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Life at the Office with a Lifespan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk: A Review

The office fitness trend is not likely to die down anytime soon. As more and more people become dependent on their computers to work, more and more workers will have to face the unpleasant consequences of sitting in front of the computer all day long.

First, there were standing desks. And while standing desks are a whole lot better than sitting on your bum eight hours straight, it doesn’t really feel very pleasant to stand unmoving for several hours on your feet. And then there are under-desk pedal exercisers, which are promising, albeit the fact that pedaling at work can be such a huge distraction.

And then there are treadmill desks, by far the most auspicious solution for people who are looking for a way to fit in movement in their sedentary lives without taking more time away from work. Among the treadmill desks we have tried, we have come to love the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk the most. And you will understand why in this comprehensive review.

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The Table of Contents below provides a brief overview of what we are going to cover in this review today.

The Lifespan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk in a Nutshell

Lifespan TR1200-DT5

What We Like:

  • Extremely quiet, barely makes a sound at the lowest speeds
  • Good speed range for a variety of work activities
  • Wide and study desktop to fit laptop, desktop, keyboard, and mouse (with option to upgrade)
  • Well-padded wrist rest for arm comfort
  • Accommodates a wide range of user heights
  • Thoughtful safety features such as Intelli-Guard and safety key (dead man's switch) 
  • More-than-decent console with fitness readouts
  • Connects to your Mac or PC via Bluetooth

What We Don't Like:

  • Manual height adjustment is laborious
  • Pulling the safety key erases all your data
  • Loud beeping sounds are annoying
  • Accompanying app is terrible
  • Console does not have USB connectivity

Why Invest in a Treadmill Desk in the First Place

If you read the news regularly, it seems like no single week passes by without a report on how sitting wreaks havoc on your health. What it all boils down to is that we humans have not evolved to stay unmoving in such an unnatural position for a long time. Think about it. Our ancestors were always moving about as they hunted meat and foraged for fruit and leafy greens in the forests. They did not spend eight hours or more a day crouched over a screen or slumped on a couch in front of another screen.

But the demands of the modern workplace are forcing more of us to stay put in front of a computer. And whether you like it or not, this sitting still in front of a desk all the time is damaging to your health. In fact, some have even labelled sitting as the new smoking, giving rise to deadly diseases that take more lives than road accidents. Countless studies have linked sitting, or at least not moving, with a higher risk for type-2 diabetes, heart attacks, numerous forms of cancer, and even mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. And the worst part of it all is that even an entire hour of vigorous exercise daily may not be enough to counter the effects of sitting the entire rest of the day.

The American Heart Association says most Americans sit an average of six to eight hours a day, which is too much even for those who hit the gym every day. They say that the cure for sitting too much is not exercising more. It is actually simpler than that. The cure for too much sitting is simply sitting less. And this is where treadmill desks for the office can become a viable solution for everyone involved.

The Benefits of Having a Treadmill Desk at Work

Treadmill desks may sound like something only hipsters and hardcore fitness buffs would buy. The truth is anybody who sits in front of a desk several hours a day needs a treadmill desk, or at the very least, to incorporate more movement into their day.

Let’s be clear here. It’s not the actual sitting that is bad for you; it is the fact that you are not moving for several hours that is harmful to your health. So even if you don’t buy a treadmill desk but get up every half an hour or so to stretch or walk around, you’re still combatting the effects of sitting too much.

However, the many benefits of having a treadmill desk are overwhelming. Least among these is the fact that you do not have to take your mind off work to get some physical movement into your day. It is hitting two birds with one stone; you get to work and exercise at the same time. Plus, you don’t have to worry about spending extra time at the gym to meet reasonable fitness goals. Take a look at the following health benefits of using a treadmill desk at work.

  • It strengthens your heart and improves circulation. Walking is a cardiovascular exercise, which increases the heart rate and allows the heart to pump more nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to the parts of the body. It also lowers blood pressure and diminishes your risk of having a heart attack, an effect that can immediately be seen hours after just one walking session.
  • It relieves back pain. Majority of Americans suffer from some kind of back, neck, or shoulder pain at some point in their lives. The biggest culprit, of course, is our modern habit of slumping in front of a computer for work or play. Using a treadmill desk strengthens your core, which, in turn, reduces back pain.
  • It improves productivity and boosts performance. Contrary to what you may believe, your ability to work well won’t take a hit if you’re walking. In fact, separate studies conducted by University of Minnesota and Stanford University researchers found that using a treadmill desk at work actually increases worker output and improves creativity after an initial adjustment period. The neuro-mechanisms for these have been unexplored to date. However, walking has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, which, in turn boosts your mental powers.

