Under Desk Elliptical vs Bike

Many of us spend most of our workday sitting at our desks, and then come home to spend more time sitting on the couch. And between these two places, you probably also spend the time sitting in a car or other means of transportation. Most office workers spend about 60% to 75% of their waking hours sitting, or 10 to 12 hours on average. This sedentary lifestyle can only do harm to your health in the long run. 

The good news is that, there are various exercise equipment you can use under your desk so that you can burn some calories without having to leave your seat. Under-desk bikes and ellipticals, in particular, are gaining popularity for the low-impact exercise they provide. The two are quite similar, but they do have some differences that may make one more preferable for some people. If you’re looking for one of these machines to buy for yourself or to gift to someone else, then keep reading to find which one is a better choice.

What is an Under Desk Bike and Under Desk Elliptical 

An under desk bike is just what it appears to be—a mini bike that can fit under the desk. It’s basically the traditional exercise bike with just the pedal and no seat or handles. And just like the the traditional exercise bike, under-desk bikes come in different designs with varying quality. Some are as simple as two pedals on a stand, while higher-end models come with adjustable magnetic resistance and even an LCD monitor that tracks your motion.

What is an Under Desk Bike and Under Desk Elliptical 

On the other hand, an under-desk elliptical machine is like your standard elliptical machine without any handlebars. Under-desk ellipticals, like other elliptical machines, require the user to move the feet and lower legs in a knee-friendly shuffling action, not to be confused with pedaling or stepping.

The Similarities Between Under Desk Elliptical and Bike

Both the under-desk bike and elliptical are designed to allow you to get some exercise while you’re seated. While the mechanics may differ a little, the two are built almost similar. They both work out parts of the lower body and burn around 150 calories per hour on average speed. If you sit at a desk or facing a computer all day, you can use either device while working or when you’re at home sitting in the couch and watching TV. This way, it can help keep you healthy and assist in weight loss if that is your goal.

The Similarities Between Under Desk Elliptical and Bike

Here are the similarities between the under-desk elliptical and under-desk bike.

Primary Purpose

The under-desk bike and elliptical are both designed to give you additional workout and burn some calories while sitting or working at your desk. Either of the two provides more or less the same results. In fact, if you use both at the same intensity for the same period of time, you will work out the same muscle groups and burn the same amount of calories.

Size and Weight

If you look at an under-desk bike and elliptical side by side, you’ll find that their sizes are also the same. Both are designed to work as a mini version of their traditional exercise machine counterpart. On average, these under-desk equipment are about 10 inches tall to fit perfectly under a desk. The smaller profile allows you to pedal around or move your legs vertically without bumping your knees on the underside of your desk. Bikes may be a little higher since they require a bit more space for the circular motions of your feet.

Size and Weight

Likewise, the mini exercise bike and elliptical are also around the same weight, but it can vary depending on the added features of each model. Some may include a flywheel to add resistance, which we’ll talk more about below. Most weigh roughly 10 to 20 pounds and are even foldable, making them portable enough to carry around to work and back home. Or you can simply fold them up and leave them under your desk.


Both machines also offer multiple resistance levels to increase tension and really get your heart pumping or slow down as needed. Depending on the mechanisms used, operating your under-desk exercise machine at different intensities should be smooth and quiet. You can manually switch from light to moderate to intense settings using a knob dial with clear markings. Higher-end models with magnetic resistance offers more levels of intensity.


Both machines also come at around the same price given similar quality and features. If you look at Amazon product listings, the most basic pedal machines cost about $50 or below, while mini ellipticals cost a bit more at around $100. Both machines from known brands typically start at $100 and go over $200 with higher quality LCD monitors and greater resistance levels. There isn’t a huge difference in price but if you want the best quality, you should look at the top brands, who offer mini bikes and ellipticals at around the same price.


The Differences Between Under Desk Elliptical and Bike

Below are the differences between an under-desk elliptical and bike.

Workout Mode

Both machines work out the lower body, particularly the legs, but the way you move them is different. On a mini pedal exerciser, you have to move your legs up and down in a circular motion as you would in a bicycle. This movement works your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors. 

