As we went through in our article on regular elliptical machines, elliptical cross trainers are fast becoming one of the most popular tools for safe, low impact, low stress cardiovascular training. They are springing up in gyms and garages around the world as more and more people look to get in shape.
Many people face significant issues, however, when trying to schedule their exercise program. You are busy at work, you have commitments at home, and you have friends and family with whom you want to maintain a healthy social life: where is the time for exercise to come from?
Increasingly, people are turning to under desk ellipticals as a ready solution.
It makes sense. One of the biggest contributing factors to the obesity epidemic we are facing is our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. We can’t do without computers and must find ourselves sitting at our desks for hours every day – but this doesn’t mean we need to be as sedentary as many of us are.
With under desk ellipticals you can maintain your work life balance – you can get done in a day everything that needs to be done – whilst improving your metabolic rate, your muscular endurance and your cardiovascular health.
Under desk elliptical machines are no substitute for the real thing. If you can find time to go for a nice, brisk walk, get to the gym or attend an exercise class, I would thoroughly recommend doing so. However, in the absence of such luxuries as these, under desk ellipticals will be very a handy addition to your life.
Under desk elliptical machines are (or should be!) compact and easily portable by design. They enable you to get in your daily cardiovascular workout whilst watching TV, working at the desk, sitting around chatting to friends – anywhere you would usually be sedentary, these machines will help to give you an extra cardiovascular boost. They help you to be more active while you sit down.
In this article, I will be going over what I think are 8 of the best under desk elliptical machines you can find in today’s market. They will all be worthy inclusions in your life, and will all get the job done well, allowing you to get a decent cardiovascular routine going whenever you need it.
Alongside this, I will go into what makes training with under desk ellipticals in general such a good cardiovascular exercise, helping you as you make your mind up whether you should invest in one, and what model might suit you the best.
Top 8 Under Desk Elliptical Machines
The following list is ranked in no particular order. All have their strengths and weaknesses, and all deserve their place on this list.
- Drive Medical Deluxe Exercise Peddler
- Sunny Health & Fitness NO. 045 Twister Stepper
- Stamina InMotion E1000 Compact Strider
- Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B0418 Magnetic Mini Exercise Bike
- FitDesk Elliptical
- Goplus Under Desk Elliptical Stepper (Our Top Pick)
- Cubii Jr: Desk Elliptical
- JFit Under Desk & Stand Up Mini Elliptical
Our Top Pick
Our top pick for the best under desk elliptical is the Goplus Under Desk Elliptical Stepper.
We’ve got eight really sound competitors in this list. Though various flaws fluctuate between some of them, they are all machines that will deliver the results asked of them: they are well-built, cost effective pieces of kit that will help you to achieve your fitness goals in a comfortable, time efficient manner.
There will always be an outstanding product, however: for me, the Goplus Under Desk Elliptical Stepper stands head and shoulders above the rest of the list.
The Goplus’ angles are all ergonomically crafted in order to give smoother tread motions than any of its competitors. This leads ultimately to lower impact on your joints, keeping you healthy for longer. Everything feels as though it was designed with smooth function and consumer comfort in mind.
The Goplus’ design is exceptional: it’s a hands-down winner.
How We Picked Our Winner
Beyond the basic categories of what a good quality, under desk elliptical trainer should include smooth tread, exercise variability, a degree of portability and good craftsmanship in the build’s execution.
When looking at the market we found quite a significant amount of variation in several other areas. Ease of use fluctuated wildly between models, as did the grounding and solidity of various designs. Almost all the under desk elliptical designs we looked at offered the basics, but most also offered their unique bonuses and snares.
At the most basic level, all under desk elliptical trainers we considered for our list had to deliver a satisfying workout, be relatively affordable, and must be something that you would willingly and realistically find room for in your own home or office environment.
Bearing all of this in mind, as with the full sized elliptical cross trainers we considered in our previous article, all of our finalists had to:
- Enable you to perform a satisfactory, steady state cardiovascular workout. We only considered candidates whose build allowed for a good, steady workout with a comfortable pace and stride to be performed with good form. Any that didn’t do so were immediately disqualified from the running.
- Be easy to use and handle. You do not want any complications with an under desk elliptical. Anything that would detract from the smooth pace of a regular workout, or that would overly distract you from work or whatever else you were doing simultaneously, would be unacceptable.
Each one should be what it is – a piece of very simple exercise apparatus that allows you to maintain a solid, quiet and unobtrusive workout. My selections for this list reflect this desire, with none of those items included offering any extraneous concerns or difficulties.
- Be easy to move, maintain and clean. Some of the items on my list might be harder than others to move about. However, they are all manageable for most people to carry about. At most, they will require help from a second person and will be easy enough for two people to handle and move. They are also all easy to keep clean, which is important given that you will be having to live with them either in your home or your workplace, or perhaps both.
What is an under desk elliptical machine?
