Do Under Desk Bikes Work? Tested & Documented Pros & Cons

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Nov 5, 2022

How much time do we spend behind a desk?

According to The Washington Post, the average office worker sits for about 10 hours a day. Another study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that one in four American adults sits for longer than eight hours every day.

When you think about it, that is quite a lot of time when you say it out loud like that.

Sitting is sedentary, meaning there’s virtually no burning of calories or whatsoever.

And a clever way that has been developed to overcome that sedentary behavior is by using a desk bike.

Do desk bikes work?

Yes, there are many benefits to using an under desk bike!

Desk bikes allow you to pedal at the desk or workstation to counter some of the negative effects of sedentary behavior on the job. An under desk bike can help burn extra calories and channel your fidgety energy, but too much hampers sustained attention reaction time. It can facilitate physical activity without compromising reading performance but could compromise typing performance.

Moreover, Under-desk cycling is not beneficial in preventing or managing low back discomfort.

Desk bikes work well for passive tasks, like reading emails, browsing websites, watching movies, and playing games, but not they’re not as good for tasks that require concentration.

Several medical studies suggest that prolonged sitting is dangerous and can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and depression, as well as muscle and joint problems.

In 2016, Victoria E. Bullock and colleagues concluded that people who sit for more than 8 hours had 62% higher odds of obesity compared to participants who sit for less than four hours a day.

The reason?

Sitting only burns 80 calories/hour. You can’t expect to meet your fitness goals with these figures, right?

If you consult medical experts, they’ll tell you to get to the gym, to lift, do squats, and start jogging.

But can you spare that much time out of your busy schedule? Maybe not.

Desk bikes let you burn extra calories without having to leave your desk.

It’s just like outdoor cycling, but indoors.

But are desk bikes physically taxing enough?

Can you skip “leg day” if you start under-desk cycling?

Do desk bikes work for everyone?

Do you need a desk bike if you regularly workout?

How is it any different from a stationary bike?

BMJ-British Medical Journal suggests that portable pedal machines, aka desk bikes, could help counter the harmful effects of prolonged periods spent at a desk.

Another study concludes that desk bikes had a positive effect on response speed across tasks requiring variable amounts of attention and inhibition.

Will it work for you?

Are desk bikes the simple, comfortable, healthy solution you’ve been searching for?

In this article I’m going to tell you about my own experience, the pros and the cons and what you can expect from using a desk bike, along with some tips to picking up the right one if you’re ready to give it a try.

By the way – before we get too far along here, if you want to get more great ideas for your home office and connect with other home office hackers to make your space the best join my free private Facebook group, Home Office Hacks here.

What are the benefits of an under desk bike?

Under desk bikes are great for those who want to work out while sitting at home. They are also great for those who do not like exercising in public places or don’t have the time and energy to drag themselves to the local gym.

The best thing about them is that they are easy to use and maintain.

An easy way to quell your restless legs and add some movement to your stationary hours.

In a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the University of Iowa gave 27 office employees a desk bike.

The researchers found that daily pedal time averaged 50 minutes per day with reports of weight loss, improved concentration, and fewer sick days.

Does it work for everyone? Probably not.

Peddling while working requires multi-tasking, and some people are just not comfortable with the idea.

Especially when their job requires focus and sheer concentration.

Some people just feel uncomfortable having bicycle pedals under their desks.

The optimal design and protocol for under-desk cycle use remain unclear. You must make some adjustments to accommodate the desk cycle.

Despite all these concerns, the positives of desk bikes cannot be overlooked.

Here are some under desk bike benefits:

Better blood flow

It helps you stay active during your work hours. Just placing your feet on the pedals will remove the pressure from the back of your legs. While pedaling, fresh and oxygenated blood reaches all your leg muscles, hence improving the overall blood flow and avoiding fluid retention.

In addition, pedaling improves circulation by increasing your heart rate. This increases the amount of blood pumped through the body. It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Influences cognitive performance

You don’t have to pedal throughout the day. Minimal workout like pedaling leads to the production of endorphins which are feel-good hormones. This results in higher productivity and a better mood.

A teacher installed bike pedals underneath her students’ desks and noticed a decrease in student fidgeting and an increase in student performance. The students seem to miss fewer assignments and focus better in class when they’re using the desk cycles to draw off their excess energy.

