walking pad
Break your nine-to-five desk routine with a lightweight, portable treadmill, say experts. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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?

walking pad
Under-desk treadmills are often meant for just walking, and some even fold in the centre for easy storage. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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?

walking pad
Walking pads get your blood flow going and clear the head during the workday. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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?

walking pad
Shop walking pads that come with or without an armrest support, depending on your preference. Some can even withstand light jogging. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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.

Editor's tip
Pocket savings of up to 30 per cent off on sports and fitness gear on Amazon right now, from under-desk walking pads to treadmills and more.

We scanned Amazon for the best-rated under-desk treadmills to keep you moving at your desk job - some of them are on sale. Don't forget to use Prime membership for free, next-day delivery.

1. Best Overall: KingSmith WalkingPad P1

Pros

  • Foldable unit – saves storage space
  • Hands-free speed control
  • As slow as 0.5km per hour for beginners
  • Allows light jogging
  • Comes with a digital remote control

Cons

  • Absence of handles for rolling in and out of storage

The KingSmith P1 under-desk treadmill has the cleanest look of all, without busy handles, hanging wires or a large display. Speeds start from an easy pace at 0.5km per hour to up to 6km per hour for a brisk walk, powered by a one-horsepower motor. Instead of having to peek at numbers on a display, you can control your speed hands-free via the step-sensing belt. Move closer to the head and the treadmill accelerates; move back down towards the base to slow down. Another way to control the unit is through the included LED remote controller and the smartphone app, which offers more useful metrics like calories burnt and time lapsed. But the best part is that the treadmill folds in half and rolls in and out of under the bed on wheels. Reviewers do wish it had a handle for easy retrieval, or else it gets five stars from those who work remotely, calling it effortless fitness. They like that the lower speed threshold lets them take care of busier tasks without truly stopping.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh115.67 for 12 months with select banks. Get an in-home assembly service from a professional for Dh108.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86 and two years for Dh121.

2. Best for Walking and Running: Sky Land Em-1282-B Walking Pad

Pros

  • Good after-sales service
  • Top speeds of 12km per hour for running
  • Walking mode only turns on when handle bar is folded away
  • Loud Bluetooth speaker and phone holder
  • LED display

Cons

  • Heavy at 35kg
  • User weight is still capped at 100kg

Walk, jog or break into a sprint on the Sky Land 2-in-1 Em-1282-B walking pad. It’s the fastest treadmill on our list, peaking at 12km per hour with a motor of 4HP (horsepower). When in walking mode (up to 4km per hour), its handle stays folded away to make room for your work tabletop. The only time you can access faster exercise speeds is when the support handle is up to ensure your safety. Everything that’s significant to your workout – calories, distance, time and speed – is clearly displayed on the body via an LED strip at the top. Above all, reviewers are mostly appreciative of the loud built-in Bluetooth speaker and phone holder, so getting in your steps is just a matter of hitting play on your favourite show or album. With a bigger motor, however, comes a heavier treadmill, as is the case with the Sky Land unit. Buyers do note that it has wheels for storage, but since it doesn’t fold in half, users should be prepared to make room for the walking pad.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh102.42 for 12 months with select banks. 

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86 and two years for Dh121.

3. Best All-Rounder: King Smith WalkingPad R1 Pro

Pros

  • 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
  • User weight limit at 110kg

Cons

  • The belt can shift around after unfolding

This King Smith Walking Pad 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 Pro can be stored upright against the wall. Reviewers mention how the handle makes retrieval from storage less strenuous, especially with the base rollers. The running area is slightly narrower than the Walking Pad P1 model (44cm), but the motor peaks at 1.25 horsepower, making the walking pad more powerful. We also like that the walking mode maxes out at 6km per hour for those who’d like a faster pace while working, and that the speeds can be controlled using just your feet. Compared to most under-desk treadmills on our list, this one accommodates a wider range of users with a load limit of 110kg.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh137.50 for 12 months with select banks. Get an in-home assembly service from a professional for Dh108.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh114 and two years for Dh162.

4. Best Multipurpose: Marshal Fitness Walking Pad 2-in-1

Pros

  • Sturdy build with shock-absorbing belt
  • Converts into treadmill seamlessly
  • Clear LED display
  • Speed control using foot placement
  • Foldable design

Cons

  • Does not have wheels

All you have to do, to transform the Marshal Fitness Walking Pad into a treadmill, is just raise the handrail. A simple foldable unit, it reaches peak speeds of 4km/h under the desk, and 10.5km/h as a treadmill, making it the perfect multipurpose walking pad. Advanced pressure sensors under the belt adapt to your feet, accelerating and decelerating according to their placement. Besides hands-free speed control, the LED panel offers quick metrics at a glance, such as time, distance, speed and calories - you can download the app to get a more detailed breakdown. The walking pad can be connected to your phone via Bluetooth so you can play music as you run or walk; it also has a phone holder if you’d like to watch a TV show while exercising. The remote control is quite simple, however, just featuring four buttons for speed, power and waking up the unit.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh71.22 for 12 months with select banks. Get an in-home assembly service by a professional for free.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh114, and a two-year extended warranty for Dh162.

5. Best for Running: Sparnod Fitness STH-3050, 5.5HP Peak

Pros

  • Powerful motor peaks at 5.5HP
  • Two modes for running and walking
  • Folds in half at the centre
  • Control speed using foot pressure
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Motor needs rest after 30 minutes

Usually 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 King Smith R1 Pro, in terms of upright storage. One key difference is the ability to play music via the Bluetooth speaker. 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, where you can slide your tablet or phone into a holder. It’s relatively quiet and uses very little storage space, per reviews. Users especially highlight how easy the unit is to set up right out of the box. However, do note that the manufacturer discourages running the machine continuously for more than 30 minutes.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh145 for 12 months with select banks. Get an in-home assembly service from a professional for free.

Warranty: The manufacturer offers a one-year brand warranty on part failure. Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh114 and two years for Dh162.

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.