Trying to squeeze a workout in is not easy for many office workers. They barely get up to stretch or grab a bite all day, much less take time to hit a company or nearby gym midday. A new study offers a workout solution for many with a sedentary lifestyle is to exercise at their desk periodically throughout the day, while at work, with a portable pedaling device (basically the pedaling part of an exercycle).
Research efforts continually show the physical and mental harm in not getting any exercise and sitting most of the day. Prolonged sitting puts people at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even depression. Getting up for stretch breaks is helpful for circulation, but does not produce the same effects as regular exercise.
Many companies try to encourage physical activity by providing employees with expensive fitness facilities. But employees often feel they do not have the time to leave their desk and spend 30 to 60 minutes away from their desk and responsibilities. Additionally, those who are very out of shape do not always want to exhibit their lack of fitness to their peers in the gym or the locker room. So, the concept of working out discretely while working is an intriguing one.
A new University of Iowa study found that inspiring office employees to be active at work by pedaling a bike at heir desks can be an effective solution. In the new research effort, 27 employees at a company located in Iowa City volunteered to have a pedal device placed under their desks. The participants were encouraged to use the portable pedaling device while reading emails, typing and talking on the phone.
An activity monitor on each device tracked the user’s daily pedal time. In addition, the workers with the devices were sent a few emails each week with reminders and tips about exercising at work, shifting their posture and standing regularly throughout the day.
Over the 16-week study period, the participants averaged 50 minutes of cycling per work day. When the study concluded, 70 percent of participants chose to keep their pedaling device. The test subjects also reported that they lost weight, felt they had better power of concentration, and took fewer sick days.
The study details and results appeared in this month’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Lucas J. Carr, the research study’s co-author, who is an assistant professor of human physiology and health at the University of Iowa, also shared his findings at the recent Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
Carr’s most recent study was the third and longest of a series conducted to test portable pedal machines for those who have sedentary jobs. “We are really looking to identify sustainable solutions,” he explained in a university press release. “That’s what we are working towards—how do we help people engage in healthy behaviors that can be sustained over the long term.”
Carr also explained that their various studies found that the design of the device is important to ensure regular use. They also found that people preferred privacy. Something obvious in a common area or a shared device did not appeal to most workers. The participants liked the idea of pedaling at the desk while talking on the telephone, which offers them a chance to workout in the middle of and throughout their work day.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
University of Iowa: Work, pedal, and be healthy
Medical News Today: Under-the-desk pedal device could reduce sedentary behavior for office workers
Christian Science Monitor: To work or to work out? That may no longer be the question