You release endorphins

Endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals produced by our bodies that give us feelings of happiness and well-being. They help reduce pain and stress, and improve mood. In addition, they increase energy levels and improve sleep quality.

The good news is that we can produce endorphins without having to go to the gym or run around the block. All we need to do is move our body and I’ve found that using an under desk bike is a great way to do this. Even something like walking up a flight of stairs will cause the production of endorphins. So what does that mean?

Well, let’s say you’re feeling tired and stressed out. Instead of sitting down and watching TV or surfing the web, why don’t you take a brisk walk outside? Just 30 minutes of moving your body will result in a release of endorphins that will make you feel better.

It will strengthen your legs

If you spend most of your day sitting at a computer, chances are your legs aren’t getting enough exercise. Desk cycling provides a low impact aerobic activity that strengthens your lower extremities.

An under desk bike will assist you to work on strengthening your legs throughout the day. All you need to do is pedal slowly and steadily, and you’ll soon notice how well your legs begin to develop.

Of course, the greater the tension you use, the faster you’ll develop, and the quicker you’ll start seeing results.

An under desk bike can help alleviate stiffness

An under desk bike can help alleviate stiffness and improve mobility by providing a low-impact way to stretch and move your legs while you’re working.

Instead of being sedentary while you’re at your desk, an under desk bike will help keep your joints mobile and limber.

And because they’re small and unobtrusive, under desk bikes can be used just about anywhere.

You can adjust resistance to fit your goals

An under desk bike is really easy to use, and at the same time, can easily be adjusted to fit your goals.

By adjusting the resistance on your under desk bike, you can customize your workout to match your desired exercise level.

The whole point is to maintain activity.

You really shouldn’t be trying to push yourself too hard because your focus should be on your work after all.

By pedaling during extended periods of sitting, you can offset the negative effects of sedentary behavior.

It will boost your metabolism

When you ride a desk cycle, you burn calories faster than if you were simply sitting still. You’ll be burning more calories per hour than if you were just sitting there doing nothing.

This means that even though you may not be able to see it, you’ll actually be losing weight over time.

Pedalling for only 10 minutes every hour will provide you with a moderate level of physical activity.

Can help you stay warm

Desk bikes don’t necessarily help you shed extra pounds but can keep you warm in a chilly office.

Caroline from Insider had to take breaks from typing because her hands would get numb from cold.

A few minutes of pedaling on difficulty level 3 or 4 on a desk bike helped her increase her body temperature allowing her to work coat-free.

Can lower your risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Desk bikes, like any other cycling solution, reduces the likeliness of getting Type 2 Diabetes.

And considering most people do not have the resources to engage in physical activity due to lack of time, desk cycles are the best option out there.

What Is a Desk Bike?

Desk bike, desk cycle, under-the-desk cycle, under-desk bike, portable pedal machines, foot peddler — it’s all the same thing.

A desk bike is a bicycle designed for use while sitting at a desk. It has two pedals, a tension control knob, a simple display that indicates how fast you’re pedaling, how far you’ve pedaled, and how many calories you’ve burned.

They are usually used by office workers who want to exercise while working. It has a low seat height, so they can pedal while sitting down.

Desk bikes are also great for people who have trouble getting up out of their chairs. They’re easy to ride, and they don’t require much strength or balance.

It is in no way a gym alternative but a good way to keep your heart pumping.

Some desk bikes come with just the pedals, meaning that there’s no seat attached to them. Some of them feature a seat and detachable tabletop too.

It’s almost like a bicycle; the only difference being is that a desk bike won’t take you anywhere.

Under desk bike drawbacks

All that glitters is not gold.

The idea of having bicycle pedals under your desks is tempting.

It’s something new, something out of the ordinary.

And it’s not entirely bad.

It draws you to move some of the largest muscles in your body while sitting — a perfect passive workout scheme.

But can you think of solving that big business problem while cycling?

Can you calculate the profit/loss of a big deal while your attention is divided?

Do you need a desk bike if you regularly workout?

Here are some drawbacks of desk bikes that you must take into consideration:

They can be distracting for some people

Yes, desks bikes do elevate your mood and productivity due to increased physical activity and blood flow, but it can be counterproductive as well. 

