Today, we are busier than ever. Trying to find time to exercise after a long day at work can be tough.
However, it is now possible to exercise while sat at your desk. This article will bring you my best under desk elliptical machines, allowing you to improve fitness and save time.
What Is an Under Desk Elliptical?
Under desk elliptical trainers mimic the same elongated movement as their full-size counterparts. However, as they are smaller they can sit inconspicuously under your desk. This enables you to exercise while working on that important project.
Many of these include LCD displays allowing you to track your progress while you exercise. In addition, they are usually very quiet meaning you will not annoy your co-workers.
Your feet simply sit on the plates and you begin to rotate them in an elliptical shape (like a squashed circle). Here’s a video showing an elliptical in action.
Is an Under Desk Elliptical the Same as an Under Desk Cycle?
In short, no. Although they are somewhat similar.
Both of these machines are designed to provide under-desk exercise—by propelling either machine with the feet.
However, there are three important differences.
An under desk cycle (or pedal exerciser) has a circular movement—the same as when you ride a bicycle. An elliptical moves the feet in a more lateral shape—the feet still rotate but resemble an elongated circle.
The vertical movement on an under desk elliptical requires less space than a cycle. Therefore, you are less likely to hit your knees on the underside of the desk.
Under desk cycles have pedals which resemble those on a bicycle. They are traditionally small with restraining straps. Ellipticals have foot “plates.” They are large and allow the foot to sit on them.
This means that people with larger feet may be better suited to an elliptical. In addition, the plates allow for a greater variety of foot positions (balls, heels and flat foot.) This means that a larger group of muscles can be exercised with an under desk elliptical machine.
Although only a slightly different, under desk ellipticals are usually heavier than cycles. This is because more mechanics are involved in the machine to create the elliptical movement. Having said that, they are still easily transportable.
Why Are Under Desk Ellipticals Useful?
Anything that enables to us exercise comfortably, either at home or the office, is beneficial. But, there are certain aspects that make under desk elliptical machines particularly useful.
Can Be Used Anywhere
Although they are called “under desk,” that’s not a prerequisite. If, like me, you like some entertainment when exercising, they are good for the living room too. All you need is a chair to sit on and you can go. There is no issue watching TV while using them, or being on social media, for example.
In addition to the home, they can be used on buses or trains. As long as you do not mind exercising in public.
Under desk elliptical machines are small compared to other exercise machines. This means they could be useful for people with small homes—those who do not have room for a full-size machine.
On average, an under desk elliptical weighs around 25-30 pounds. While not “light,” they can still be easily transported, even taken on vacation. There are few exercise machines that are this portable. This can make them attractive for the businessman or frequent traveler.
The ability to multi-task should not be underestimated. Exercising while working, surfing the net or reading a book means you have more time available to spend with your friends or family.
What Are the Health Benefits of An Under Desk Elliptical Machine?
Can Prevent Disease
A 2015 study illustrated that leading a sedentary lifestyle can lead to illness. It indicated that over half a person’s waking time involves sitting—working at a desk, using a computer, traveling or watching television. (1)
The study explained that this kind of behavior, without exercise, could lead to early death, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercising while sitting could offset these risks. Here’s a quick video explaining the idea further.
If you are anything like me, time at work is stressful. I have a good job, but time-based pressures and dealing with colleagues can make you tense.
Studies have shown that exercise relieves stress and anxiety. This will not only make you happier but could also improve productivity. (2)
Probably the most important factor. Firstly, under desk ellipticals exercise the muscles of both the lower and upper leg. In addition, by moving position, they can push the muscles of the bottom and lower back.
Secondly, they provide cardiovascular benefits. They increase both heart and breathing rates which can lead to better overall fitness. This means daily life becomes easier, stamina increases, and you can do repetitive activities without getting out of breath. (3)
Furthermore, exercise burns calories. Although you are constantly using energy, even when sitting at a desk, it is minimal. The more you exercise, the more calories that are used.
Being sedentary is a cause of obesity. These machines could be a good choice for people who are looking to lose weight or are concerned about putting it on. (4)
What to Look for in an Under Desk Elliptical
In essence, under desk elliptical machines are simple. Slide them under your desk, sit down and start exercising.
However, to help you find the best machine for you, I have put together elements which are worth considering in selecting your equipment.
