A Bicycle Built for You

Portable pedaling devices may help office workers improve health

Pedaling a bike — at work? This novel idea may inspire office workers to exercise without ever having to leave their desks.

A new study from the University of Iowa (UI) found that sedentary office workers who were provided with portable pedaling devices to place under their desks were more likely to report weight loss, improved concentration and fewer sick days than co-workers who didn't pedal.

But there was a catch.

Key to these benefits was providing workers with a pedaling device that was not only comfortable and easy to use, but was theirs alone to pedal.

"We wanted to see if workers would use these devices over a long period of time, and we found the design of the device is critically important," said lead study author Lucas Carr, PhD, an assistant professor of health and human physiology at UI, in a press release.

This study was Dr. Carr's third on the topic of promoting pedaling exercise among workers with sedentary jobs.

Dr. Carr said his interest stemmed from the growing body of evidence that people who sit all day — even if they're active outside of work — have an increased risk of chronic diseases, poorer cognitive function and mental health issues.

Another key component of these benefits was privacy.

Workers who had pedaling devices placed under their own desks were more likely to use them, while shared devices placed in a central office location were less likely to be used.

According to Dr. Carr, office gyms and fitness areas tend to be used by those who are already healthy. But more sedentary workers are those who need exercise the most.

Having the option to be active right at their desk, however, may be an effective way to improve the health of those who are reluctant to exercise.

Dr. Carr and team provided 27 employees with activeLife Trainer pedal devices. Another group of 27 employees did not receive the devices.

Both groups received ergonomic workstations and three emails per week that encouraged movement and posture changes.

The devices tracked each employee’s pedaling time.

Those in the pedaling group averaged 50 minutes of pedaling per day over the span of 16 weeks. This group also lost more weight and body fat than those who didn't pedal.

Resting heart rates — measure of physical fitness — in this group also decreased.

"This is something that could be provided to just about any employee, regardless of the size of their company or office," Dr. Carr said. "It's right at their feet, and they can use it whenever they want without feeling self-conscious in front of their co-workers."

This study was published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The University of Iowa and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.