Under Desk Pedal Device Could Reap Health Benefits

Under Desk Pedal Device Could Reap Health BenefitsUnder Desk Pedal Device Could Reap Health Benefits

Office workers are well-acquainted with the desk chair; after all, most of the day is spent sitting on it - a behavior that has been linked to a range of health problems.

Now, researchers from the University of Iowa have come up with a simple but potentially effective way to increase physical activity among office employees: a portable pedaling device under each desk.

Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study found office employees who were provided with a personal pedaling device increased their physical activity.

Study co-author Lucas Carr, assistant professor of health and human physiology and member of the Obesity Research and Education Initiative at the University of Iowa, and colleagues presented their findings at the 2015 Society of Behavioral Medicine's Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, earlier this year.

Sedentary lifestyle can raise the risk of numerous health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, reports

Office workers are one group at particularly high risk for sedentary-related health problems. Earlier this year, a survey of office workers conducted by the British Health Foundation found almost half of women and nearly 40% of men spend less than 30 minutes walking around at work.

Many employers have attempted to encourage physical activity at the workplace by providing employees with shared exercise facilities.

"It's a great idea in theory, but it doesn't work over the long haul for most people," says Carr. "A lot of companies have gone the route of building expensive fitness facilities that typically get used only by healthy employees. The people who need to improve their health the most are less likely to use worksite fitness facilities."

Individuals who engage in physical activity tend to live longer and have reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Carr and his colleagues tested a different approach. For 16 weeks, they provided 27 overweight or obese office workers in Iowa City with their own active Life Trainer pedal device, placed under their desk.

Researchers analyzed the pedal time of each employee via a monitor. On average, employees pedaled 50 minutes each day over the study period. Each employee was also sent an email three times weekly, reminding them to alter their posture, stand regularly and offering them tips on how to get more active at work.

Researchers found that employees who engaged in no physical activity during their workday prior to the study engaged in light-intensity physical activity following introduction of the pedal device.

What is more, employees who pedaled the most experienced weight loss, had fewer sick days and even had better concentration at work than those who pedaled the least.