RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—To counteract the unhealthy effects of too much sitting, it’s important to incorporate frequent movement breaks into your day. But what if you don't have many opportunities to get and move around? One solution is use a portable, under-the-desk pedal exercise machine, like the type studied in a recent report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In a small study with big implications for the connection between sitting and health, the researchers set out to test the feasibility and use of a pedal exerciser in the workplace, and its effects on reducing workplace sedentary time. For four weeks, 18 (mostly female) participants from sedentary occupations were given access to a pedal exercise machine at work. The researchers analyzed use of the pedal exerciser using exercise tracking software, which monitored pedal activity and provided real-time feedback on speed, time, distance, and caloric burn. After four weeks, the study participants had used the machines on 12 out of a possible 20 work days, and had pedaled for an average of 23 minutes daily. The average caloric burn was approximately 180 calories per day. And most promisingly, the participants found the machines feasible for work use, and reported a decrease in sedentary time at work thanks to the machine.
Interested in trying one out? We asked study coauthor Lucas Carr, PhD, of the department of exercise and sport science at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, to give us the lowdown on choosing and using a pedal machine.
Here’s how to get the most out of a pedal exerciser:
• Try before you buy. Carr says to look for a sturdy pedal machine that won’t slip and move under your feet. It needs to work smoothly and quietly, as well. His study participants used the MagneTrainer. Other models are available, at a wide range of prices. Look for pedal exercisers at stores that specialize in exercise and fitness equipment; some mass-market retailers offer them as well. If you can't try one out ahead of time, or want to order online, check the seller's return policy in case the machine doesn't meet your needs.
• Check the fit. Measure the available space and check the dimensions of the pedal exerciser before buying, to make sure it will fit under your desk. Remember you'll need space for your legs to move, too. Carr says he's modified his desk with a stand that elevates his keyboard so he can pedal comfortably while typing.
• Think about features. A bare-bones pedal exerciser can sell for as little as $30; more expensive models tend to offer a wider range of resistance settings, and the ability to monitor and record your progress. That may be worth the extra investment; research shows that we're more likely to actually use exercise equipment if it tracks our activity levels. Setting up and using the devices is generally very easy, says Carr. His upcoming research will explore how much pedaling is necessary for health benefits, and appropriate goals for beginners.
Published on: March 3, 2011
Updated on: January 19, 2012