How Effective are Under-Desk Ellipticals? Are They Worth Buying?

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If you are reading this, then you might be spending a major portion of the day in front of a desk, either at the office or at home. You’ve heard of under-desk ellipticals and are now wondering if you should actually get one. Well, we are here to tell you that you should definitely get one. Under-desk ellipticals are versatile machines that are beneficial in many ways. In this article, we have discussed in detail these benefits and how to go about buying one.

What is a compact under-desk elliptical?

An under-desk elliptical is the mini version of an actual elliptical machine. There is no large frame or any handlebars. Instead, an under-desk elliptical has a small body, pedals, a flywheel, and sometimes a simple digital display. This machine was created for use by senior citizens and those who have a desk job or are unable to move around much. This compact device is very useful for getting some additional exercise into your daily routine.

If you reside in a small studio apartment, then you might as well have a look at compact ellipticals that can easily fit in small spaces.

Mini elliptical

Mini elliptical

Options of under-desk exercise machines to choose from

There are a lot of similar-looking exercise machines out there that can be used under the desk. A simple pedal exerciser is the cheapest option and has no resistance or a fixed resistance. There are also under-desk stationary bikes that have a circular motion. And of course, there are under-desk ellipticals which are what we will talk about in this article. This category of mini exercise machines is generally the best one to use. The motion is more comfortable and there are resistance levels incorporated. Another type is hybrid machines, e.g. half stepper/half elliptical, that have different capabilities.

Under-desk elliptical’s effectiveness

1. Ideal for multitasking

This is the main selling point of under-desk ellipticals. You can simply place it under your desk and keep pedaling away while you work on your computer or handle the paperwork. You can also use it while watching TV or reading the newspaper. Basically, anytime you are sitting down, you have the option to burn some extra calories.

Under desk elliptical

Under desk elliptical

2. Offers portability

Given the compact size and the relatively low weight, an under-desk elliptical can be carried by nearly everyone. You can take it with you to the office and bring it back without too much hassle. Since these ellipticals are usually silent running, you do not have to worry about annoying your coworkers. Many models feature a carry-handle which makes it very easy to lift up.

3. Keeps your joints healthy

As with full-sized ellipticals, a mini elliptical is also extremely low-impact. This means that your joints won’t be subjected to excessive stress. This is especially great for those who have knee problems. Also, the extra exercise is perfect for keeping joints healthy. Otherwise, they would have gotten weaker over time from just sitting around too much.

4. Improves blood circulation

Good blood circulation is very important and inactivity for long periods of time causes blood flow to become restricted. Using a mini elliptical is an excellent solution to not feeling numb legs when you stand up after a long time.

5. Aids in building endurance & stamina

Despite the miniature size, it is possible to build some endurance with an under-desk elliptical. Most of them have resistance levels and for some models the resistance is substantial. If you are able to couple that with enough time spent pedaling, then you can improve stamina and tone the muscles in your legs. The resistance is usually controlled using a tension dial/knob.

Resistance dial

Resistance dial

6. Helps in meeting your weight loss goals

If you are currently trying to lose weight, then a mini elliptical is a good way to supplement your diet and workout routine. When used properly, it can help you burn an extra 300-400 calories every day. This is not an insignificant amount at all and you can do this while working.

Things to consider before buying an elliptical trainer

  • Size

This is the first thing that you must consider. After all, there is no point in having an under-desk elliptical if you cannot comfortably pedal with it while sitting at a desk. At the highest point of the pedal stroke, your knee should be at least a few inches clear of the desk. Be sure to keep the dimensions of your desk and the length of your legs in mind when shopping for a mini elliptical. It should also be compact enough to carry easily.

Carry handle

Carry handle

  • Performance

Any good quality under-desk elliptical must be capable of varying the degree of resistance. Some may also have an incline feature that gives more of a challenge. It is necessary to check the weight of the flywheel to ensure smooth and silent operation. The pedaling motion gets smoother and quieter as the flywheel gets heavier. In addition, the drive system should have magnetic resistance and a good quality belt-pulley drive to keep the machine noise-free and reduce the likelihood of breakdowns.

