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Remote working with a treadmill – does it work?

If the COVID-19 pandemic gave something positive to the world, it was definitely the change of mindset WHERE work needs to be done. Working from remote has been in discussion for years – but was only really applied once COVID-19 has hit the offices.

Although remote working allows more flexibility and saves (commute) time, there is a negative side to it as well (of course there is). One major impact on the body: Less movement, due to no commute – basically being "stuck" in your home.

How to tackle the lack of movement?

According to a recent study, your body should do around 7000 steps per day (minimum!) for a healthy balance. Everything less is unhealthy. In general, lack of movement is unhealthy. Even more so a full day without any major movement activity – which sounds a lot like working from home, doesn't it?

So to tackle the lack of movement, which forcibly comes with a "home office", I decided to buy a treadmill. But not a typical treadmill which can be seen in gyms – they are way too large. It should be a treadmill which fits under my desk and which can be put aside again.

On my research in November 2020 I found a surprisingly good amount of products already. The WalkingPad R1 from KingSmith caught my attention.

WalkingPad models from KingSmith

As I was researching the WalkingPad R1, I came across an excellent review article on cavarii.com. This article contains an important information concerning the difference between R1 and R1 PRO models:

R1 is released only within China, for their domestic market; while the same model is released internationally as R1 PRO

https://cavarii.com/2019/12/01/reviewing-the-walkingpad-r1/

According to the review article, the R1 model is intended for the Chinese market and needs to be "unlocked" with a Chinese mobile number. Otherwise certain features won't work and the treadmill speed is limited.

On the other hand, the R1 PRO model is the intended model for the international (non-chinese) market.

Walkingpad R1 PRO
Walkingpad R1 PRO

This information lead to a lot of back and forth with resellers in my country, Switzerland. It seems both resellers I contacted (Galaxus and Brack) were unaware of this information and had partly wrong product descriptions on their websites.

Eventually it turned out that the R1 PRO was currently not available and only the R1 model was available. That would lead to a (most likely) locked device so I decided to go with the older and cheaper model A1 which runs at the same max speed (6 km/h, 3.7 miles/h) as a locked R1 model. The R1 PRO model has a max speed of 10 km/h by the way.

Walkingpad A1
Walkingpad A1

Obviously the R1/R1 PRO models come with an additional rail attached, however as my plan was to put the treadmill under the (uplifted) desk, the rails would just be in the way.

Unpacking and Installation

Once I received the Walkingpad A1 package, I was impressed with the weight. The full package weighs 31 kg (68 lbs) – it took me a while to move that package properly into the office. Of course a more lightweight package (and treadmill) would be nice – however once (fast-) walking on a treadmill you want the treadmill to be steady and not move around. This is mostly achieved by its own weight.

Once unpacked, the Walkingpad supports a generic C13 cable for power input. That's the same cable/connector used in most Desktop computers by the way.

The device can either be started with a small remote control handset (see picture below) or the WalkingPad app.

Walkingpad Remote Control
Walkingpad Remote Control

Working with the treadmill – one year later

As mentioned above, the Walkingpad A1 was purchased a year ago, in November 2020. This results in a full year experience with the treadmill. Here are the most important facts after 12 months of usage:

  • The treadmill is stable and works without a glitch. Some reviews (especially in the United States) mentioned that the Walkingpad was defective after a short time and that the product support is not good. Obviously I can't verify the customer support, however I can say that the Walkingpad A1 has been running smoothly so far. But this also comes down to usage. I personally take much care of electronics, carefully move the treadmill around, don't bump it into other things. I don't jump on the band and walk straight. I also pass a vacuumer on the band to remove dust on a regular basis.
  • When not walking in a straight line, the band could slightly pulled to one side. I needed to adjust and get used to really walk straight. But this is a learning by doing thing – after a couple of walks on the WalkingPad, you (should) automatically walk correctly.
  • Do I use it every day? You'd probably expect this from an article like this, but no. Sometimes my tasks require high concentration (incidents, troubleshooting) and then I need to sit down and (extra-) focus on the screens, without anything that could hinder my concentration. And sometimes I'm just not in the mood or too lazy to walk. But I do use the treadmill at least once a week – usually during a team meeting which is scheduled at least once a week.
  • The WalkingPad app doesn't really work. At least back in November 2020, the app often times did not work, was very laggy or suddenly stopped the Walkingpad. This is very annoying (and also kind of dangerous) when you're in the middle of walking and the band stops all of a sudden. Since then I got used to only using the remote control device. You don't get historical statistics with this approach, but that was never my goal anyway.
  • In the last 12 months I only used the maximum speed of 6 km/h maybe twice or three times. It turns out that at the full speed, you either need to walk very fast or you need to jog along. But while jogging, you can't work at the same time anymore. You certainly cannot type on the keyboard and if you're in a meeting you breath hard and talking isn't very comfortable. Not for me on the treadmill and neither for people listening.
  • The obviously best way to use the treadmill while working is in long virtual meetings or phone calls. If the meeting is a video conference, your colleagues might look at you strange at first. As your body is constantly moving from one side to another as you're walking, this is – at the beginning – confusing or even irritating to the others in the conference call. But they eventually get used to it.
  • Although your own team mates are very likely to accept you walking on the treadmill while doing a conference call, your customers or bosses might not appreciate that (yet). Be cautious.
  • In general I've received a lot of positive feedback from colleagues that it's a good and healthy. I even know from someone who also bought a similar treadmill, the newer R1 PRO model even, after having seen me walking during a video call.
  • Can you stay focused? Absolutely! At least during long conference calls, with or without video, keeping a decent speed at around 4 km/h doesn't interfere with concentration. As long as you don't need to work on the keyboard anyway.
  • Actively working, meaning heavily using keyboard and mouse, is difficult though. Even with a low walking speed of 2 km/h it does not feel comfortable and here you might even have difficulty of focus – you're walking, you're typing, you need to read stuff and think at the same time. At least for me, being from the male human species, that kind of (physical) multitasking is asking too much.
  • However doing some basic typing while walking works just fine. In the past few weeks I've upgraded a ton of Ubuntu servers to the current 20.04 LTS version. This doesn't require a lot of typing and is mostly "watching" for the upgrade to run smoothly and services to come up again. This is a good scenario where (minimal) typing and walking works great together.
  • If you walk (not jog) at a decent speed, you don't even become sweaty. It rarely happened to me that I became very hot during a walking session. The longest "walking conference" I remember took around 90 minutes – at around 4 km/h. This one I felt in the legs afterwards but I did not sweat. Jogging however pumps your heart, increases the blood pressure and this will make you sweat very fast.
  • I usually work from home just with my socks on. But walking on the WalkingPad without shoes is not comfortable at all. Beneath the band, the material is pretty hard. Using a clean pair of sport shoes is recommended.
  • Would I buy a treadmill again? Yes, definitely. Especially looking at the products now, one year later, shows much more choice and the prices went down to almost half of what I paid last year. Not only is it "fun" (once gotten used to it), it also helped keeping my weight in a pretty horizontal line over the last 12 months.

The WalkingPad in action

Enough text. Let's see how this looks like. You can see the legs of my (elevated) desk, the WalkingPad A1 treadmill is placed next to the computer tower.

Walkingpad A1 in action.
Claudio Kuenzler
Claudio has been writing way over 1000 articles on his own blog since 2008 already. He is fascinated by technology, especially Open Source Software. As a Senior Systems Engineer he has seen and solved a lot of problems - and writes about them.

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