Ambulatory Coding

July 9, 2012,   |   Life
Agile League

I love the quiet of my home office and how I can focus on working for hours with barely any interruption. The down side to that, however, is that with no meetings to walk to or coworkers to stand up and chat with, I sat in the same position for hours barely moving, causing increasing amounts of back pain by the end of the day, not to mention shortening my life.

Enter the treadmill desk. I bought this one. It’s an expensive desk, but a great health investment.

At first it was distracting. For the first week, I felt like I had to sit at my regular desk to do actual programming, and I only trusted the treadmill desk for Skype calls and online reading/research. Even with Skype calls, sometimes I would realize I had been paying more attention to walking than to the person on the call, which is a bit awkward to explain. I was doing some work on an open source project, and I would write the code from the treadmill desk and then sit down at my other desk to redo parts of it, review my changes and make the pull request. Gradually, though, walking became less of a distraction, and I eventually moved my external monitor over to the treadmill desk. After a month, I don’t notice that I’m walking at all most of the time, and I feel much more energized throughout the day. I go 0.9 – 1.3 mph depending on what I’m doing, which winds up being about 4 miles / day currently. It’s a ridiculously slow walking pace, but it is great for being able to type, write occasional notes on paper (somewhat illegible notes), use the mouse, and drink tea, without being distracting.

I definitely recommend considering a treadmill desk if you sit at a desk all day with a computer and you don’t write much by hand. I would also recommend keeping a sitting desk you can move to if this is your full-time office. I still move my laptop over to my sitting desk if I’m eating breakfast, on a call with a client, or when I just need a break for an hour or so. But being active throughout the day instead of just sitting is an amazing opportunity that I never thought I’d have as a programmer. I feel better in general, my back feels better, my legs feel stronger. It’s an all around win.