First, a little recap on what elliptical machines are, and what they might be able to do for you. As we mentioned in our previous article on the best ellipticals under $500, ellipticals – also called cross trainers, or simply X-trainers – are stationary cardiovascular machines used to simulate stair climbing, walking, and/or running. The way in which they are designed leads to less pressure effecting the joints than you would get with these activities. This is especially the case in your knees, hips and ankles. If you suffer from any kind of joint issues, especially those impacting your lower body or hips, you would benefit a great deal from switching your cardiovascular routines around a little to make use of ellipticals.
Under desk ellipticals are a variety of the standard, full size elliptical cross trainer. They will fit under most desks and tables and will allow you to pedal as you work, burning calories and giving you the health and fitness benefits of a regular elliptical workout – albeit on a reduced scale, as you will be using fewer muscle fibres.
Best Under Desk Elliptical Reviews
In terms of delivering a low impact, steady workout at a very reasonable price, our first offering is great. The Drive Medical Deluxe Exercise Peddler does everything you need it to do, working your leg muscles well with an option to bring in an arm workout.
The display comes with five functions and includes options to see your workout time, RPM, revolution counts and calories burned, allowing you to keep track of everything you are doing. The machine features easily adjustable resistance with a tension screw and the pedals themselves have anti-slip rubber pads. The whole thing has a handy, foldable design, giving it an extra degree of portability.
I was a little bit sceptical about this product at first, as its design makes it look a little flimsy. But this isn’t the case: it is reassuringly weighty and sturdy. The trainer is easy to use and intuitive, stays in place as you work and allows for a great user experience.
However, it has tendency to squeak with extended use. Against all the above pros, this is a real con. Under desk ellipticals are meant to be unobtrusive and subtle so that you can use them in any working environment. Having a squeal like this will not make you popular among co-workers at the office, or with your family around the TV at home. The electronics, whilst intuitive and smart, also have a tendency to overheat as you train, meaning that all that lovely biometric data it collects might amount to very little.
The Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper helps you to work the deeper fibres in your leg muscles, allowing for a very thorough workout. The machine’s height adjustment feature will enable you to change the step motion height so that you can really zone in on your glutes and quads.
This is another one with an option for upper body training with resistance bands. These hand pulls will give you a similar torso and arm workout as free weights, whilst working in synchronicity with the machine’s tread. As with many other machines of its type, the Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper allows you to track your workout times, RPM and total rep counts, and calories burned with its electronic display.
The machine’s structure is solid and well build whilst being quite streamlined, lacking any kind of unnecessary bulk. It is small enough to tuck away when you don’t want to use it. However, the display isn’t the easiest to read: it doesn’t light up so can be harder to use. The pedals push out rather than tracing a smooth up and down motion. This gives it a good degree of stability but makes it a little unwieldy for use under your desk.
On balance, the Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper will give you a great cardio workout in addition to strengthening your upper body but might not be the easiest for use under a desk.
The Stamina InMotion E1000 Compact Strider is a space-saving machine that really stands out from its competitors. It takes up barely any room, even for an under desk elliptical, meaning that you can store it comfortably anywhere when you’re not using it.
There is also a low elliptical motion to the Stamina InMotion’s tread, meaning that it will be gentle on your joints, especially your knees. As with many other under desk ellipticals, it features adjustable tension, meaning that you can keep upping your game as you increase your strength and stamina. The display is functional and helps you to keep track of distance. The pedals are large enough to be practical and feature a non-slip design so that your stride is never interrupted.
One of my favourite features on any mini elliptical is the carry handle that many boast, used for additional portability. The Stamina InMotion E1000 Compact Strider has a very well designed set so that, as it only weighs 24lbs, you will be able to take it around with you with very little hassle.
The E1000 is quiet as well as being compact and convenient. The pedals are strong and all the parts are well fitted, meaning that no noise or wiggle should develop even with extended use. For such a reasonable price tag, I would struggle to find anything more convenient, user friendly and useful.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B0418 Magnetic Mini Exercise Bike is quite a feat of engineering. It comes with an eight-level micro tension controller and full LDC display. The display will show you your timings, RPM, calories burned, distance travelled and speed. It can comfortably hold a weight of up to 220 lbs, even when standing, meaning that it is perfect for all levels and body types.
The magnetic system is smooth and silent, meaning that you won’t disturb anyone whilst using it. You will also be very comfortable. The resistance knob works immediately and sensitively so that you will always be able to keep at a pace that is workable for you. Though it is on the pricier side, the SF-B0418 will serve you better than some simpler, less expensive and less well engineered models.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B0418 Magnetic Mini Exercise Bike also comes with a handle and, whilst it is on the heavier side, is still easily portable for most people. You will at least be able to move it from room to room without difficulty. It hardly takes up any room so that it can be put away in any space and can be used comfortably in any situation.
The FitDesk elliptical has an eight position magnetic resistance with a high velocity flywheel alongside a six function display and a foot roller with which to massage your feet – all this and it’s packed in tight as one of the smallest items on our list. It’s quite a quiet item, with no squeak to the motion, and is comfortable to use.
However, this might be a case of engineering being ambitious without necessarily coming up with the goods. Its eight position resistance doesn’t work too well, only really delivering two or three different levels of resistance. This gives you an option of almost no resistance at all, or too much resistance piled on all at once.
