Under-Your-Desk Mini Exercise Bike

Use an Under-Your-Desk Mini Exercise Bike to Lose Weight

Good news for the time-starved, deskbound and tired amongst us - a low-effort way of getting some beneficial exercise that burns calories while we're sitting at our desks ...

... or kitchen tables as current circumstances may dicatate.

In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a group of office workers were provided with an under the desk pedal exerciser (mini bike) for a period of 16 weeks. 

Researchers noted significant improvements amongst participants given the cycles:

  • Weight, total fat mass, body fat percentage and waist circumference
  • Resting heart rate
  • Work performance outcomes including improved concentration and less days off sick

Best news of all for those wanting to lose weight, the under-desk cyclists burned an extra 107  calories each day, which adds up to more than 500 calories a week.

That's a pound extra lost in 7 weeks, which may not sound like much but is pretty good when you consider that you haven't had to give up a single chocolate or pint.

Of course you could pedal for longer than the average 50 minutes a day the study participants did if you wanted to bump up the weight loss.

Study Details

Recruits were healthy, but physically inactive, overweight or obese adults working full-time in office jobs that had them sitting for 75% or more of the working day.

The recruits were randomly split into 2 groups:

  1. A health protection–only group (HPO) who received an ergonomic workstation optimization intervention and three e-mails a week promoting rest breaks and posture variation 
  2. An integrated health protection/health promotion group (HP/HP) who received the same as the HPO group, plus a pedal exerciser to keep under their desks

Outcomes were measured after 16 weeks.

Study Findings

Study participants who had the mini bikes, used them…

  • On 70% of working days and pedalled an average of 50.2 minutes a day
  • An average of 4 minutes 24 seconds in each session of usage
  • An average of 18.6 times a day
  • At an average speed of 59.3 rpm

… and achieved these outcomes:

  • Beneficial changes in weight, total fat mass, body fat percentage, and resting heart rate, increasing with the average minutes pedalled each day
  • Beneficial changes were also observed in body fat percentage and resting heart rate, increasing with the number of separate pedal exerciser sessions each day 
  • A significant connection was observed between average pedalling speed and decrease in waist circumference. 
  • Significant associations were observed between the average minutes the cycle was used each day and improvements in work performance, including: self-reported concentration at work and days missed because of physical or mental health problems over the past 4 weeks

So How Do You Make This Work for You?

That partly depends on what your goals are, if it is weight loss you're looking for then spending more time pedalling will increase your calorie burn, decrease your body fat, and help you lose more weight. It seems that speed is of the essence if you want to reduce your waist size.

For heart health the total number of minutes spent pedalling, and the number of separate sessions, are important.

For the overall benefits of weight loss, fat loss, improved physical and mental health and performance at work the message is: do this and do it often.

Getting the right equipment

The problem with many mini bikes is that they are too high to effectively use under your desk - and can be too noisy. 

The pedal exerciser used in the study was low enough to allow comfortable pedalling and the researchers point out that this was an important factor in the high rate of adherence to the scheme.

Unfortunately, the pedal trainer model they used in the experiment: the activeLife Trainer TM, is only available from the US and it costs a whopping $1,490 USD to get one delivered in the UK. ($495 for the trainer, plus $995 shipping and handling.) Needless to say, we didn't order one, but here's the link if you want to take a look

Of course you could cycle away whilst you're sitting on your armchair watching TV - which increases the number of suitable mini bike options at lower prices.

Doing this will provide similar benefits to those seen in the study if you pedal for similar amounts of time, but won't really help to break up the deskbound day.

WLR Says

Given that we’re all being warned that sitting at our desks all day is bad for our health, the conclusions this study comes to are almost like a get out jail cheap(ish) card.

It’s really hard to find the time to get those 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise that health professionals constantly nag about. It makes us feel anxious, and guilty and lazy because we’re not doing it.

So maybe this 50 minutes of low intensity, split into nice small chunks, pedal exercising is a good answer.

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Lucas J. Carr, Christoph Leonhard, Sharon Tucker, Nathan Fethke, Roberto Benzo, Fred Gerr. Total Worker Health Intervention Increases Activity of Sedentary Workers. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.06.022

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