The benefits of walking do not end there. As you very well know, incorporating more exercise into your day comes with a multitude of perks. You will lose fat (Who doesn’t want that?), feel happier, and become at less risk for deadly diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart problems.

If you are looking for an extreme weight loss makeover, you will not get what you want in a treadmill desk. However, if you want to overhaul your lifestyle and minimize your extreme sitting times, getting a treadmill desk such as the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 will allow you to do exactly what you want.

What is the Lifespan TR1200-DT5?

Now, after quite a lengthy introduction, let’s talk about the treadmill desk itself. Obviously, the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 is an exercise machine, but it’s not just any old treadmill. It is a special kind of treadmill that is designed specifically for people who want to walk while working at the office. You will notice immediately that this exercise machine has special features that cater particularly for this very specific market.

First of all, the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 is very quiet. Although it has a powerful 2.25 HP motor and a capacity of 300 lbs., it hardly makes any noise, especially at the lower speed levels. The six impact-absorbing shocks distributed across the length of the treadmill also help suppress vibration that contribute to the noise the machine can make.

It is not noiseless for sure. At the lower speeds, you will hear a barely audible hum that is not likely to interfere with work. In fact, the sounds you make stepping on the treadmill will be far more noticeable than the silent drone of the machine’s motor. At higher speeds, the sound will become more obvious, kind of like the whirring of an electric fan. It becomes louder, although it is still far less annoying than the clanking and grinding of a standard treadmill.

This is crucial for a variety of reasons. First and most obvious of all, the loud and vexatious sounds that can come from a treadmill pose a giant distraction and can make it difficult for you to concentrate on your work. And second, if you’re using a noisy treadmill desk at work, it can also be a disturbance to your coworkers and annoy the heck out of them. So you can see why having a quiet motor is one of the topmost considerations when buying a treadmill desk.

What It’s Like Walking on a Treadmill Desk

Unlike regular treadmills, which have speeds as much as 12 miles per hour or more, the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 has a speed range of 0.4 mph to 4 mph. In our opinion, this is the ideal speed range for walking at work, since anything that is above 4 mph will have you moving too quickly to allow you to concentrate. Here are the following work activities that are doable under certain speeds:

  • 1 mph – tasks that require concentration, such as writing and crunching numbers, and need mouse precision, such as Photoshop
  • 2 mph – writing emails and making conference calls (At this speed, the noise the treadmill makes is almost inaudible so that the other person on the line will not suspect a thing during the call.)
  • ​3 mph – reading and surfing the Web
  • 4 mph – watching videos

At the fastest speed, you can go at a brisk walk or a slow jog. However, if you plan to use the treadmill for faster runs, you will not be able to do that on the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 since it is designed specifically for use while at work.

What It’s Like Working on a Treadmill Desk

The Lifespan TR1200-DT5 has two main components – the treadmill and the desk, which is mounted on stands that you attach to the treadmill. You have two options for the desktop, a smaller one that measures 38 x 29 inches or, for an additional $70, you can upgrade to a larger desktop that adds 10 more inches to the width of the original desktop. This allows you to fit a desktop monitor, a laptop on a docking station, a mouse, and a keyboard. The bigger desktop may even let you add a second monitor to your workstation.

If you’re wondering whether the desktop can carry all of these components, don’t worry. It is constructed using a 1-inch-thick composite board with durable laminate that is strong enough to accommodate all the components of a typical workstation. You will notice that when you first start assembling the treadmill desk. The desk itself is quite heavy at 60 lbs., and you will need an extra pair of hands to assemble this portion of the exercise machine. It is solid as a rock and will not wobble, even if you lean part of your body weight onto it, which, by the way, is not advisable since you want to maintain good posture while you are walking.

On the front edge of the desk, you’ll find a well-padded wrist rest, which is quite thoughtful of Lifespan. The wrist rest gives your wrists a break and help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, which is all too common for modern-day desk workers.

The Lifespan TR1200-DT5 is manually adjustable, which is no problem if you are using this on your own. If we have any major gripes about this treadmill, though, it would be this. If you are sharing the desk with others, it can be a hassle to have to constantly change the height on the desk because you need to take down everything on the desktop before you can adjust the height of the desk. Also, because the desktop alone is quite heavy, you will need to ask the help of someone else to get the desktop at the right height. By the way, this treadmill desk can accommodate anyone from 4’8” to 6’4”.

