Are Peddle Desks the Next Office Fitness Trend?

You’ve probably come across balance ball chairs, sit-stand desks and treadmill desks in workplaces – but could peddle desks become the next office fitness trend?

For those who want to improve upon their physical activity whilst sat at work, a rising fitness trend known as peddle desks could be the next to take workplaces by storm. A new pilot study by kinesiologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst concludes that performing the action of peddling during seated work tasks can improve insulin levels. More importantly for employers, the action of peddling using peddle desks didn’t lead to a decrease in work performance.

Peddle Desks as an Office Fitness Alternative

Much has been made about the impact of sedentary work routines. Several solutions have been proposed, including the likes of sit-stand desks and balance ball chairs. But their feasibility throughout the work day is often put into question. In terms of sit-stand solutions, there is a concern that standing too long could be just as harmful as staying seated for long periods of time. However, lead investigator of the study, Dr Stuart Chipkin, believes that peddle desks could pose as a realistic office fitness alternative, stating that:

“The desks are a good alternative for people who don’t have time to go to the gym before or after work.”

The Peddle Desk Experiment

Chipkin’s comments are further backed up by a recent experiment both he and the research team were able to conduct earlier this month. Using a prototype Pennington Peddle Desk, the team recruited 12 participants, considered to be medically overweight/obese. The participants comprised of six men and six women who worked full time hours in an office. Testing them at two different conditions (pedaling at a self-selected light intensity pace for two hours and working whilst seated for two hours at a conventional work desk), the researchers analyzed some typical work activity areas. These were computer mouse proficiency, reading comprehension, typing speed and accuracy. In these areas, the research team noted no significant changes.

Participants in the study also had to provide blood samples after eating a light meal for the experiments. This was done to help the researchers further analyze the metabolic responses of glucose, insulin and fatty free acids. Chipkin and his team were able to report that the peddle desks required a significantly lower amount of insulin in order to maintain glucose and concentration levels when compared with regular desk work, summarizing:

It took much less insulin to keep their blood sugars the same. This means that the body doesn’t work so hard to maintain blood glucose and fatty acid levels with use of the peddle desk compared to a standard desk. From the metabolic point of view, the pedal desk seems to be helpful and from the work point of view, work tasks were not impaired.”

Future Research

Whilst the findings paint for a positive picture for the use of peddle desks, Chipkin did remark that he plans to further explore the result of the peddle desks on people with diabetes, noting:

“While there were no changes in blood glucose or free fatty acids, none would be expected in a group of subjects without diabetes”

As a result, Chipkin and his team now hope to conduct a larger and longer-term study to further enhance their research findings, with a real-world setting in which half of the employees use peddle desks and half using more conventional desks currently in discussion.

What do you think about the possibility of peddle desks being introduced into the workplace environment? Do you think the idea is just another office fitness fad or would you be willing to give one a try to test the health benefits?

Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @OfficeSuppBlog with your thoughts.

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Sam Rose