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  • Carol Michaels

Under-desk Ellipticals

From an Interview with the US News and World Report:

How does an underdesk elliptical work exactly?

It sits under the desk and you just pedal. You must be seated to use it. There’s a knob on the bottom for resistance that goes from 1 (easy) to 8 (hard). You can pedal forward and backwards, and the counter keeps track of the steps. You can add bands & hand weights. There are free livestream classes daily on Facebook or posted on the website. My client states “I bought it because I have 3 zoom meetings on Tuesday/Friday (80 min each). I figure I can pedal during parts and use as a footrest.” Is it ergonomically comfortable to use, or is it awkward in any way?

It is recommended that you sit in a hard chair and have lumbar support and a cushion. My client states “It’s comfortable and I use it each day since I have had it. I’m not doing marathons but it’s better than just sitting on my tush!”

Have you noticed a growing interest in underdesk ellipticals--maybe with more people working from home and staying home more?

Yes. There is interest in home equipment with more people working at home and not comfortable going to a gym.

What would be the main reasons to get an underdesk elliptical? Do they really help people lose weight or get toned?

The reason to get one is that a small amount of activity is better than no activity. I do not think one could continue to pedal at a high speed with resistance (which is necessary to lose weight) while working unless they were in a boring zoom meeting. Losing weight is primarily due to changes in eating. An underdesk elliptical will help to burn calories but you cannot outrun your fork. If one is eating 2 gallons of ice cream daily, no amount of exercise will help them lose weight.

How many minutes would you need to use it daily to see any significant toning or cardio results?

A typical user burns about 150 calories /hour so a couple hours daily would be needed for a very slow weight loss and some cardio-vascular benefits. It will be very difficult to get the heart rate up high enough for significant cardio benefit while working.

What might be some potential disadvantages of an underdesk elliptical?

The user is still sitting. Sitting is the new smoking- but at least the legs are moving. Since the user is typically sitting, they can be exercising while leaning forward exacerbating poor posture and kyphosis. This can increase their chance of neck and back pain.

Who might be an ideal candidate to have an underdesk elliptical? Is there anyone who should avoid them due to physical limitations they have?

The ideal candidate is someone who is so busy at work that they have to use this machine, or they will get zero exercise in. It actually is sad that someone is working to the point that they have no time to even take a walk or some type of outdoor activity. Some lifestyle changes should be considered. Being outside is helpful for mental health.

Do you still need to do cardio and strength workouts if you have an underdesk elliptical? Why or why not?

The device might provide an adequate cardio workout for some people, especially those who are deconditioned. It really depends on the person’s fitness goals. I would still recommend additional cardio and adding strength exercises using hand weights. Strength training two times a week is needed for optimal fitness. Strength training builds muscle which is metabolically active aiding in weight control. Additionally, it helps strengthen the postural muscle which is important for those people sitting all day and helps to improve balance and bone density.

Anything else you'd like to add?

It is unfortunate that people are working to the point that they have to multi-task in order to get some exercise into their day. Physical activity should be enjoyable. The best exercise is what you like to do which increase the chances of being active. For example, dancing, hiking, swimming, or playing a sport can be fun. By performing enjoyable activities, it helps to increase consistency and decrease boredom.


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