Under Desk Ellipticals: Do They Actually Work? 

Under Desk Ellipticals Do They Actually Work

September 22, 2021

Our bodies feel the consequences of sitting at a work computer all day. This sedentary lifestyle is the norm for most people, but it leaves little opportunity to spend energy and feel physically active. If we spend 40+ hours a week sitting down, how are we supposed to counteract the dangerous repercussions of a sedentary life? 

Enter the under-desk elliptical machine. This compact piece of exercise equipment can help keep you active at work, tone your leg muscles and even help with weight loss. Sounds great, right? But is it too good to be true? And do these machines actually work?

Below, we'll share everything you need to know about this exercise equipment and whether it's worth the hype. 

Finding Time to Exercise

Those who work at a desk but seek physically active lives must find time around their office hours to exercise. They may have to wake up a few hours early before work or head off to the gym late in the evening.

However, an under-desk elliptical machine is created to save people time and encourage multitasking at work. Although this method will not burn as many calories as heart-pumping exercises like running, biking, or HIIT, those using a desk elliptical will burn about 150 calories per hour. So, it's time well spent when you could just be sitting at your desk. 

Users have also noticed that these machines aren't so rigorous that you will become distracted from your work tasks, almost as simple as walking and talking. This way, you lose track of time, and before you know it, you have an hour of physical activity under your belt without thinking about it. 

What Are My Options?

You have many options when it comes to under desk elliptical machines, the most common being: 

  • Traditional Under Desk Ellipticals. These are the basic models that allow you to sit and pedal while you work. They fit perfectly underneath your desk, and high-quality models are very quiet.
  • Standing Ellipticals. Then, you have the ellipticals you can use while sitting or standing. Note that they are much louder when you're standing since there is more weight on the machine.
  • Magnetic Resistance Ellipticals. If you want a way to control pedaling resistance, go with a magnetic resistance option. With one, you'll be able to adjust the intensity of this machine whenever you'd like.
  • Air Resistance Ellipticals. This type of desk elliptical uses a rotating fan to blow air pressure into the flywheel mechanism to provide resistance. It makes more noise than magnetic resistance machines but is less expensive.

There are even options that come with the seat, peddler, and desk all attached. This option ensures that when you're working, you're also moving. As you can see, your options are plenty. Regardless of what you're looking for, there's an under desk elliptical machine for you. 

Should You Buy an Under Desk Elliptical Machine?

Desk ellipticals, as opposed to other options, are extremely compact, making it an easy solution for anyone with a tighter space. They are also lighter and easier to carry if you ever need to relocate them. 

Another benefit to these devices is that you can change resistance levels to make them more or less rigorous to suit your needs. However, it should be noted that if you're looking to really build up your muscles or break a hard sweat, this device won't make the cut. Although you can increase your resistance level, it won't be enough to substitute for intense strength training. 

However, if the price is your concern, under desk ellipticals are cost-effective, generally between $100 and $300. So, if you're someone looking for an effective way to keep active without breaking the bank, these machines may be right for you. 

How Effective are Under Desk Ellipticals to Reduce Body Fat?

Health experts note that the best way to lose weight and reduce body fat is to be in a calorie deficit. Basically, this means you need to burn more calories than you eat.

Sitting down alone, unfortunately, isn't an effective way to burn those calories. However, by using a desk elliptical to get some movement in, you have a greater chance of being in a calorie deficit because you are burning more active calories throughout the day without having to carve out time to hit the gym. 

Of course, you can't just count on exercise — diet plays an important role in weight loss as well. So, using this under-desk elliptical combined with healthy eating habits will be more effective at reducing body fat than otherwise. 

How Much Time Do I Need to Exercise to See Results?

While you may feel the rush of those feel-good endorphins after you break a little sweat, to see results when you exercise consistency is key. If you plan on starting to exercise, making a sustainable habit of it is the best way to see long-term results such as increased muscle mass, fat loss, and lowered resting heart rate. 

Although results may vary from person to person, trainer Danyele Wilson notes that initial changes may start from four to six weeks, but actual results start to occur within eight to twelve weeks. That is if you remain consistent with exercising at least 3-4 times a week. 

Again, if you're looking to achieve a higher level of functional fitness or achieve bodybuilder status, under desk ellipticals won't be your holy grail. However, adding this type of exercise to your daily life will help you on the path to feeling like your best self without having to spend hours and hours of your precious time at the gym. 

How Often Should I Use It?

Since the desk elliptical is made to use while you work, try aiming to use it every workday for maximum effectiveness. Your desk elliptical can give you that extra “oomph” you need to get those 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise health professionals all always recommend. 

Keep in mind that the intensity level of this equipment is purposefully low so you don't get caught up in heavy breathing or intense sweat while you do your job, so adding a little more than 30 minutes a day should keep you on the right track. Depending on your fitness goals, you can add multiple 20-45 minute sessions throughout your day for maximum calorie burning.

If you are able to fit in two thirty-minute pedaling sessions per workday, you'll burn an extra 150 active calories a day. Multiply that by five days a week, and bam! You've burnt 750 more calories a week than you would have without your discreet piece of exercise equipment. 


Under desk elliptical machines are incredibly useful tools for people who are forced into prolonged periods of sitting due to their job. They can help with weight loss by increasing your active calorie burn per day and are a cost-effective alternative to other desk workout equipment. 

Even with the various resistance levels, they aren't necessarily going to transform your body overnight, nor should they be a substitute for cardio or strength training. For the best results, combine your daily pedaling with occasional cardio and strength workouts to help you feel at your healthiest.

About the author 

Kevin Lee

Health and fitness have always been a passion for me; whether its being in the weight room, going for a run before work or even participating in a half iron man triathlon. ShapeJunkie was created to share to knowledge and love of fitness with others.

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