If you thought under-desk exercise machines were going to be the saving grace of a poor workout routine, the short answer is no. This may disappoint anyone struggling to cope with exercising on the daily — whether it’s due to stress or anxiety, the closure of gyms, the shortening of days or because you’re just being lazy.
Why under-desk exercise machines aren’t effective
The words ‘desk’ and ‘exercise’ might sound sweet to a lot of people but don’t let these dictate how much you workout each day. We know how tempting under-desk ellipticals and cycles sounds, enough to cause hyperenthusiasm and consequently false hopes.
Lifehacker Australia spoke to physiotherapist and director of Wild Physio Fitness, Andrew Wild, about using under-desk exercise machines and whether they could effectively replace the daily workout from an overall well-being perspective, especially if it’s been a busy day.
Wild, before explaining, said a simple and blunt ‘no’.
“Look, I think everyone no matter how busy the job is, can just get out of a chair and get moving around the house or something like that,” he said to Lifehacker Australia over the phone.
“I would just prefer for people to get out of their chair and go for a walk. You should get up every 20 to 30 minutes and walk around a bit — a brisk walk is even better. Even if it’s for two minutes.”
Everybody knows the general rule: Get 10,000 steps in daily, give or take 2,000 steps if you’re struggling.
“I think the under-desk exercise option is okay if someone is curious about a new workout machine or just wants to keep the legs moving a bit. But that’s about it.”
He reiterated that using these machines should not replace how much you need to workout in a day.
It may be easier said than done and we could possibly find a hundred excuses to avoid moving around but that’s just not how science works. You need to keep all your muscles activated. Sitting down and just moving your legs doesn’t cut it.
“You’re not getting the loading through joints, bone, muscle tendon, that sort of stuff when you are desk bound,” he said.
“When you walk, there’s a big load going through all those structures. This is why I always tell people to prioritise walking or running.”
He said that treadmill desks may be a good option if people were really keen but it’s not easy to work on them for long. Plus, they’re bulky and take too much space in the house.
Bonus question: Can we stretch instead?
We asked Wild how long you would have to stretch for in case you weren’t up to working out on the day.
Again, he simply said ‘zero minutes’.
“Research behind stretching pretty much says it does not improve performance,” he explained.
“It doesn’t decrease risk of injury and it doesn’t prevent muscle soreness. Stretching excessively means you’re increasing your tolerance to it. But of course, if it helps you feel better about yourself then go for it. It’s just that there are a lot of myths behind stretching that people should be aware of.”
Bottom line is, if you really don’t have it in you to workout or you’re busy, get up and do a few laps around your house.
We stretch for lots of reasons: Because it feels good, because it's part of our pre-workout routine, because a muscle is stiff and we think stretching will fix it. But most of what we know about stretching -- and thus the ways we use it -- are based on wishful thinking and outdated science. We're stretching for all the wrong reasons.Read more