I tried using a walking pad for 3 weeks - here's how it helped my fitness and productivity

A keen hiker, Susan Griffin was sceptical of the walking pad trend - but she couldn't deny the benefits after spending three weeks trying one out

Susan Griffin standing on a walking pad next to close-up view of the Citysports walking pad LED panel
(Image credit: Future)

Want to do more steps but don't have the time or opportunity to get outside? As far as social media is concerned, the answer is a walking pad - or walking treadmill, as they are also called. Here, health writer Susan Griffin tries one for herself to reveal what all the fuss is about.

10 minutes into trying a walking pad for the first time and I have the sudden urge to attempt my best catwalk strut. It is one of the numerous walking options that spring to mind to pass the time because, truth be told, walking pads are not the most scintillating apparatus - but they are a convenient way to get your steps in and, if you can manage your balance, multi-task at the same time. 

I am a hiking devotee and I love an early morning walk. For me, there's nothing better than getting out in the hills, soaking up the sights and sounds of nature and allowing the elements to induce a content, if feral-like, state. Hiking calms my mind, eases stress, helps me think more clearly and allows me to work up a sweat without thinking of it as exercise. Now I'm in my 40s though, I'm keen to keep trying new activities to discover more of what I enjoy. That's how I've found my way up a climbing wall, attempting padel, and running 10km for the first time in 20 years this year alone. 

I was also intrigued by the idea you can set up a treadmill in the comfort of your own home without spending thousands of pounds or needing your own gym space. And you can exercise in your pyjamas - what's not to love?

CITYSPORTS Under Desk Treadmill: £199 at Amazon

CITYSPORTS Under Desk Treadmill: £199 at Amazon
The Citysports under-desk treadmill offers speeds from 1km/h to 6km/h and has an LED display that tracks your workouts in real time, offering time, speed, and distance stats. It also predicts the calories you've burnt. It has a small remote to help you control the machine easily and shock absorption technology in the pad to help you move quietly.

What is a walking pad?

A walking pad is a small treadmill designed to help you get your steps in from the comfort of your own home. Slimmer and less cumbersome than the type of treadmill you find in a gym, a walking pad is designed to be packed up and folded away when not in use, making them suitable for smaller spaces.

A walking pad can be positioned in your bedroom, sitting room, or office, under your desk, by your bed, or in front of the TV. Some also come with handles or mini desks attached, while others offer an incline and an opportunity to run on them as well. 

Benefits of using a walking pad

1. Walking pads are easy to set up

The Citysports Treadmill(£199.99 on Amazon), which I used for my three-week trial, was just the right size for my small terraced house - and it could not have been easier to set up. I plugged it in, flicked the pad switch, and was ready to go in minutes. Though, at 17kg, you may want help to unpack the box.

To start the treadmill, you press the button on a small remote, which you wear around your wrist so you can access controls at all times. Three beeps sound before the treadmill begins moving slowly. You then use the remote to adjust the speed and to stop it.

Although this treadmill reaches 6km per hour, I found a comfortable range with 3.5km to 4.5km per hour. 

It was also impressively quiet. I did not have to shout over it and it did not disrupt anyone else, even on higher settings.

2. You don't have to leave the house to get your steps in

The great appeal of a walking pad is that you don't have to leave the house to get your steps in. I fit my steps in on the walking pad before breakfast, while waiting for a delivery in the afternoon, watching television in the evening, and chatting to friends and family on the phone. 

The shortest walk was while I waited for the kettle to boil, and the longest was while watching an episode of Bridgerton. 

Susan Griffin's walking pad treadmill lying on the ground and selfie of Susan standing on treadmill

Walking pads are compact and foldable, making them easy to store when not in use.

(Image credit: Future)

3. Forces you to take a break when busy

I found the walking pad particularly useful on busier days, however. Being a keen hiker, I try to hike every day, but sometimes even walking for 30 minutes a day isn't possible - let alone anything longer. Having the walking pad there helped me get my steps in even when I was too busy to take a break real break.

Intermittently spending five or 10 minutes on the walking pad between tasks (also known as exercise snacking) also meant I hadn’t seized up by the time I shut my laptop.

Walking pads have grown in popularity in recent years - no doubt prompted by the cosy cardio trend (also known as low-intensity interval training), the vast number of people working from home (surveys suggest 81% of us spend at least four hours sitting down when wfh), and the impact of social media. #Walkingpad has an impressive 32K posts on TikTok alone, with thousands of people of all ages taking on this convenient, cost-effective, and accessible form of exercise. 