Many ellipticals indicate the rotation height of the machine. This is the total distance between the floor and the uppermost position of the foot plates when exercising.
It’s a useful gauge, as this determines whether you can use it under your desk. For example: if the rotation height is seven inches, and your leg from heel to top of knee is 20 inches, the desk needs to be higher than 27 inches.
For some people, weight may be important. If you are looking at frequently moving the machine (to and from work or on vacation for example), a lighter machine may be more appealing.
Conversely, if your machine is to remain in one place all the time, like your living room, a heavier product may not be a problem.
Resistance and Control
The ability to increase resistance could be beneficial if you want to make your workouts harder. If this is the case, look for a machine with many different levels.
In addition, the control of this resistance is important. Some under desk ellipticals allow you to change the tension with your feet, others with your hands. If you do not want to bend over, perhaps due to back issues, a foot control may be better.
Most machines have an LCD display which allows you to track time, calories and speed. Sometimes these are positioned on the under desk elliptical itself. Others are removable allowing you to track your progress by placing the display on your desk.
If you are using it at a desk, as opposed to watching TV, a removable LCD may be better suited for your needs. Otherwise you will need to look under the desk to see your progress.
Generally, under desk ellipticals are not very loud. However, the mechanics involved in them does mean they create some noise.
If you work in an environment where noise could cause a distraction to colleagues or family, a quieter machine may be a better solution.
The Best Under Desk Elliptical Machines Reviewed (Our Choices)
FitDesk Under Desk Elliptical
The FitDesk has one of the lowest rotation heights in these reviews, being just eight inches high. It may make it appealing for people either with longer legs or lower desks.
This under desk elliptical has eight levels of resistance. They are controlled by a large T-bar at the front of the machine, designed to enable the user to change tension levels up and down with the foot. This feature could be attractive to people using the machine frequently under a desk or table or having issues bending down to the ground.
The LCD display offers the standard time and calories burned functions, but with an extra feature.
Not only is the display removable from the base, it also comes with a desk stand. This allows you to position the LCD within eye-view to monitor your progress. A factor that may be of use to people concentrating hard on their work, but still wishing to see how their exercise is going.
The “whisper quiet” aspect of the balanced flywheel means the FitDesk Elliptical does not make much noise. A factor that people working alongside others may find to be a positive.
This under desk elliptical has a “lock” feature which attaches to the chair. People who use a seat with wheels may like this addition, as it will prevent the chair rolling away as they exercise.
It measures 28.4 inches by 11.3 inches by 18.4 inches and weighs 28 pounds.
- Foot enabled resistance control.
- Desk mounted LCD screen facility.
- Chair-lock feature.
- Low rotation height.
- A little complicated to assemble—may not suit people uncomfortable with tools.
Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer
With a rotation height of 10 inches, this under desk trainer may require a tall desk (or short legs).
It has the additional benefit of being able to take the full weight of a person (up to 220 pounds), meaning you can use this in a standing position too. This could be an attractive feature for people using it in the home, as an alternative to a full-size elliptical machine.
That being said, if you are a little unstable on your feet, the lack of hand grips may require you to use a work surface or wall for support.
Weighing 24 pounds, it’s easily transportable. If you are using it at home, it could then be relocated for your days at the office or workplace.
The tension control has plus and minus settings. While this does provide a greater choice of resistance compared to those with numbered settings, it may be an issue returning to a favored level. These settings are controlled by a dial, which entails bending down to alter the tension.
The LCD display is located on the machine itself and cannot be removed. It does, however, provide the important information of number of strides, time spent and calories burned.
The Stamina In-Motion is available in three colors (green, orange and silver) and measures 24.5 inches by 17 inches by 11.4 inches.
- Usable from both a sitting and standing position.
- Front foot plate “guards” to prevent feet from slipping off.
- Makes a “squeaking” sound which may distract colleagues.
Cubii Pro Under Desk Elliptical, Bluetooth Enabled
This could be an under desk elliptical that is appropriate for people who like their tech. The Cubii Pro does not have a built in LCD display. However, it is Bluetooth enabled.
This means you can track your workouts (time spent, calories etc.) by transmitting the data to your cell (requires iOS 9 or Android 4.4 or above). Furthermore, it is compatible with FitBit and Apple Health Kit. So, if you enjoy technology and want to monitor your progress without bending over, it may be suitable.