To adjust the desk height, look for the adjustment knobs located on both vertical desk supports and turn them counterclockwise twice until they become loose. With someone else holding both ends of the desktop, pull the adjustment knobs out while they lower or raise the desktop to your desired height. You can then release the adjustment knobs, which will audibly click into place so that you know it’s safe to put back your workstation on the desk.

We found that you can actually adjust the desktop height on your own, but you have to be extra careful and make sure you don’t have your expensive computer sliding off the edge of the desk. You can pull the adjustment knobs one at a time and move the desktop up or down just an inch or two before adjusting the other side. This process can be extremely tedious, albeit it is your choice if you can’t find someone to help you move the desktop.

If you are miffed by the manual adjustment altogether, you can throw in an extra wad of cash to get the Lifespan TR1200-DT7 Treadmill Desk, which has electronic height adjustment and eliminates the inconvenience of adjusting the desktop height with your bare hands.

Safety Features

Ever seen one of those YouTube videos where people get on the treadmill and fall all over themselves when they don’t know how to jump off? Hopefully, that is not going to happen on the Lifespan TR1200-DT5. For one thing, the speed limit is low enough to allow you to immediately get off when you need to. And for another thing, Lifespan has incorporated a number of safety features to make sure you do not become the subject of a treadmill fail video.

The most important of these features is Intelli-Guard, an automated system that makes sure the treadmill only works when you are walking. When the treadmill senses that you have stepped off for 20 seconds, it automatically stops moving. This keeps others from accidentally stepping on the treadmill belt and banging their heads on the floor. The console will beep five times to let you know Intelli-Guard has kicked in. Keep in mind, though, that Intelli-Guard does not work when you are walking below 1 mph. This should not be a major problem, however, since anything below this speed is slow enough for most people.

It also comes with a safety key, which acts as a dead man’s switch in case you have an emergency. When you pull the safety key from the display, the treadmill stops immediately, allowing you to step off safely without risking falling all over your face.

The downside, however, is that pulling the safety key deletes all of your data from the console. If you are keeping tabs on your total time or mileage, this will make it difficult to get them back, unless you have recorded your data before pulling the safety key. And once you get back on the treadmill, you will have to start all over again by resetting your desired speed and inputting your metrics, which takes quite a while since you will have to start from the ground up (0.4 mph) until you reach your desired speed.

The treadmill also produces beeping sounds to alert you during startup or when you are changing speeds. For example, when you hit the start button, the treadmill counts down and then beeps four times to let you know it is about to start. And then you can start adjusting the speed by 0.1 mph increments. So if you like walking at 2 mph, for instance, you will have to hit the button 21 times until you reach that speed. And all the while, the treadmill emits 21 loud beeping sounds that could annoy you or your coworkers.

If you are using the treadmill desk at home, the louds beeps are a little bit more tolerable. But if they are seriously getting on your nerves, there’s a way to get rid of the beeping sounds altogether, although Lifespan does not make it easy for you to figure this out. On page 15 of your manual, you will find the steps to stop the beeping. If you don’t have the manual, we have the details out below.

1. Go into Engineering mode. To go into Engineering mode, press and hold the Stop/Pause button and the Up {^} button simultaneously. After three seconds, you’ll find F001 on the display.

2. Press the Down {v} button until you see F015, then press ENTER. On/Off will show up on the display. Press the Down button again to turn off Audible Alerts. Hit the ENTER key once more and remove and reinstall the safety key to make the console remember your new setting.

Update: Lifespan has issued an update for the console software that allows you to resume your previous speed settings after you hit pause. To do this, hit the Down button until you reach F019. If you press Enter, you can toggle between 0 and 1. Choose 1 if you would like to resume your previous speed setting. ​

Check out the video below for visual instructions on how you can remove the beeping sound and resume your speed setting. 

What the Console Does for You

Like every exercise machine, the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 comes with a LED display console that allows you to turn the treadmill on or off, set and save your settings, and monitor your performance. The fitness readouts include number of steps, distance, calories burned, walking speed, and walking time, which should be more than adequate for people who like to keep tabs on their fitness metrics while walking.

The console is located right in the middle of the wrist rest, which makes it easy to access in case you need to change settings right away. However, it can be quite inconvenient for some if your wrists keep coming in contact with the console the entire time. The key here is to properly position yourself so that your wrists are positioned next to the console and not over it.