"They are a great tool if you're stationary for most of the day or have an office job and have to be at a desk, as they can help you incorporate more movement into your day," says Georgie Spurling, an experienced PT and founder of wellness app ARVRA.

4. Walking is a type of LISS exercise

"Walking is a fantastic, accessible form of LISS (low impact steady state) exercise, so it offers benefits of strength and cardiovascular training by getting your heart rate up and kick-starting the lymphatic system," says Spurling. 

"At the same time, it offers minimal injury risk, gentle on your joints and your stress hormones,” she adds. A recent world-first study by Macquarie University also revealed walking for lower back pain can be hugely beneficial.

It's a great way to slow down your mind and boost your mood too, she notes. "Even a daily 15-minute walk can be extremely beneficial. Listen to soothing music as you walk or try walking meditation to better deal with stress."

5. Burn calories

It didn't take long to see how you could take up walking for weight loss with a walking pad. All the small walking sessions quickly started to add up where calorie burn was concerned. 

For example, in 20 minutes I averaged 2,134 steps (124 calories) and 4,538 steps (261 calories) in 45 minutes. 

For me, the chance to be more mobile throughout the day was more beneficial than the potential calorie burn - but if you do want to lose weight without exercise in more intensive forms, it's something to consider.

Susan Griffin standing on walking pad in living room next to close up of walking pad

Susan spent as little as 5 minutes using her walking pad to get steps in throughout the day. 

(Image credit: Future)

Disadvantages of using a walking pad

Multi-tasking not suitable for everyone

The walking pad I tried did not come with a handle, which is something to consider as a safety precaution if you are not confident about your balance. 

Also, while I credit those who can multitask on their walking pad, I couldn't manage it. This is only a disadvantage if you plan to combine working and walking, however.

If you're not used to working out on an exercise machine, like a treadmill or indoor cycling equipment, it can get monotonous. I recommend organising a distraction that doesn’t require too much brain power - like watching television or speaking to someone on the phone.

You're missing out on other walking benefits

For me, the greatest disadvantage of the walking pad is that it doesn't offer the same physical and mental benefits as walking outdoors, and Spurling agrees. "Mentally, you're missing out on the benefits of green and blue space, fresh air, and vitamin D, as well as time away from a screen," she says.

“When you walk outside the ground is uneven, which tests your stability and activates your core muscles, which you don’t get when walking on a flat treadmill. Yes, [the walking pad is] exercise, but you’re not reaping all the benefits compared to walking outside, so I suggest using it as a tool if you are stationary."

I agree, completely. A walking pad is a handy way to remain active when you might otherwise remain sedentary, but it is not a substitute for the holistic benefits of walking in nature if you have access to them instead. 

How to choose the right walking pad for you

  • Do your research: "Look for a quality walking pad, read reviews and take advice from others who already have one," says Spurling. 
  • Assess the choice: There are so many different types of walking pad you can buy these days - from small platforms to larger treadmills suitable for running and walking. Work out what you want to use your pad for and make sure you buy a walking pad designed for purpose.
  • Make sure it fits your space: "Make sure it fits under your desk if that’s how you intend to use it, or you have somewhere to use and store it at home. You might also want to consider how loud it is if you want to use it while in meetings, for example," she says."

You'll also need to make sure you're wearing the right clothing and footwear on your walking pad.  Arguably, you can wear what you want - as long it is not too long and likely to trap you or trip you up - but for safety, support and comfort, you do want to wear appropriate walking shoes

"A walking shoe should have a heel bevel (the curve at the back of the heel), which is a bit more extreme than a running shoe and more central. It should also allow for an easier toe-off, so a rocker mechanism would make walking more enjoyable. It should have enough space in the forefoot to make sure the toes can spread easily," says Gerard Klein, director, EMEA Footwear Merchandising at Brooks Running.

"On a treadmill, people intend to have a shorter stride. The above factors will remain the focus for the best shoe, but in this case, a running shoe might suit just as well.”

Susan Griffin

A journalist with two decades of experience, Susan interviewed A-list names in film and TV before going freelance and focusing on health, wellbeing, and lifestyle features. She has since spoken to world-renowned experts on the most innovative and effective ways to look after your mind and body; her work appearing in publications such as Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Metro, Fabulous and The Telegraph. When Susan isn’t working on her laptop, she is most content hiking in the Peak District or finding quiet camping spots to while away a weekend and knows first-hand the restorative benefits of being outdoors.