This under desk elliptical has a rotation height of nine inches and a footprint of 23 inches by 11 inches by 9 inches.
The Cubii Pro has eight levels of resistance. These are controlled by a dial on the front of the machine, hence bending is required to raise or lower tension.
It has a silver and black “futuristic” angled design. This may please people who want to make a statement in the office or home with their equipment.
With a weight of 28 pounds, and its friction enhanced base, it is unlikely to slip. This could be a worthwhile aspect for those people with larger or stronger legs pushing the workout hard.
- Easy assembly—requires four screws to be inserted to build.
- Includes two “wheel stoppers” to prevent your chair sliding while in use.
- Bluetooth enabled.
- Attractive design.
- Produces an audible “humming” noise.
- Resistance is adjusted by hand.
jfit Under Desk & Stand Up Mini Elliptical
The jfit under desk elliptical has rollers attached to the front. This means that once on the floor, with a small tilt, it can be pushed easily under the desk. Having this feature may appeal to people who find kneeling or bending over difficult. In particular I feel seniors could benefit.
Available in both blue and black colors, it has a slight “industrial” appearance. This may suit people looking for a more rugged appeal in their equipment. The bulkiness does lead to an increased rotation height of 9.7 inches.
The jfit is easily transportable weighing 25 pounds. In addition, it has both top and front carrying handles. People who are wishing to move their under desk elliptical from location to location may enjoy this feature.
The resistance dial is on the machine, so bending over is necessary to adjust. However, its angled position enables it to be more easily used than some models with flat horizontal or vertical controls.
The tension levels are adjusted through small turns of the dial, with no defined numbers. For people who are looking for their own bespoke fitness programs, this may be of use.
The LCD display is located on the top of the machine. Although it offers calories burnt and time spent, it is quite small. I would suggest that for people who have visual impairments, this may cause a problem.
The jfit under desk elliptical trainer measures 27.2 inches by 15 inches by 11 inches.
- The pedals can be adjusted to allow the machine to be used standing up if desired (to a maximum of 250 pounds.)
- Feet plates have front, rear and side barriers to help prevent foot slippage.
- Easily portable with carrying handles.
- Quiet operation.
- The design may not please all tastes.
- Rotation height could be too high for some desk/leg combinations.
Cubii Jr: Desk Elliptical
A clean, sleek and modern-looking elliptical, the Cubii Jr comes in black with an aqua trim.
The LCD calorie and time counter on this machine is in a top-rear position. While this machine is ideal for use beneath a desk, the screen placement could make tracking progress difficult. If constantly monitoring your workout is important, this could be annoying.
However, if this was to be used in a home-sitting environment, such as watching the TV, this should not present any issues.
Furthermore, changing the LCD controls (e.g., from distance to calories) would require getting under the desk or removing the elliptical first.
The Cubii Jr measures 23.2 inches by 17.6 inches by 10 inches and weighs 35 pounds. This machine may well suit placement in a semi-permanent position, as it is a little too heavy to be frequently transported.
A rotation of 8.5 inches in height makes it suitable for all but the lowest of desks. Resistance control is via a large-angled control knob. This oversized control may assist people who have little dexterity in their hands or fingers. There are eight different resistance levels.
The low-noise design could appeal to people who are concerned about disturbing others during its use.
Assembly of this machine is simple with just four screws. The manufacturer suggests that it will only take three to five minutes to build. This could appeal to those who want “straight-from-the-box” activity.
- Constantly quiet operation.
- Good for low-desk/long-leg situations.
- LCD could be awkward to view beneath a desk.
All the above machines have some great features. But, in my opinion the FitDesk under desk elliptical stands slightly above the rest.
This machine has the benefits of:
- Desk mountable display—easy viewing of progress while at a desk, no other machine has this (although the Cubii Pro can be connected to smart devices).
- Foot control resistance—although some machines with larger dials (e.g. Cubii Jr) could be operated with the feet, only the FitDesk has one specifically designed for this purpose.
- It is lightweight and has the lowest rotation height out of all the products reviewed—ideal for under desk use.
However, it was a tough decision. I like the Cubii Pro’s Bluetooth feature and appreciate the versatility of the “standing” position on both the jFit and Stamina-In Motion.
But, for all-round under-desk use, the FitDesk has the edge.