As for the console’s technology, you have Lifespan’s Intelli-Step, which basically works like a pedometer and counts every step you take on the treadmill. We have found that Intelli-Step actually depends on a variety of factors, such as your height, weight, and speed. For instance, if you are less than 110 lbs. and you are walking lightly at a speed below 1 mph, Intelli-Step will have a harder time picking up your steps and registering them on the console.

The console also has a couple of connectivity options. First, it integrates with Lifespan’s own Active Trac fitness app, which you can use to track your progress on your smartphone. The app also integrates with Apple Health and Google Fit if you like to record all your health activity in one place. Lifespan claims it is easy to sync your data between the console and the app; you simply have to turn on Bluetooth and hover your smartphone over the console to upload your data. In our experience, however, and in other people’s experiences, it doesn’t seem as seamless as that.

In fact, if you’re like us and do not have patience for an app that syncs forever, crashes at every turn, and gets your data wrong, we suggest to forgo Active Trac altogether. Until Lifespan does something drastic to overhaul its app, it is not going to help you in any way. If you are, however, adamant to keep track of your progress, we suggest you upload your data to a Mac or PC instead. Keep in mind, though, that the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 does not have a USB port, so you will have to link it to your computer via Bluetooth.

Buying Considerations Part 1: Assembling the Lifespan TR1200-DT5

The Lifespan TR1200-DT5 is big. And by that, we mean it is enormous. This treadmill desk comes shipped in two heavy boxes, one for the treadmill itself and another for the desk. If you’re all alone to receive the package, you may have to tip the delivery man to ask him to help you bring the boxes inside. The treadmill itself weighs 114 lbs., while the desk is 60 lbs. Once you get past the initial hurdle of bringing the boxes in, it gets a little bit easier from there, although we suggest having someone else nearby to lend an extra pair of hands during assembly.

Unboxing is not as difficult as carrying the boxes inside. Although the boxes are secured by staples and plastic ties, you won’t need more than a good pair of scissors or a utility knife to cut them up. The components are fitted securely with huge pieces of Styrofoam to keep them from bumping up against each other during transportation. You will have a giant pile of boxes and Styrofoam to get rid of once you have unpacked the treadmill desk.

Assembling the exercise machine is as intuitive as it gets. However, make sure you have plenty of space to put the entire contraption together. This treadmill desk will take up the space of around two office desks once it’s assembled, so it’s best to plan your space ahead before hitting the buy button.

Begin by attaching the vertical supports for the desktops using the nuts and bolts which are already loosely in place so you don’t have to figure out where they go. Next, place the desktop on top of the supports. If you’re exceptionally strong, you can do this on your own. However, here is where an extra pair of hands can come in handy. Once the desk is in place, you simply have to roll the treadmill into the positioning bumpers, which attach the treadmill to the desk. Plug the console connector into the desktop and install the safety key. You are now ready to walk on your treadmill desk. All in all, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to get it ready.

Buying Considerations Part 2: Maintenance and Warranty

Lubricating the walking belt and cleaning the treadmill desk are the two most important maintenance task for this exercise machine. Lubricating reduces friction between the belt and the desk and minimizes wear and tear on the motor and controller board. Use 100% silicone to lubricate the belt and never an aerosol silicone spray. The latter has additives and petroleum distillates will damage the motor. One ounce of silicone should be enough to keep the belt lubricated for three months. You can purchase silicone from Lifespan or you can use any brand as long as it is 100% silicone.

Your first time lubricating the belt could become quite a handful, but we found that it gets easier as you go. We suggest that you lay down a few pieces of paper towel or a clean cloth on the side of the belt, since the silicone could spill over to the side of the treadmill if you’re not careful. Next, loosen the tensioning screws on the deck and lift the belt away. This will allow you to insert the nozzle of the silicone spray more fully into the center of the belt and minimize spillage. Spray the silicone up and down the belt before putting it back down. Walk on the treadmill for a few minutes to let you distribute the lubricant across the belt. You may also need to wipe off some excess silicone that has spilled down rail.

You also need to clean the treadmill desk at least every 150 hours of use, which is more or less every month or two. The desktop will do with just a little bit of wiping. However, you will have to take out some water and mild detergent to remove sweat from the belt. Sweat contains salt, which damages the components of the treadmill over time. Make sure you unplug the treadmill before cleaning and roll it out from under the desk to let you access all parts of it. The motor also needs some cleaning. To do so, loosen the screws of the cover and pop it off, vacuum the insides of the motor, and screw the cover back in.

