The Power of the Peddler
Last year I had the privilege of working with a participant who was incredibly motivated to change her life and regain some of the energy and focus her chronic health condition had taken from her. After determining that her energy levels only allowed her to exercise during work hours, we became focused on activities that she could do while at work. One day, she reported that her coworker had gotten her a desk peddler and that they were both going to pedal at work. I was impressed and curious; impressed with her initiative and willingness to try something new, and curious: were these the same peddlers I vaguely remember my mom having in the 1970s?
We’ve all heard that “sitting is the new smoking” and that not moving throughout the day is detrimental to our health and can lead to an early grave. This is scary information, and it can be frustrating to process when, for a lot of us, sitting isn’t a choice, but a job requirement. Even people like me, who naturally fidget and get up and move, are at risk because fleeting moments of fidgeting cannot undo the damage done by hours of sitting.
But back to the peddlers. I’ve learned that they are an inexpensive and foolproof way to get activity in throughout the day. You can pedal anytime, anywhere, regardless of weather. And, no, these aren’t your mother’s peddlers. The new versions of desk peddlers are smaller, more stable, and quieter. Some have technical gadgetry to help you track information if you are inclined to do so. Many are designed to be placed under a desk, which means they take into consideration your knees hitting your desk. These are peddlers for the 21st century.Everyone is different and has different goals and motivations. For my desk peddler sensei, the goal was to make pedaling her primary activity and to move in a gentle way so that her body felt energy and not stress. Her initial goal was to pedal twice a day at work, for five minutes each time, then work up from there. My goal is twofold: to supplement other activities I am doing and to counter prolonged periods of sitting at my desk. For Carrie Underwood, yes, that Carrie Underwood, who also owns a desk peddler, the goal is to keep “moving on long bus rides.”
So what are the benefits of using a desk peddler at work and/or at night?
- It burns calories. As one article mentioned, desk pedaling won’t replace a spin class, but the fact that you are moving throughout the day has an impact on your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn calories.
- It’s low impact and easy on the body.
- It improves your mood. Exercise increases endorphins, which are the “feel good hormones.”
- It has been shown to increase work performance and focus. Some teachers are even using them to help their students focus while at school.
- It may improve your quality of sleep (as does any activity/exercise done throughout the day).
- It can reduce blood pressure by making your heart stronger.
- It has been shown to reduce blood sugar readings. Studies have recently shown that 10 minutes of activity after eating significantly improves those postprandial blood glucose values.
- It has the potential to increase strength and muscle tone in your legs and core (as you sit upright to balance the pedaling motion).
- It’s portable and can be moved from work to home fairly easy if needed.
- It fits under your desk so you can use it discreetly.
- It’s not affected by seasonal and weather changes; you can pedal any time of year indoors.
What are some ways to maximize the benefits of a desk peddler?
- Intervals. Pedal at a low intensity, steady rate, for the majority of the time. But every now and again, hike up the tension/resistance or pedal faster to feel some burn.
- Nutrition. Each week tweak one thing about your nutrition so that your positive changes are cumulative.
- Variety. Add other forms of activity to balance your exercise program. Include resistance training, stretching, or more intense physical activity at other times of the day and week
What are some things to consider before buying a desk peddler?
- If you are easily distracted, desk pedaling may be difficult at first. It may help to lower the resistance or go slower until you get used to the motion while working.
- Consider height, both yours and that of your desk, when shopping for a peddler. While some models factor this in, do some research prior to purchase to make sure your knees won’t be hitting your desk or that you have space for your knees between your chair and your desk.
- Tension/resistance levels are important; the more you pedal, the easier it will become, so factor in room for growth.
- Many peddlers have digital monitors, so if this is important to you, think about what you want to track so that it’s automatically done for you.
- Consider the noise factor if you are using the peddler at work. You want to be sure to invest in one of the quieter models.
- Stability is important when you are using a desk peddler; you don’t want the machine sliding around while you are pedaling.
- Cheaper isn’t always better. Consider where you are using the equipment, primarily at home or at work, and read reviews to get a sense of which model would work best for you.
- There are a lot of different names for this type of equipment: under desk cycle (or bike), mini bicycle, desk peddler, mini pedal cycles, pedal machine, etc.
Bottom line: Any exercise is better than none, so if you are curious, try it! You may enjoy the experience and get your heart pumping and your endorphins flowing at the same time. As the participant I worked with reports, “The biggest benefit for me is that it is easy. Before I started pedaling, I could hardly go shopping without my legs getting tired. After I started, I can shop much longer now. Also, because of the back and shoulder problems I have, it helps keep [me] from putting too much pressure on my back and shoulders like normal walking can do.” Oh, and she has shed 54 pounds with her peddler, so don’t underestimate the power of the peddler.