Photo of Vanessa Blaylock walking on a treadmill desk and reading about the NH Rebellion on her large, flat-screen monitor

Previz #80 – Year of the Treadmill Desk

Your Chair is Killing You

Like Television, The Chair is not inherently “good” nor “evil.” But like Television, The Chair has fallen into a rather unhelpful job description within our culture. If you think about it, for almost all of human history, and in many places today, we humans spent our days standing: hunting, gathering, farming, unloading cargo at the port. Of course at the end of a long, physically strenuous day, you’d want to sit down with family or friends for a meal or a drink.

photo of Jimmy Kimmel walking on a treadmill desk
Jimmy Kimmel

Today in the affluence of the Global North so many of us have become knowledge workers. We no longer harvest crops or work ships, instead we sit in expensive chairs and manipulate knowledge and ideas on flat screens. Now that the huge part of our day that used to be done standing is done sitting, what’s happened to the smaller part of our day that used to be done sitting? We’re still sitting! We’ve unintentionally turned our lives from mostly standing and walking to almost entirely sitting. It is well known that a shark can’t breathe if it can’t move, and we humans have become motionless sharks.

12 Walks in 12 Months

For 2014 I propose 12 treadmill events in 12 months.
• 20 January: Walking Virtual New Hampshire
15 February: Virtual Valentine’s Standing Brunch
and more to come!

photo of an avatar walking at a treadmill desk
Vanessa Blaylock

12 events where avatars will walk on virtual treadmills, and where “typists” are encouraged to also walk on RL treadmill desks. I’ll give you a free virtual treadmill, and it turns out that making your own RL treadmill is fairly easy and not very expensive.

There are fancy and expensive RL treadmill desks available, but you can also make your own very simply. Getting your monitor up a bit and sliding a simple treadmill under an elevated desk is all you need. Or, as Sherry Pagoto suggests, you can clip a cheap and simple “SurfShelf” onto any treadmill. 3 years ago I put together a new computer and a new treadmill desk for it. I bought a high-end nVidia GeForce GTX 580 Graphics Card, and a low-end “Merit Fitness” treadmill. I took the arms off the treadmill and slid it under my drafting table. The GeForce card cost more than double what I paid for the treadmill.

twitter screencap of John Green working at a treadmill desk
John Green

Late last year, a little under 3 years after purchase, the GeForce GTX 580 Graphics Card fried and I had to replace it with a yet newer and faster GeForce GTX 770. Meanwhile the inexpensive treadmill is still running just fine.

Not a Standing Desk

In addition to hearing talk about treadmill desks, I also hear talk and read posts about standing desks. Whatever works for you, but for me a standing desk is a bad idea. I do like to stand, but it’s fatiguing. Somehow I can seemingly walk all day, but after about an hour of standing I need to sit or walk. So beware that you might not like a standing (only) desk. BTW, we’re only talking about doing 1.5 km/h or 1 mph. You won’t be out of breath, you won’t sweat in your nice office clothes, and you can easily talk on the phone.

photo of Sherry Pagoto working at her treadmill desk
Sherry Pagoto


As avatars, it’s really important that we look after our typists’ health. They’re pretty important as we’d be little without them, and it’s well known that they are, as a group, not the most long-term, visionary planners. One inexpensive way to track your healthy typist’s activity and have a friendly comparison with others is with an “activity tracker.” Nike and all sorts of other peeps make them. The one I like best is one of the least expensive of the crop, The Fitbit Zip. Most trackers have to constantly be plugged in to USB or some other form of recharging. Instead the Zip uses a small, inexpensive button cell that lasts about half a year. It wirelessly syncs to upload your stats, so you pretty much never have to do anything. When it finally needs a new battery, it sends you an email.

Anyone can follow me on Fitbit, where ATM, I’m barely edging out fellow iRez author Katie Vizenor by just a few steps / week!
• Fitbit / Vanessa Blaylock
• Fitbit / Katie Vizenor

About my Treadmill Desk

Photo of 2 avatars wearing "NH Rebellion" t-shirts, and walking on treadmills with lofty clouds in their background
Vanessa Blaylock & Merriam Galaxy



• Jimmy Kimmel / Work While
• John Green / John Green’s Tumblr
• Sherry Pagoto / FU

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

4 thoughts on “Previz #80 – Year of the Treadmill Desk

  1. I’m wondering if I can get the powers at the school where I teach to put together for me a treadmill desk. The amount of sitting I do there (planning, grading, working on the computer) is wrecking my hips!

    Good luck tomorrow. I may drop by and check out the event!

    1. Near the end of this post is a link to “About my treadmill desk.” Take a look at that. It has pix of my RL setup. I already had a nice drafting table so raising up my work surface was free. I wall mounted a large monitor and slid a treadmill under. I like it a lot and the big monitor is great. However, as you see from the Jimmy Kimmel, John Green, and Sherry Pagoto photos I included, you don’t necessarily have to go to the effort / expense of a large monitor on a wall or bracket arm. Just a laptop seems to suit a lot of people well. If you follow the Sherry Pagoto link, she links to that “SurfShelf” which is a very inexpensive thingy to strap your laptop to a treadmill.

      If you got them to give you a treadmill and big monitor that’d be great. Or any treadmill would be great. And certainly since you’re right there on the front lines educating young bodies and minds in the age of obesity, there’s plenty of argument to be made for this forward thinking position. On the other hand, even if they won’t spend a dime, you could look on Amazon or Craigslist for a cheap treadmill, put it in your room / office at school, and “surfshelf” your laptop to it. Pagoto also argues that even if you can’t treadmill at the office, setting one up at home can give you a surprising amount of extra physical activity.

      And yes, Merriam and I will be RL/SL treadmilling from 9-2 EZT (California Time) so do drop by if you have a spare minute. We’ll put out some extra VR Treadmills! Oh, and thank you so much for the donation! 😀

      1. You’re welcome! Glad to support you in your RL/SL walk. I think it’s very cool.

        Right now, the space that my famil and I live in is too small for a treadmill, but I am going to figure out how to make it happen at school. Your ideas are great. tHanks for them!

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