Want a way to clock in 10,000 steps every day, without leaving your desk? It’s possible, thanks to a clever fitness unit that’s much smaller and slower than treadmills. If you spend long hours at the desk with little to no exercise, this could be the solution to your aching joints and tense shoulders.
Walking pads or under-desk treadmills are a great addition to your work-from-home setup. Slide the unit under your workstation and go on about your day – write emails, take work calls and breeze through your tasks – as you walk, at the desk. Viral TikTok videos and Instagram reels report back on improved productivity levels, posture and concentration, after months of use. We asked fitness experts to weigh in on the trend and its benefits.
How are walking pads different from treadmills?
An under-desk treadmill is different from its bulky counterpart that we run and jog on at the gym. Since they’re designed for home use, walking pads stick to basic settings to see you through your step target for the day.
“Walking pads are very popular in the UAE; some come with or without optional handles, and can go up to 10 to 12km per hour,” said Azeem Ashraf, a retail sales manager at Active Fitness Store in Dubai, with over 12 years of experience in the wellness and fitness industry. “These are different from treadmills, as they’re not made for running or jogging, but brisk walking at best.”
However, a typical feature you might have to forego is the option of incline. Walking pads are flat machines that operate quietly on a small motor of 1.5 to 1.75 horsepower, says Ashraf. This also means that most under-desk treadmills, for their lightweight and compact build, cannot accommodate a load of over 100kgs.
Still, people prefer to bring these in to squeeze in at least an hour of light activity in their nine-to-five jobs.
What are the health benefits of using a walking pad?
Every time we step away from the desk for two-minute stretch breaks, the results are instantly obvious. The tension in our shoulders begins to subside and the brain feels much more alert, helping us to better power through the rest of the day.
“Our body is made to move. If we don’t incorporate any daily activity, such as walking, running or exercising, the body falls asleep, and we end up losing muscle. Our blood flow slows down, so we become more susceptible to various health issues,” said Jelena Jovanovic, a certified fitness trainer at DubaiPT Personal Trainers. “With a walking pad, people wouldn’t have to just sit for eight hours straight – physical activity clears the mind since it supplies more oxygen to the brain. It’d be best to plan to walk during small breaks in-between working hours.”
Another expert has similar advice. Alberto Pardo, co-founder and CEO of on-demand fitness app Fitlov, speaks from personal experience with walking pads. “I think an under-desk treadmill is best used to break the workday routine with two 30-minute walking intervals, perhaps once in the morning and then in the afternoon,” said Pardo.
However, since movement is limited to our lower bodies – with arms mostly stationary at our desks – Pardo says a walking pad shouldn’t replace the recommended step activity. It’s just enough to interrupt the pattern of prolonged sitting.
Plenty of scientific research proves the link between physical activity at work and health. Dragan Stankic, head of the education department at Health, Exercise and Research Center (HERC) in Dubai quotes studies that show under-desk treadmills are "an excellent countermeasure to sedentary behaviour", improving blood pressure, blood fat and other cardiometabolic risk markers.
"At the end of the working day, workers would gather around two hours of active moving time, while still having full working hours," said Stankic of a 2018 controlled trial paper, published in the UK-based Journal of Sports Sciences.
Which walking pad is the best for me?
You should be spending at least a Dh1,000 for a decent walking pad, according to Ashraf. Pardo cautions against inexpensive makes in the market that end up under-performing, with a less robust build.
What’s also great about walking pads is that you can store them under the couch or bed till the next working day. But of course, for this fitness hack to work, you’ll need a standing desk or a converter to bring your screens to eye level. A decent fitness tracker also keeps tabs on your heartrate, calorie count and step target.
We scanned Amazon for the best rated under-desk treadmills to keep you moving at your desk job. Shop some of these pieces of equipment with Prime for free, next-day delivery.
1. Best Overall: CITYSPORTS Lightweight Treadmill
- Foldable, lightweight unit – saves storage space
- Built-in Bluetooth and speaker
- Powerful machine
- Allows light jogging
- Some reviewers say the emergency stop feature sometimes malfunctions
The CITYSPORTS under-desk treadmill has the cleanest look of all, without busy handles, hanging wires or a large display. The unit allows you to fold the armrest, so sliding it under furniture, like your standing desk, should be no problem. An LED display on the base lets you keep track of the time, speed, distance, calories and steps. You can sustain a walking speed of up to 8km per hour – fit for jogging – on a belt that’s cushioned with shock-absorbing layers. Another way to control the unit is via the included remote controller. But reviewers say its best part is the built-in Bluetooth and speaker - you can connect the treadmill to your phone and listen to your playlist or the radio through its loudspeaker.
Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh327.42 for 12 months with select banks. Get an in-home assembly service by a professional for Dh76.50.
2. Best for Walking: Powermax Fitness Walkpad-5
- Built for paced walking
- Has a Bluetooth speaker
- Anti-friction layer with EVA cushioning
- May be too slow for some users
The Powermax Fitness Walkpad-5 is ideal for people who want to keep their legs moving at a constant pace as they work. While its motor runs at a higher horsepower than our best pick, peaking at 4HP, its maximum speed is 6km per hour, which is ideal for walking, but not so much for people interested in jogging or running. The walking pad has separate acceleration and deceleration zones, so it’ll increase or decrease its speed automatically depending on your tread. The machine’s Bluetooth app syncs to Android and iOS devices, allowing you to set your speed and view stats in real-time. Or, if you’d prefer, use the remote control to do the same. Foldable and slim, it's a great unit for the home office, especially for beginners.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh149.86 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: The manufacturer provides a three-year motor warranty, a lifetime frame warranty and a one-year parts and labour warranty. Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh114 and two-year extended warranty for Dh162.
3. Best for Storage: King Smith WalkingPad R1 Pro
- Three modes for running, brisk walking and walking
- Easy portability with armrest and rollers
- Stores upright or under the desk
- Control speed with feet, hands-free
- Less horsepower than the Sparnod STH-3000 unit
- Doesn't deliver with Prime
The King Smith WalkPad R1 Pro is still foldable at the centre, despite having an optional handle. If you’re looking for greater speeds (10km per hour) and a supportive armrest, then this is your best space-saving option. You can walk, speed-walk or sprint, depending on the three modes. Thanks to its flat head, the R1 can be stored upright against the wall. Reviewers mention how it’s made retrieval less strenuous, especially with the base rollers. The running area is slightly wider than the Sparnod STH-3000 unit, at 44cm, but the motor peaks at 1.25 horsepower. Its walking mode speeds peak at 6km per hour, for those who’d like a faster pace while working, and can be controlled using just your feet.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh90.67 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86, and a two-year extended warranty for Dh121.
4. Best for Beginners: Cockatoo WP100 (4.5 Hp Peak)
- Sturdy build with shock-absorbing belt
- 4.5 peak horsepower
- Clear LED display
- Comes with a remote control
- Doesn’t fold in half
- Needs oiling for maintenance, say reviewers
Weighing 28kgs, the Cockatoo under-desk treadmill easily slides in and out of its storage space on rollers. This is a walk and moderate running equipment that does away with handles or armrests, with speeds going up to 8km per hour. Since it supports light jogging on the 42cm-wide belt, the unit comes with shock absorption and a noiseless design. Five-star reviews mention its sturdy build, noticing no wobbles when in use, and how quiet it sounds. Your order comes with a smart remote control.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh103.59 for 12 months with select banks. Get an in-home assembly service by a professional for free.
Warranty: The manufacturer offers a two-year motor warranty, a one-year parts warranty and a lifetime frame warranty. Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86, and a two-year extended warranty for Dh121.
5. Best for Running: Sparnod Fitness STH-3050, 5.5HP Peak
- Two modes for running and walking
- Folds in half at the centre
- Control speed using foot pressure
- Easy to set up
- Needs rest after 30 minutes of use
Listed at almost double the price of most walking pads, the Sparnod STH-3050 machine is portable, more powerful and wider than its predecessor. Plus, this model folds in half at the centre and looks quite similar to the WalkPad R1 Pro, in terms of upright storage. Equipped with two modes, the under-desk treadmill lets you walk at peak speeds of 6km per hour and run at 10km per hour, when the armrest is up. It’s relatively quiet and uses very little storage space, per reviews. Users especially highlight how easy the unit is to setup right out of the box. However, do note that the manufacturer discourages running the machine continuously for more than 30 minutes.
Warranty: The manufacturer offers a three-year motor warranty, a lifetime frame warranty and a one-year brand warranty on part failure.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.