It’s only good if you are distracted enough.

For example, if you are watching a movie, playing a game, or doing passive tasks, like reading emails or browsing websites.

You will find it difficult to concentrate fully while the legs are in motion. Moving your legs in a circular or elliptical motion requires some concentration, especially when it’s at a higher resistance.

Your brain has to think to pedal and then think to write and concentrate on work.

That’s a lot of “multi-tasking” right there.

Your cognitive abilities begin to degrade as your heart rate reaches the cardio exercise level.

A study on The musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of under-desk cycling compared to sitting for office workers suggests that under-desk cycling had more body areas with increases in discomfort, which met clinically meaningful levels, and sustained attention reaction time was slower in under-desk cycling.

A desk bike might disrupt your workflow

The swivel base of the chair will bump into the desk bike.

You can stretch out your legs to reach the pedals but won’t be able to reach the keyboard and mouse easily.

If you are tall, your knees can potentially bump into the edge of the desk.

Also, you’ll need to frequently adjust your seat as the machine, or your chair may often move as you try to pedal. This in itself can be seriously disruptive to your workflow.

Physically taxing

Desk bikes can be tiring because you’re exercising the whole time! I know that’s the whole point, but for office workers, it can be overwhelming. Many who tried the desk cycle had sore legs at the end of the workday.

Moreover, desk bikes make you sweat, and sweating in the office can make people uncomfortable.

You get the idea.

How long should you use a biking desk each day?

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that just 23 minutes of pedaling a day could improve people’s health in similar desk-bound jobs.

It also depends on your goals.

Jason from Wandering Aimfully rode 759 miles (25 miles/day) in 30 days with an average of 1.5 hours cycling each day. He managed to burn 18,339 calories in just a month using a desk cycle.

The more time you spend pedaling, the more calories you burn.

For overweight people, pedaling 50 minutes each day will help in burning 107 calories without causing discomfort, bone pain, or muscle soreness.

Honestly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

You can use it when doing unimportant tasks and stop when you need to focus.

Once you get accustomed to it and the pedaling just becomes an involuntary action, use it all you want.

Are under desk bikes a good workout?

According to Mayo Clinic, you have to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat.

Can desk bikes alone help you become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger? No way!

Can desk bikes contribute towards weight loss? Yes, the more your pedal, the more calories you lose.

According to Healthline, the calorie burn may vary slightly between using an indoor stationary bike and biking outside. The reason is that there is no wind resistance or inclines involved in under-the-desk cycling.

The number of calories burned riding a stationary bicycle or a desk bike at a “moderate” pace (12 to 13.9 miles per hour) varies based on what a person weighs.

For 30 minutes, the following are calories burned by average weight:

  • 125 pounds: 210 calories
  • 155 pounds: 260 calories

You can improve the figures by spending more time on the desk bike.

Robert Hopper, exercise physiologist Robert Hopper, says, “I don’t think it’s going to be a big calorie burner, but it’s the idea of the stillness in sitting that’s the problem.”

It is a great way to add a little bit of daily exercise to your work routine without disrupting the entire workday.

The bottom line is: Just being on the desk bike for an hour at a decent resistance can really make a difference.

Who uses desk bikes?

People all over the world use desk bikes every day.

People who spend most of their time seated at a computer tend to develop poor posture. This leads to neck pains and other health related issues. These people often benefit greatly from using a desk bike.

Some people simply enjoy exercising while doing their jobs and many people prefer cycling instead of walking on a treadmill desk because it’s less hard on your body.

Using a desk cycle it can provide a range of movement that’s comfortable but not too much.

As mentioned before, teachers are using desk bikes to help kids burn extra energy and keep them from being too fidgety.

In addition, there are numerous people working from home and working in desk jobs that are using under desk bikes too.

In my own personal experience, after I had surgery to repair my torn ACL in my left knee, one of the best things I did was to use a bike to rebuild the range of motion needed to function normally.

For those of you who are like me and need to keep moving for these kinds of reasons, a desk bike might be a perfect fit for you to stay mobile and moving during the times you’d otherwise be sedentary sitting at your desk.

Desk bikes can work really well with adjustable height desks

You have to sit in a weird position to actually use the desk bike.

Otherwise, your knees will crash into the underside of the desk.

