If you're anything like me, you'll love workout hacks and healthy living tips that are not only effective but time-efficient, too. Staying healthy is important, sure, but so is making sure you have plenty of time to relax and unwind. That's why, when I saw the walking treadmill doing the rounds on TikTok earlier this year, I was intrigued.
With a casual 5.1 million views on the #walkingtreadmill hashtag TikTok alone, it's fair to say the treadmills - most of which fold up and can fit in a cupboard or behind your desk when you're not using them - are having a bit of a moment.
So, why might you consider investing in one? Far too many wellness tips and tricks take up way too much time, in my opinion. While I love staying fit and healthy - it's a part of my life now - it's still just a part, meaning I'm all for fitness equipment, workout, and mindfulness techniques that leave me feeling my best without taking hours out of my day.
Sure, heading to the gym for an hour might be doable for some, but for many others, it simply won't be a viable option. Even heading out for a daily walk might be a struggle if you've got a newborn or other commitments at home.
So, with that in mind, I decided to put a walking treadmill to the test for you over the course of nine months. The real question I wanted to know the answer to is whether I'd use it or whether it'd become another large piece of gym kit that gathered dust in my study, plus whether I'd actually feel any fitter from having it in the house.
Spoiler alert: I'm something of a convert, but more on that below. For my honest take, keep scrolling. Do read our explainer on the benefits of walking and guides to walking workouts and soft hiking, while you're here.
I tried a walking treadmill for nine months - my verdict
What is a walking treadmill?
As the name implies, walking treadmills - sometimes also called walking pads - are treadmills specifically designed for getting your steps in from home.
Unlike traditional, bulkier treadmills designed for running, they're stereotypically smaller in size and fold up, so you can store and move them around your house easily when not in use.
The majority will allow you to control the speed with a small remote control, with speeds ranging from a gentle, slow walk to a brisk walk. Most also show you the total amount of time you've been moving for and steps you've completed on a small screen.
What are the benefits of using a walking treadmill?
It's likely not news to you that we're a nation of sedentary work-from-homers. I'll be the first to admit that I'm normally very active on the days when I'm in the office, but come particularly busy work-from-home days, sometimes average a shockingly low step count.
And I'm not alone - research from Fellowes found that 81% of UK workers spend between four and nine hours per day sitting at a desk, with the NHS warning that excessive sitting can cause a multitude of health issues spanning cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more.
That's where a walking treadmill comes in, which a 2021 review and meta-analysis found lowered both blood pressure and body fat percentage. Further, a 2018 study by the University of Leicester published in the British Medical Journal found that sit-stand desks (which having a walking pad under your desk forces you to have) significantly helped to reduce sitting time and improve productivity.
In short, having a walking treadmill at home promises to make walking easier and more accessible, and the benefits of walking, according to the NHS, include:
- Improved energy
- Reduced stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved sleep
- Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, asthma, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer.
How I found using a walking treadmill for nine months
While the delivery man definitely raised his eyebrows when I explained the bulky item was, in fact, a walking treadmill for my office, set up couldn't have been easier. It was as simple as unpacking from the box, unfolding, and plugging in. A quick scan of the instructions and a tap of the "on" button on the remote control later, and I was off.
For the first few months of this year, I used the treadmill most during dark, winter evenings when I wanted to get a few final thousand steps in for the day but didn't want to head out solo in the rain or wind. I'd finish off my final few hours at work, finalising articles and subbing content, all while gently getting my steps in with the treadmill under my desk.
While working out how to get my laptop to the ideal height on my desk took some navigating (read: I actually just ended up with my laptop on top of a few storage boxes), this could easily be rectified with a standing or moving desk. Plus, I didn't mind having to move a few boxes.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to work and walk - I'd thought that it might have been a pipe dream to think I could multi-task, but it was doable if I made sure my walking speed wasn't too fast. This was one learning - ramp the speed up and you'll likely want to get off quicker. Opt for a slower, steadier pace and you'll be able to walk for longer. I sometimes walked for up to 45 minutes to an hour a day.
I also can't stress enough how easy it is to get out and put away. I'd been sceptical to begin with because I didn't want a large piece of gym equipment taking up space in the house if I wasn't going to use it. I've used it at least twice a week since the New Year, though, and so feel like it's been great value for money.
Come the summer months, I'll admit that I wasn't using it as much, but I did still enjoy it for otherwise sedentary work-from-home days. There are hardly any other workouts you can do while working, making it the perfect steady-state cardio for anyone who's busy or struggles to fit exercise in.
Not to mention, for evenings at home alone, I sometimes hopped on while watching an old re-run of Friends or This Is Us. Light a cosy candle, put on your favourite jumper, and you're relaxing and improving your fitness - a surefire win, win, in my books.
Nine months in and I'm a convert - especially as the days get darker and the window to workout in daylight already feels like it's getting shorter. For me, having a walking pad at home has made hitting my daily step count an easy non-negotiable, rather than an afterthought or something I told myself I'd do.
Need more convincing? Well, the proof is in the pudding, really. Checking my Health app on my iPhone, I've averaged 15,000 steps a day this year compared to 11,000 last year. I'm much fitter, I look forward to working out more, and I have more energy - and I can confidently say this is largely thanks to the walking pad and how easy and enjoyable it's been to use.
Shop walking treadmills now:
The BodyMax walking pad is the one I have. Easy to set up and put away, it's compact and doesn't get dirty or dusty. Simply plug in, decide your walking speed, and you're off.
Are walking treadmills any good?
Having tested mine for nine months now, I can confidently say they're an effective and easy way to up your daily step count from the comfort of your home.
Plus, various research has found that using them can lower both your blood pressure and body fat percentage. This 2018 study also proved that making your desk a sit-stand hybrid - aka owning a walking pad - reduces the time you spend sitting during the day and, in turn, improves productivity.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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