Meanwhile, on an under-desk elliptical, you have to move your legs backward and forward in a kind of shuffling motion. It’s also a good workout for your quads, calves, and hamstrings, and is more gentle on the knee joints since they don’t move up and down as much.

Desk Clearance

Since the range of movements differ between a mini bike and elliptical, the two machines also require different amounts of space under your desk. Although both can certainly fit under a standard desk, a bike may be disadvantageous if you’re taller or have longer legs than average. Since a bike requires you to move your legs up and down with your knees in 90-degree angles, this can cause you to bump your knees on the underside of your desk. On the other hand, with a mini elliptical machine, your legs move at more or less the same height so there are no worries of hitting your desk while you move.

Accommodations For Feet Size

Under-desk bikes and most other exercise bikes come with foot pedals and foot straps to secure your feet in place. It’s important to consider the size of the pedals, especially if you have larger feet. You can also simply place your feet over the pedals without the straps if that’s more comfortable for you. Elliptical machines usually have bigger pedals that can fit any size of feet. The pedals have a non-slip design to keep your feet in place as you move them back and forth. 

Other Applications

Although both machines put emphasis on working out the lower body beneath the desk, one of them can be used beyond this one function. While the elliptical can only be used under your desk to work your lower body, the mini bike can also be placed on top of the same desk to work your upper body muscles. You must place your hands on the pedals and move your arms up and down in a circular motion. Since you can adjust the resistance levels, this can be a solid workout or warmup for your arms, chest, shoulders, back, and core muscles. Some pedal machines even come with two pairs of pedals, one for your feet and the other for your hands. 

Amount of Adjustments

Both machines offer the same resistance levels at a similar price and quality. Additionally, an under-desk bike can even be used to work out the upper body, a function that the elliptical lacks. However, in terms of lower body work, the elliptical provides more ways to train the legs. You can simply change the position of your feet on the pedals to target many different muscles in your legs. You can use only your heels, your toes, or place your feet flat on the pedals to get your desired results. Having these options is particularly useful when you’re recovering from an injury.

Amount of Adjustments

Do Under-Desk Bikes and Ellipticals Really Work?

Under-desk bikes and ellipticals are simple to use and only a fraction of the size of their counterparts at the gym. But could such modest machines really work as they claim to? While actual results vary per individual, the verdict is that these mini exercise machines can actually benefit your health by providing some light cardio exercise. 

Using these mini versions compared to the traditional exercise machines allow you to get some workout while seated at work or catching up on your shows at home. The simple movements can boost your heart rate and help burn more calories, thus toning and strengthening your leg muscles with little to not impact on your joints.

Although, take note that these under-desk equipment can only provide low-intensity workouts for those who have neither the time to go to the gym or out for a run nor the space to install a full–sized exercise machine. If you have specific fitness goals, like losing weight or building muscles, then you may need more than under-desk equipment.

Under Desk Bike Vs Elliptical—Which Is Better To Buy?

As mentioned, any under desk bike or elliptical cannot give you more than a low-intensity cardio workout, but anyone can still benefit from some light exercise compared to none at all. These machines provide similar exercises to biking or walking, both of which are good for cardio health. They promote blood circulation, tone your lower body muscles, and improve your overall fitness without taking up too much of your time or a lot of space.

Either machine can provide the same amount of exercise anytime you want while you’re working or watching TV. The average number of calories you can burn on a mini elliptical machine or bike are roughly the same, at around 150 per hour, but actual results vary depending on your weight and the intensity and duration of your workout. In any case, you may opt for a bike if you want the additional option to work out your upper body using the same machine, or choose the elliptical if you have more limited space under your desk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you lose weight with under desk bike or elliptical?

Under desk bikes and ellipticals give you a low-impact cardio exercise. In turn, they can help burn a small amount of calories or about 150 calories an hour. Compared to just sitting all day, getting some light exercise is still more helpful for your digestive and cardiovascular health. 

Are these machines suitable for the elderly?

A lot of seniors spend a good part of the day sedentary. Sitting all day can have many negative effects, but using an under desk bike or elliptical can help minimize some of these effects. Unlike other cardio exercises like running or walking, under-desk machines are low-impact and gentler on arthritic joints, allowing the elderly to get a more comfortable and safe way to exercise.