The 10 Best Desk Ellipticals
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in March of 2016. So you think you don't have the time for exercise because you're too busy at the office? Think again. These ellipticals fit under most desks and let you pedal away calories, improve your stamina, and increase cardiovascular health, all while you keep working. They're also ideal for slipping in a quick session when watching TV, so it looks like all those excuses you had are officially busted. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 15, 2020:
I don’t want to take anything away from the previous editors note, and I would apply the same reasoning to any of the new models on this list. However, I did want to move this list towards including more models that were exclusively made for seated use – after all, one of the two operational words in this niche is ‘desk’.
As a rule of thumb, stepper-type models that use hydraulics are suitable for use while standing. By that logic, the only model here really suitable for standing use is the Sunny Health & Fitness Stepper, since I’ve removed the Serene Life Fitness. We do have a separate list for stepper machines that should include some portable models like the Serene Life.
While models like the J/Fit Mini and Stamina In-Motion Trainer may be rated for standing use, it really depends on how much you weigh and how long and frequently you plan to stand on them for. You can see from the design that their frames aren't quite as rugged as the true standing models that use hydraulics and no wheels, like the Sunny Health & Fitness that I mentioned earlier. If you want to use an elliptical while standing up then you may be better off using a full-sized indoor model, or even an outdoor model if it tickles your fancy.
Models like the Desk Cycle 2 provide a slightly different type of motion to the elliptical, though I’m happy to include them here as we wouldn't create a separate list for such a narrow product niche. While I’ve decided to take out the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic which was the other model with cycle pedals in this list, I have included a special honor for Cycli, which, like Cubii is a brand that’s solely dedicated to making a single group of niche products. While narrowly focused brands don’t necessarily guarantee high-quality products, this is the case with both Cycli and Cubii.
May 31, 2019:
If you want to get a workout while you're working, unless you have your own office with a door that closes, your first priority is going to be to find a unit that operates quietly. A lot of models will start out quiet and then develop a squeak over time. One way to avoid this is to be sure to buy a machine that will that was designed to be used the way you want to use it. For instance, if you want to use it standing as well as sitting choose a model that can handle the full weight of your body.
The Stamina In-Motion is a simple but durable model that fits unobtrusively under a desk, but can be used standing without causing it to develop a squeak. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it's simplicity is what makes it popular.
Choices like the Sunny Health & Fitness Stepper and the Serene Life Fitness come with arm resistance bands that are really only practical to use when standing, so these models are also a good choice if you want the option of using them sitting or standing.
Cycli Touted as being the world’s first ‘social’ cycle, Cycli uses Bluetooth connectivity to track your metrics. You’ll need their app on your phone to compare data between users, but if everyone in your office gets one, you could technically have races or see who’s burnt the most calories during the week. cycli.com
What to Look For In A Desk Elliptical
It is important to increase the tension as time goes on, as once the body gets used to a certain level, it adapts, and that same workout will no longer be as beneficial.
When on the hunt for the perfect elliptical machine to fit under the desk or at the foot of the couch, there are a few important considerations to make before buying.
Some users would like to have full control over the difficulty of their workout from a comfortable position. While most units offer a hand cranked way to increase the tension and burn more calories, these users may benefit more from models that have a foot-shifter to adjust their tension levels. It is important to increase the tension as time goes on, as once the body gets used to a certain level, it adapts, and that same workout will no longer be as beneficial. Having an easy way to reduce this training adaptation can keep the body burning calories from the comfort of your desk or couch with ease.
It is always a smart idea to choose a unit that has non-slip pads on the bottom of its feet, as well. While this may not be as big of an issue to people who intend to use the machines on the carpet at the foot of the couch, those who need to use the machines on tile or wood floors will greatly benefit from it.
Many people also enjoy the knowledge that some units' integrated apps provide. Exercise data loggers in the onboard computers of many models provide accurate and relatively inexpensive monitoring of exercise parameters. They can then send the recorded information about the user's activity to the related app. This allows one to keep track of their performance, distance traveled, and calories burned directly from the app, and even set hourly or daily goals to keep themselves inspired. It has been found that tracking one's health-related activities, from food intake to activity levels, helps a person reach weight-loss goals.
On the other hand, some prefer the simplest approach. Rather than track every step, they simply want to move. For them, very basic, low-cost models are available that are little more than a base, pedals, and a tension adjuster.
Who Benefits Most From Using A Desk Elliptical?
As the name would suggest, desk ellipticals are most commonly found under a desk. Their small design elements, low profile, and ease of use make them perfectly suited to the needs of the average office worker. That average worker spends almost six hours of the day at a desk. This prolonged sitting has been linked to numerous chronic disorders, and the act itself is detrimental to the health. A recent study also found that nearly 70 percent of employees do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. This may be linked to that fact that those who sit for longer hours at work are more likely to sit for longer hours outside of work, as well. In fact, the average office worker exercises less than one day a week. To help combat this trend, workers are turning to tools like desk ellipticals to keep themselves active on the job. These hidden workout tools can help burn calories, raise the heart rate, and relieve stress, all without interrupting the user's normal office habits.
This may be linked to that fact that those who sit for longer hours at work are more likely to sit for longer hours outside of work, as well.
Desk ellipticals do not have to stay at the office, however. These units can be taken home and positioned at the foot of any couch or armchair, making them the perfect way to both exercise and relax at the same time.
Some may even seek to take their immersive virtual reality gaming to another level. While most VR units don't require the player to actually move in order to move the character, creating this feeling by walking on an elliptical while playing can generate a more seamless experience for these users. It can also add a level of exercise to the VR experience, stimulating both the brain and body.
Elliptical Versus Exercise Bike: Which Is Better?
Ellipticals and exercise bikes can work many of the same muscle groups, and are both designed for cardio activity, but which is better? Understanding the similarities and differences between the two can help you make the right decision when choosing between them. One of the key benefits of both of these machines is that they allow you to burn calories quickly and easily, which not only helps you manage your weight, but may also prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases. This is because both are designed for high-intensity cardio activity with varying levels of resistance. A comparative study has found that the average person will burn more calories during a workout on an exercise bike, but only if you measure the results from going at a vigorous pace.
They store easily under most desks or coffee tables, and they fit beside couches without becoming an eyesore.
Both machines also allow you to engage in other passive activities such as watching television or reading. At the gym, this is usually easily accomplished as both machines are often positioned in front of television screens or have stands which allow users to read a book while working out. In the personal environment, this often has to be accomplished by positioning the equipment in front of the television or holding a book while using it. With a large exercise bike, this may not be easily accomplished. A desk elliptical is much easier to position specifically in a room.
The size difference is also a determining factor in which option is better for many users. Most people simply do not have the space to allow for a full-sized exercise bike to take up an entire corner of their living room or office. For them, a desk elliptical is the perfect solution. They store easily under most desks or coffee tables, and they fit beside couches without becoming an eyesore.
Both of the machines are designed to help a variety of users increase their cardio capacity, burn calories, and stay in shape. Which one is better will depend entirely on the user's specific situation. Many home athletes favor the desk elliptical due to their space-saving design and ease of use.