People generally file under desk bikes in one of two places: too good to be true, or looks like some rubbish from late-night shopping channels. In this guide, we’re uncovering the truth about these interesting fitness gadgets and finding out just how effective they are at offsetting the effects of the dreaded sitting.
Why on earth would anyone stick a bike under their desk?
Sedentary office jobs put our minds to work but require very little physical movement.
Spending 8 hours a day hunching over a computer is terrible for our health. Here are some of the downsides to too much sitting during the day:
- It inhibits blood flow which is needed to support a range of organ and bodily functions
- It can cause aches and pains
- You can experience weight gain
- And increase the risk of developing diabetes
- Long periods of inactivity also make us lethargic, thus hampering our plans to work out after work.
In addition to this, if you like to cross your legs while you work you could be unknowingly putting your heart and hip joints under extra strain, as well as causing blood pooling in the veins of your legs which can damage them over time.
In this post, we are going to look at some things you can do to inject a bit of movement into your day to fight back against these risks.
What exactly is an under-desk bike?
Also known as mini exercise bike, under desk peddlers are stripped back exercise bikes that get rid of everything but the pedals and some form of flywheel resistance. Their relatively flat design means they will slide under any desk and you don’t need anything special. Your regular work station will do nicely.
Do desk bikes work?
Yes. While they might seem like a gimmick (and some of the really cheap ones are little more than that) desk bikes like the DeskCycle 2 offer some real benefits to anyone looking to move more while they’re sitting down.
The main benefits of an under-desk cycle are:
- They keep you moving, which improves circulation.
- You can burn off some extra calories, albeit less than ‘real’ cycling.
- Strengthen your leg and core muscles
How can an under desk bike help you sit down all day and still be healthy?
OK, everyone knows by now that sitting on your bum all day isn’t the best way to stay in good health. So how can you work around this?
According to studies, exercising each day is one way to still be able to work a desk job and stay healthy. Researches found that the ideal amount of working out for adults was 60 – 75 minutes of moderate exercise each day. Although the NHS site recommends just 150 minutes per week.
You can also use an under-desk bike like that will let you do some of that all-important exercise while you’re at work.
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Are desk cycles effective?
Although they don’t match the same level of intensity as a spin bike, or upright exercise bike, the mechanics are the same and you’ll reap the benefits (at a slower pace).
Whether you go for a combined desk bike, or one that slips under your current desk, both are effective at offsetting the effects of too much sitting.
The goal here isn’t calorie counting though, it’s doing some physical exercise at a time where you’d normally be completely sedentary. In that respect, under desks to a great job.
How many calories can you burn pedalling at your desk in an average work week?
An average workweek, spent using the desk cycle regularly should amount to around 500 calories (around 100 per workday). While it’s slightly discouraging to think that’s a mere biscuit, it could still be enough to tip the scales in your favour over a long period of time, combined with a good eating plan.
Which is the best under desk bike? We really liked the DeskCycle 2 (check out our full review here).
Combined desk peddlers
Cycle desks are adapted stationary bikes that are specifically designed for office work. The handles of a stationary bike are replaced with a slightly tilted surface that can be adjusted to a comfortable height and angle that you put your laptop on.
The seat is built for prolonged periods of sitting; it is broader and more padded than a regular exercise bike seat.
With a little practice, you should be able to do your normal desk work while peddling. There is less interference with the upper body than there would be on a treadmill because the seat supports and stabilises you.
A cycle desk promotes blood circulation and helps to flush out the knee joints that can otherwise get stiff from prolonged bouts of inactivity. Cheaper portable versions of cycle desks are available as under desk freestanding pedals. These can be a good entry option to discover if this style of working suits you.
Alternatives to under desk bikes
If you don’t like the idea of using a bike at your workstation, there’s a number of other things you can do. Let’s take a look at some other ways to stay in shape at the office.
Under desk treadmills are a good way to stay in shape at work
An under-desk treadmill is a base-only treadmill that can be combined with a standing desk to create an active workstation. Essentially, it allows you to walk while you work.
It would be too difficult to run while you work because you would jostle too much.
Walking at a gentle pace burns more energy than sitting, which adds up over the course of the day. Walking also prevents back pain because the body does not get stuck in one position and promotes blood circulation.
However, it can be difficult to adjust to computer work on a treadmill because even small amounts of movement interfere with fine motor skills.
An under-desk treadmill might be more suited to work that does not require too much typing such as attending a virtual meeting or voice-typing documents.
7 Expert tips to staying active at your desk
Not everyone likes using an under desk bike or treadmill as they find it difficult to adjust to doing separate tasks with the upper and lower parts of their body. Some might find that their boss does not want to accommodate this style of working either.
There are other ways of staying fit while you sit down all day…most of which involve getting up!
- Use the 25:5 method – Get into the habit of structuring your workday like this: do 25 minutes of desk work then get away from your desk for 5 minutes. This simple (but not always easy to stick to) concept ensures you’ll be able to stay healthy even if your job involves lots of seated time.
- Try jogging and Yoga – You could use this time to jog on the spot or do some yoga stretches if you are working from home. In the office, you might choose to go to take the stairs to a different floor and come back, go to the watercooler or make a herbal tea.
- Get your boss on side – Remind them that health and safety laws allow you to take reasonable steps to protect your health at work. The 25:5 method supports eye health (eye strain is a recognised risk of office work), back health, and overall wellbeing, and is a reasonable way of structuring your workday.
- Use your work breaks wisely – Go out for a short walk or hop on your treadmill for a short burst, do a 15-minute yoga session, stretch out your back…whatever works for you.
- Kick your snacking habit at work – Do not fall into the habit of snacking and grazing throughout the day and make good food choices when you eat your meals. Your office chair should be supportive enough, you do not need your bum to add an extra layer of padding!
- Set an hourly reminder – If you can’t stick to the 25:5 method, try to go for some exercise each hour. Setting a reminder in something like Google Calendar (which is free) or any app you prefer is a good way to force yourself into the habit of getting up and about.
- Move at your desk – There are a lot of things you can do at your desk to move more. Something as simple as straightening out your legs 10 reps will help. Stretching arms up and out, swivelling on your chair (if you can) and rotating your shoulders are also great ways to move more at your desk.