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Sedentary Job? Try Pedaling at Your Desk

Portable Pedaling Exercise Machine Helps Deskbound Workers Burn Calories, Improve Health, Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Feb. 14, 2011 -- Portable bicycle-like devices that allow people to pedal at their desks or workstations could counter some of the negative effects of sedentary behavior on the job, a new study says.

Researchers reached that conclusion after giving 18 full-time workers a portable pedaling exercise machine specifically designed to be used while seated at a desk or workstation, and let the volunteers keep the devices for four weeks.

The average age of the volunteers was 40 and most were female and overweight, working sedentary jobs that required them to spend 75% of their working day sitting at a workstation or desk.

Pedaling Pounds Away

The participants used the pedal machines on average 12 out of a possible 20 working days, for an average of 23 minutes a day, according to information downloaded from computers that were wired to the portable exercise bicycles.

The computers provided real-time feedback on pedal speed, distance covered, and calories burned, so the volunteers were able to monitor their activity while exercising. The distance covered per day ranged from a third of a mile to almost 13.5 miles, with nine to more than 500 calories burned in the process.

After four weeks, the participants completed a questionnaire about the feasibility of introducing a similar machine into their workplaces. The volunteers overwhelmingly said they would use such a machine at work on a regular basis if their employer offered one.

The devices cost $129, and the software that allows users to monitor their workouts costs $49, says study researcher Lucas Carr, PhD, assistant professor in East Carolina University's department of exercise and sports medicine.

Pedaling on the Job May Not Affect Work Quality or Productivity

The volunteers said the pedaling machine had no effect on their productivity or the quality of their work.

The researchers say the novelty of the pedaling machine “appeared to wear off over time,” but the volunteers maintained the intensity of the physical activity over the four-week period.

The authors say just 23 minutes of pedaling a day could improve the health of people in similar desk-bound jobs.

The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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