I would recommend this item to anybody looking to remedy poor circulation, as it is comfortable and easy to use, without offering much by way of workable resistance. At its lower resistance level, it would be perfect for the elderly looking to keep blood flow up and soft tissue healthy. For those looking for a harder, more achievable resistance variation, looking elsewhere might be best.
The Goplus Under Desk Elliptical Stepper is one of the highest rated products on this list by consumers, and with good reason. As with many others, there is a handy display you track your biometrics and other data, as well as an adjustable tension dial that works very well – it’s sensitive and intuitive and allows for a great deal of exercise variability. It automatically scans speed, time, calories, and distance in sequence with a change every six seconds.
The Goplus is also pretty heavy – at 36lbs, it’s heavier than most other similar products – meaning that it’s stable and comfortable. Its footprint is also quite big. Although this means that it will take up more room than other designs, it also adds to the feeling of stability while you’re using it. The Goplus’ patented ergonomic angles also work to provide smoother motions than normal, allowing for lower impact on your joints.
It’s easy to put together and stays fluid feeling and silent through the stride. This one is a great design, really well executed: everything feels as though Goplus had the consumer’s comfort and user experience front and centre while they were making it. A definite thumbs up.
This is a good one for daily use. Although the price is slightly high, the Cubii Jr’s body is durable and well balanced, and the tread is quite comfortable to use. With an easy to use display and resistance variation, you will be able to get what you need out of Cubii’s design with little problem. It tends towards the bulkier side compared to other, more streamlined products, and is quite heavy and hard to move about, but none of this seems to detract from the user experience: comfort and usability is foremost in the main frame.
However, the pedals let it down a little bit. Some of the comfort is lost quite quickly as the machine will start to make a clunking, grinding noise when pedalling after just a short while. For all the frame’s weightiness, the pedals also don’t feel very secure: their fragility makes you scared to really push yourself, in case you accidentally break them! They are shoddily attached to low quality plastic, harshly detracting from the high quality evident in other parts of the build.
This being said, it is still a product that I would recommend. If you’re not worried about taking on a larger, heavier machine, and if you don’t mind having to replace the pedals every so often, it will serve you well and give you an engaging, comfortable workout.
The JFit Under Desk & Stand Up Mini Elliptical is another one that works well as an under the desk machine whilst also functioning well as a full, stand-up elliptical. Whichever way you use it, you can be sure of a decent workout. You can adjust the pedals to different angles for comfort and usability, and it has a frontal handle for additional support when you’re using it standing.
The JFit Mini Elliptical is solid and sturdy, as are many on this list – it’s a feature that I particularly prize, as would many after trying lighter, less stable models. The solidity gives you surety when you’re using it, especially if you’re using it whilst standing. However, with the JFit, this comes at a price: it’s definitely on the bulky side, and you might struggle to fit it under most desks.
A screen monitor is provided with the JFit Under Desk & Stand Up Mini Elliptical which gives you all the basics: data on speed, distance, calories burned and so forth. The monitor also comes with the standard, expected dial for changing up resistance. Whilst this is all standard, it’s put together very well.
There have been quite a few reviews stating that the JFit Under Desk & Stand Up Mini Elliptical can squeak quite badly, but this wasn’t my experience. I found it to be a fluid, if chunky, well supported platform. However, if you buy it, it might be worth keeping a can of oil at the ready just in case.
How To Use Your Under Desk Elliptical
The exertion you should find placed upon your legs and cardiovascular system from a regular, stand up elliptical cross trainer should be similar to either jogging on a treadmill or on a soft, outdoor surface. The leg motion they will give you will be in an intermediate range between a stationary bike and a typical treadmill, allowing for a wide, smooth range of motion. This is not so much the case with the elliptical’s under desk cousin – the exertion should be much reduced. This is both by design and by necessity. You recruit fewer muscle fibres, with a lower stimulation, because you are sitting down; this enables you to use the under desk elliptical for longer, with a lot less fatigue building up.
Similarly to a regular elliptical, there should be no footfall noise from the elliptical, and no stressful impact in your joints. In addition, there should be very little muscular fatigue and/or lactic acid build up when using the under desk variant. These are designed to be used for prolonged periods of time without greatly effecting your biometric systems.
To use them under your desk, you will want to be seated in a comfortable, neutral position, with your knees, hips and ankles aligned and your legs facing diagonally forwards. Keep your weight distributed as evenly as possible both between your feet and between the heels and balls of each foot. From here, simply pedal either forwards or in reverse, working both your legs through as full a range of natural motion as you can.
Always keep your movements fluid, smooth and even. Remember, this should be a relatively gentle workout.
Hopefully, you now know a little bit more about under desk elliptical cross trainers than you did before reading this article. This article should have given you a fairly good idea of the kinds of products available to you, the issues common to some of them – alongside their positives – and what public reviewers who have actually lived with them have said about some of the top under desk ellipticals out there.
You know my favourite, but do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments below: what under desk elliptical would you recommend?