All in all, maintenance of the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 is doable. Except for the part where you have to be careful where you spray the silicone, keeping this treadmill desk in top condition is easy. However, if something goes wrong, do not hesitate to contact Lifespan for repairs or replacements. This particular treadmill desk has an outstanding lifetime warranty for the frame, three-year warranty for the motor, two-year for the parts, and one-year warranty for labor. Keep in mind that you have to register your treadmill desk with Lifespan within 30 days of purchase to be eligible for the warranty.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Treadmill Desk

Using a treadmill desk is not complicated. However, it is not overly simple as well. Some people can easily hop onto the treadmill without some getting used to. Others will have some sort of adjustment period before they can maximize the use of their treadmill desk. Remember, you are going from a period of sitting on your bum all day long to walking nonstop for six hours at most. That is a big change to be making, and if you are making changes, you have best to take it slow and steady.

1. Begin with short sessions and work your way from there. We suggest walking at a slow speed of 1 mph or below for 30 minutes first. If you are feeling stronger the next day, you can bump it up to 45 minutes or an hour. Continue lengthening your walking sessions by 15 to 30 minutes until you can walk six hours nonstop, which is the recommended use time by Lifespan.

Another way to go about this is to alternate walking and sitting every day. For instance, you can walk for 30 minutes and sit for another 30 minutes. This requires that you have a sitting desk nearby so you can take a break from walking. You will find that a sitting desk is also helpful if you need to concentrate harder on certain tasks.

2. Optimize your workstation. A few tweaks here and there can help make walking at work a little bit easier for you. Position your keyboard right next to the wrist pad to provide constant support for your wrists. If possible, get a bigger screen to let you view your work without squinting or hunching over to get closer at the screen.

A trackpad is also helpful. You can get high-quality ones for Macs from Apple and several models for PCs from Logitech. The idea here is to reduce the amount of wrist movements as possible. A mouse will have you moving your wrist all the time, but a trackpad that can be manipulated by the fingers is easier to work with. Keyboard shortcuts also come in handy. Take a look at the following keyboard shortcuts for Mac and PC users on the Apple and Microsoft websites respectively.

3. Get comfortable. Walking may be a low-impact activity, but it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get sweaty. If you’re working at home, clothing won’t be a problem since you can wear any pair of loose shorts and t-shirt and call it your work outfit. If you’re at the office, you will have to use light, comfortable clothes that won’t run afoul of the dress code.

One thing you cannot compromise, though, are the shoes. Make sure you wear sneakers or walking shoes on the treadmill. Your leather brogues or high-heels, no matter how well-padded, will not do. If you must wear them to work, bring your sneakers in a bag and change shoes at the office. Lastly, make sure you are walking in a well-ventilated area. You are going to rack up a bit of a sweat even if you’re just walking for 30 minutes. If you don’t want to end up stinky and sticky at work, good ventilation is a must.

4. Protect the floor. The treadmill desk is massive and will more than likely leave skid marks and scuffs on your precious floor. If you don’t want to risk damaging the floor, get a PVC mat designed specifically for this treadmill desk. Even if you have carpet underneath, you still don’t want the treadmill’s components snagging on the threads. A mat will provide adequate protection for the floor.

The Verdict: Should You Buy the Lifespan TR1200-DT5?

Are treadmill desks just another fad that will fade away? We don’t think so. As long as people sit down in front of their computers to work or play, a treadmill desk will always have a place in an office or a home. The Lifespan TR1200-DT5, in particular, is one of the best office exercise machines we have come to know and love. Sure, there are a few alternatives that are cheaper than this model, but nothing beats the long-lasting durability and quality of this particular brand.

This is one of the quietest treadmill desks we’ve seen on the market, and it offers a good range of walking speeds that are appropriate to the office environment. The desktop is solid and stable and won’t have issues holding up your workstation. The ergonomics on this machine is also well-thought out, as you can see from the comfortable wrist rest and the adjustable desk height. As long as you start slow on the treadmill desk and follow our tips on how to make the most out of it, you will never go wrong with this purchase.

There are a few kinks that need to be ironed out. (We’re looking at you, Active Trac.) However, treadmill desks are fairly new. As manufacturers move to improve their products, we expect to see more refinements in treadmill desks in the next several years. In the meantime, we think the Lifespan TR1200-DT5 is more than enough to meet your needs for the time being.

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