but they do include free shipping which is a huge savings (others were charging $150 or more).  I do really like LifeSpan's desk, but it's nice to have the flexibility to change desks without having to also replace the treadmill.

The new models all feature Bluetooth connectivity.  If you don't care about your data, then this feature won't matter.  But as shown I keep track of all of this data, so being able to do so wirelessly is a huge win.  The downside is that LifeSpan's app currently only works with their online Fitness Club service.  That's not necessarily a problem, but I prefer to use dailymile, and the Fitness Club costs $50/yr.  So that reduces my enthusiasm of having Bluetooth at all.  Ideally the app would just let me pull data and then export it wherever I want.  Bonus points for automatic integration with services like dailymile.

What I find more interesting about the 3 price points is what each one gives you.  As far as I can tell, the desk you get is the same in each case, which means the considerable price differential is all about the treadmill.  And the differences all speak to what is probably my primary complaint about LifeSpan: the warranty coverage relative to anticipated daily use.  My main problem back in my original review was that LifeSpan's warranty covered only 4 hours of use per day.  They subsequently amended that to 6 hours/day.  If you have a normal office job, how long are you supposed to be at your desk?  Should be an 8-hour day right, give or take some?  I work from home.  I could easily be at my desk for 10-12 hours on any given day.  6 hours of warrantable usage doesn't cut it.

I'm not entirely sure of how the product lines progressed, but I think the model I currently have is now the mid-range one at $1499.  It does indeed have 6 hours/day of usage, but now it costs $200 more.  Granted Bluetooth has been added, but I can't imagine that is a $200 value.  And how about the new "entry-level" model at $1299?  3 hours/day.  3.  I'm really not sure what the market is for this.  It sure can't be normal office people.  Maybe some kind of kiosk somewhere?  Even then, I'd think that if you wanted people to use this at your kiosk, you'd want it rated for heavy usage, not light.  And then what in the world are they selling for $2499?  Ah, 10 hours/day.  So in order to get what I consider to be a reasonable amount of warranty coverage for this kind of product, you have to spend nearly double what I spent originally.  Of course you're not just paying for warranty, it is an upgraded motor, supports more weight, and apparently weighs 20 pounds more.  And they claim the walking belt never needs lubrication.  That actually does interest me, but lubrication isn't that expensive, and the process isn't that hard.  It's certainly not enough of an ordeal to make spending an extra $1000 sound appealing.  And at this price range, it smacks into competitors that have powered-adjustable desks, so I think they put too much money into the treadmill and not enough into the desk.

I may be needlessly complaining about warranty.  I haven't had any problems with mine, so haven't needed to invoke the warranty.  I am now beyond the 1-year mark, so the labor portion of my warranty has now expired.  I think my problem is mostly that of principle, that if you are intending for me to use your product as a replacement for something that I use all day long, then the warranty should reflect that usage.

Still, I do like that LifeSpan has seen enough positive business from my particular treadmill model that they have been able to justify expanding their product line.  That bodes well for the future of treadmill desk usage in general, which is a good thing.

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Jordan said...

How many people do you know who lost 39 lbs in one year and are perfectly willing to repeat the process again the next year?

Congratulations are in order and thank you for sharing your extremely detailed data with the world.

Flic said...

Hi. I'm a personal trainer, and I have found your blog really interesting, so thanks for laying it all out here. I think one of the reasons why you lost more weight at the beginning of the year than you did later on, was because the training stimuli stayed the same. If I write a programme for a client, I change what they are doing every 6-8 weeks, so as they get fitter, their body keeps being challenged. So maybe you now need to get a stair-climber-desk, or bike-desk so you can work harder in 2013!
There are also so many benefits of exercise quite apart for energy balance and body weight, so I'm sure you've gained more than the weight stats show as well.