Thanks to attachments and fully-integrated exercise desk equipment, you don’t have to stop working while working out. While doubling up on your productivity could save you a lot of time, it may also cause more problems than it solves.
Pro: You Can Multi-Task
For the most part, multitasking hurts you. When you fragment your focus you lose the ability to concentrate on any one task well. This happens most when you combine two or more similar activities, like writing an email during a meeting. You can’t talk and listen at the same time because both activities require the same part of the brain, and writing counts too. Exercising, however, doesn’t really overlap with writing email or doing other work on your laptop.
Obviously you can’t lift weights while updating a spreadsheet—and you shouldn’t try—but you can combine repetitive motions like biking or slower-paced running with computer-based work. This works best on a bike because you have a more controlled motion and fewer risks of hurting yourself. Treadmill desks obviously offer more freedom of movement, so you don’t want to let your work distract you too much or you could hurt yourself.
Con: Work Makes Exercise More Stressful
Exercise helps lower stress levels in the body. After a long day at work, we can use it to relax and unwind. While you may not like how exercise feels in the moment, the tired soreness that comes later also comes with the relief of stress and anxiety. When you add work to the mix, you run the risk of adding additional stress. Plus, if you actually like the feeling of exercise and it helps you unwind you’ll probably hate working while you do it. You might eke out some added productivity, but you’ll lose some of the stress-negating and relaxation benefits in the process.
Pro and Con: You’ll Have More Distractions
As previously mentioned, any kind of multitasking provides some distraction from another activity. Obviously we can walk and think at the same time, but some of us think too much and end up walking into a pole on the street. Added distraction makes exercise so much more fun if you find yourself constantly concentrating on the agony you’re in. It causes problems, however, if you want to unwind or need to focus on the workout itself. If you can’t concentrate sufficiently you can hurt yourself.
For example, I can’t play certain video games during exercise. If I have to make Mario jump over a chasm, I just stop everything else I’m doing. My body tenses up and I can’t do anything else. On a bike I just stop pedaling and that only affects how hard I’m working. If I did the same thing on a treadmill, however, I’d end up getting a face quickly full of rubber—something I experienced as a kid and can’t recommend avoiding enough. While video games don’t really qualify as work for most people, the same issue applies to anything else you do. While distraction can make the workout go by faster, make sure it doesn’t negatively affect it or your pro can become a con very fast.
Pro: You Have an Excuse to Exercise Longer
Many people can’t find the time to exercise, or feel they just don’t have the time to do enough. If you can work while you work out, you don’t have to actually find time because you’ve paired two activities. Of course, you could use this new efficiency boost to only exercise a normal amount of time and add free time to your day. You can also use it as an excuse to exercise more—something you might need if you have a pretty busy life and sit down most of the day.
Con: You Might Get Motion Sick
With screens getting denser pixels and, often along with it, smaller text, exercising while on a computer could upset your stomach. You gain a little more stability with something like a bike, but running on a treadmill makes it pretty difficult to type or do anything of consequence if you move at anything beyond a jogging pace.
This won’t affect everyone, of course, and you can test yourself easily. Go to a gym, or even an exercise equipment store, and read a paperback book while you use any relevant equipment. If after about five minutes you feel queasy, you probably shouldn’t do any work while you work out. If you feel fine, the same should apply to exercise.
That said, you can get a reasonable amount of work done even if you don’t look at your screen. If you need to type something out, you don’t necessarily have to see what you’re typing to get
get accurate results. I typed the last two sentences without looking at the screen, and after proofreading—which you definitely should do if you type blind—I didn’t find any accidental errors. If you can’t work normally, you may find ways you can adjust your methods to allow you to exercise and get things done at the same time.
The Bottom Line
Working while working out won’t satisfy everyone. It may even make exercise worse for certain people. Others, however, will appreciate the benefits of getting two things done—potentially things they don’t enjoy—at the same time while making both activities easier. While I approached combining these activities with some skepticism initially, I found my focus improved while exercising. When I need to buckle down and finish a Lifehacker post, I’ll hop on a stationary bike. What works for me won’t work for everyone, however, and you should use this pro-con list as a means of determining whether or not combining activities will work for you.
If you want to give it a shot, definitely try reading first before you buy any equipment. While some of it comes pretty cheap, like these attachments Apartment Therapy Tech discovered (including Velcro), if you buy integrated machines you can spend a lot more. In the past we’ve liked the FitDesk, which costs as little as $ 90 if you have an existing stationary bike (or $ 250 if not). The TrekDesk costs a much higher $ 480, although you might save some cash with a DIY method. Either way, you can spend a lot when buying exercise equipment and may find it easier to just attach something at your gym.
Whether or not you combine your workout with your work, you should make time for some physical activity every day. If blending the two doesn’t fit your needs, check out Sworkit to get free, customized workouts for whatever amount of time you do have.