Under under desk cycles just another fitness fad?

Isokinetics Inc. Pedal Exerciser

Cycling to work is just not possible for many people with a long commute, however a paper written by researchers from East Carolina University and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has suggested an alternative approach – get people to cycle while at work!

The idea is that mini pedal cycles could be installed under desks and then people can cycle while doing a desk job. It sounds like a very silly idea, but it may actually not be so daft as it first appears.

“Findings from this study suggest that this pedal machine may be a feasible tool for reducing sedentary time while at work. These findings hold public health significance due to the growing number of sedentary jobs in the USA and the potential of the device for use in large-scale worksite health programmes.” Walaska et al, 2011.

Office workers spend from 6 hours a day seated, almost entirely motionless most of the time. Some office workers spend even longer, putting in 9 hour days with only short breaks throughout the day. Many working in stressful environments such as investment banking will even stay at their desks to eat lunch. Some banks have introduced trolley services so busy workers do not need to get up and walk to the staff canteen.

There is a link between lack of exercise and obesity, and for some people just exercising on a regular basis could be enough to reduce obesity. For example, some people are genetically pre-disposed to become obese, but only if they do not exercise. There is evidence to show that people who carry the Trp64Arg variant of the ADRB3 gene have an increased chance of obesity, but exercise seems to be enough for these people to manage their weight. It is estimated that up to 25% of people carry this variant gene, so increasing exercise really could be the solution to many people’s weight problems. We shall be discussing this further in a new article on genetics and obesity.

The novelty wears off

In the study into using mini pedal cycles under desks, workers soon got bored with the idea. The novelty wore off and usage plummeted.

Really this idea is one that appeals to managers more than staff. It would be cheaper for a company to install a pedal cycle under each desk than provide free gym membership, and also it means that staff stay seated at their desks. Managers want staff to be sedentary as this means that they are in the office and working.

Although regular exercise helps to clear the mind and improve thinking many managers really still prefer their staff to remain under their ever watchful eye. So the pedal cycles could be a good idea.

Maybe if each cycle measured distance pedaled and people received awards for reaches targets, such as a massage or free lunch, then people would use them more.


Feasibility of a portable pedal exercise machine for reducing sedentary time in the workplace” by Lucas J Carr1, Kristen A Walaska, Bess H Marcus. Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.079574. Abstract.

More like this in the Weight Loss section

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