You might have to adjust the chair to its lowest position and lean back.

If you are tall, it’ll hurt even more during pedaling. You’ll find your legs bumping into the desktop with every rotation.

These problems can be addressed by having a height-adjustable desk.

You can adjust the height such that your legs do not touch the top when pedaling. This’ll allow you to have enough space for easy movement.

Measure the pedal height and stroke length to get an idea of how high a unit will raise your knees while you pedal.

For most desk bikes, you will need an additional four to six inches of clearance above your knees to ensure you will not hit the bottom of your desk when pedaling.

The desk cycle will not work for those who like to have the laptop on their lap while working. Your laptop will bounce up with your knees on each rotation.

An adjustable standing laptop tray can help with this.

Desk Bikes Vs. Treadmill Desks

Feature Desk Bikes Treadmill Desks
Cost $ $$$
Flexibility ✔️
Arm/Leg Workout ✔️ ✔️
Calf Muscles Workout ✔️ ✔️
Use With Your Desk ✔️ ✔️
Pedaling ✔️
Use While Sitting ✔️
Use While Standing ✔️
Multiple Resistance Levels ✔️ ✔️
Computer Hunch Posture. ✔️
Space Can fit under the desk Take a lot more space

 

How to buy a desk bike?

Buying a new desk bike can be a bit tricky, considering it is not that common.

Here are a few handy questions that’ll help you grab the best deal:

  • Can you fit it under the desk?
  • Does it work well with the chair?
  • Can you easily pedal under the desk?
  • Do your knees touch the tabletop or the edge?
  • Can you move the desk cycle easily?
  • Does it stay put while you pedal?
  • Does it have an electronic monitor to track calories and miles?
  • Does it have a built-in table and chair?
  • Can you customize the monitor height and typing angle?
  • What about ergonomics?
GOREDI Pedal Exerciser Stationary Under Desk Mini Exercise Bike

GOREDI Pedal Exerciser Stationary Under Desk Mini Exercise Bike – Peddler Exerciser with LCD Display, Foot Pedal Exerciser for Seniors,Arm/Leg Exercise

  • Unlike ordinary plastic flywheels, this seated pedal exerciser features a heavy metal flywheel to improve stability. An internal 5-pound steel flywheel makes it effortless to use in for a long time, and can bear more than 400 pounds.
  • GOREDI level up fitness cycle provides gentle low-impact exercises for muscles, effectively helps stimulate and improve blood circulation, which is very beneficial to the movement and recovery of legs and arms. The quiet and smooth pedal movement allows you to use it in the office or home without disturbing others.

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Mini Exercise Bike, AGM Under Desk Bike Pedal Exerciser Foot Cycle Arm & Leg Pedal Exerciser with LCD Screen Displays

Mini Exercise Bike, AGM Under Desk Bike Pedal Exerciser Foot Cycle Arm & Leg Pedal Exerciser with LCD Screen Displays

  • AGM pedal exerciser can be used for arms and legs exercises to improve muscle strength, joint range of motion and coordination. You can use it on table top as an arm exerciser or placed on the floor to your legs exerciser while sitting.
  • With 12.6′ height, this portable pedal foot cycle exerciser machine can be easily fitted under desk or similar space, perfect for exercising in office or at home!

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Exerpeutic ExerWorK 1000 Fully Adjustable Desk Folding Exercise Bike with Pulse

Exerpeutic ExerWorK 1000 Fully Adjustable Desk Folding Exercise Bike with Pulse

  • Sliding Desktop: large fully adjustable desktop with tilt, forward, back, up and down adjustability for sitting or standing positions. 3 angle adjustments (0, 16 and 33 degrees), 5 height adjustments 41″ up to 45″. Storage Drawer. Arm rest. LCD Computer
  • Patented XBike Desk and Exercise Semi-Recumbent Bicycle. 2.5″ Thick large AirSoft seat with extra comfort. Adjustable to fit 5’1” to 6’3” user height

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Buy On Exerpeutic

Next Steps

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Robert David Orr

Robert is a writer & creator, author of the WordPress Website Blueprint, award winning web developer, and leader in digital strategy. He's also a tenured work at home veteran who's been working from home for more than 10 years. Learn more. Got questions? Reach out and connect here - Contact Home Office Hacks here.

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