  • Durability

The machine you buy should be durable and last you a long time. Often you can tell just by holding one whether it has a good build quality or not. Fortunately, most ellipticals available in the market are pretty solid and are able to take a few bumps here and there. Since pedaling is not that strenuous, most machines will last for years. Look for magnetic resistance as that is more durable than a friction resistance system.

  • User weight limitation

Some mini ellipticals are advertised for standing-use as well. Unsurprisingly, the weight capacity of these models is not too high (less than 200 pounds). Therefore, we do not recommend overweight people using them standing up. For them, it would be much better to use a full-sized elliptical trainer to get an effective workout. When used in a sitting position, anyone can use them safely, no matter their weight. If you still plan to stand up on your mini elliptical once in a while, check the weight limit beforehand.

  • Noise levels

The noise levels of an under-desk elliptical should also be checked before buying it. You probably don’t want to disturb others around you, especially if you are planning to take it to work. There will always be a low volume whirl, but that won’t annoy anyone. Check to see if there is any squeaking. Also, look for a heavy flywheel so that the drive mechanism runs smoothly.

  • Additional features

Except for the one we have already mentioned, there are a few features that you can get for your convenience. An LCD console/display is one such feature. Most of them are small and simple and give readings for distance, time, calories, and speed. Since there is no place for pulse sensors, you probably won’t ever find one that gives heart rate readings. High-end mini ellipticals come with Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to connect to fitness apps on your phone and view your stats there. You can also save the data and share it with others.



  • Price

The good news is that most mini elliptical machines are a lot cheaper than regular-sized ellipticals. However, there are some that cost a few hundred bucks. Basically, the more you spend, the better quality and features you get. Whether you want those features is up to you. More expensive ellipticals will also have a warranty. A typical under-desk elliptical will cost you around $100.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can I lose weight with an under-desk elliptical?

Ans.: You cannot rely solely on an under-desk elliptical and expect to start losing weight. However, if you are already maintaining a healthy diet and working out regularly, then a mini elliptical can help you to see results faster. The key to losing weight is to burn more calories than you consume every day. With a mini elliptical, you can burn extra calories that you otherwise would not have.

Q2. How many calories can I burn with a desk elliptical?

Ans.: The exact amount can vary according to the intensity of use and even your body weight. We can assume that the level of exercise on an under-desk elliptical is similar to walking casually. If that is the case then according to the American Council on Exercise, you can burn 100 to 200 calories every hour. If you use a mini elliptical for 2 hours a day for 5 days a week, and you burn around 150 calories/hour, then you will be burning 1500 extra calories in a week.

Q3. Can I stand on an under-desk elliptical?

Ans.: The answer can vary for different brands and models. While most of them are strictly for sitting use, there are some that are designed for standing. You can use these if you work at a standing desk. Always be sure to check the maximum user weight specification as the capacity might not be as high as with a full-sized elliptical.

Standing use of elliptical

Standing-use of an elliptical

Q4. Is an under-desk elliptical worth it?

Ans.: If you spend 8 hours a day sitting in front of a computer or you can’t make enough time to work out regularly, then yes, an under-desk elliptical is very much worth it. Long periods of inactivity have already been proven to be quite harmful. It can cause joint problems, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Getting some exercise while you work, however much it may be, is still better than nothing at all.


Are under-desk ellipticals the magical solution to your weight and fitness problems? No, but neither is anything else. To stay healthy and lose weight there are always multiple things that you should be doing. Using a mini elliptical could be one of those things. They help you to break out of a sedentary lifestyle and boost your overall mood.

Dion Lewis

My name is Dion Lewis.I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

1 Comment
  1. Hi Dion, Thanks for your professional input. I’m really interested in purchasing an under-desk elliptical, but with so many in the market, I’m still confused as to which one to purchase. My job is sitting a lot and I would like to work the lower body muscles. Can you narrow down a brand for me? I don’t need blue tooth or extra fancy gadgets, just something that will be safe and get the job done.

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