Simple Fitness, Food and Health Hacks

Hey, I'm Julien. Each week I share a newsletter designed to make you fitter. It's short, smart and actionable16k read it, I'd love you to join too. It's free.

Under-Desk Elliptical vs. Bike: A Comprehensive Comparison

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

We may receive a commission from our affiliate links at no additional cost to you. See disclosures page.

As more and more people work from home or desks, there’s an increasing need for more physical activity. With careers taking most of your time, you may look for convenient solutions, like under-desk ellipticals, bikes, and walking pads.

But which option is right for you? Will these machines really help you burn calories and stay fit?

Under-desk elliptical vs. bike training
  • Save

Let’s look at a comprehensive comparison between under-desk elliptical vs. bikes to help you determine which one suits your needs.

What Is an Under Desk Elliptical?

An under-desk elliptical is essentially a mini elliptical. The equipment is placed under the desk and used standing or sitting. It includes everything you need—pedals and resistant settings but is compact and lightweight.

The desk elliptical trainers allow you to exercise your legs and burn calories while you work, study, or surf the web.

Desk exercise equipment is a fantastic way to incorporate physical activity into your day, even if you have a sedentary job or schedule. Some under-desk elliptical machines include Bluetooth compatibility, fitness tracking, and other valuable features.

The Benefits Under Desk Ellipticals

Desk workout machines have several health benefits, making them an attractive option for remote workers and office environments.

  • Low-impact exercise: Unlike running or high-impact activities, portable elliptical machines place less strain on the joints. This makes the machine a low-impact workout suited for individuals with joint pain or other limitations. 
  • Calorie burn: Elliptical machines allow you to engage in physical activity, even if you have a desk job or a sedentary lifestyle. This can help you burn more calories and increase your overall activity levels. 
  • Improve cardiovascular health: Using a portable elliptical model can help improve your cardiovascular health by increasing your heart rate and strengthening your heart muscles.
  • Convenient and time-saving: Desk workout equipment is a convenient and efficient way to increase physical activity. You can get a quick workout while completing other tasks, like working, studying, or relaxing.
A man using a stationary bike at home
  • Save

The Different Types of Under Desk Ellipticals

There are countless varieties of desk exercise equipment. Each piece of exercise equipment will have advantages, disadvantages, and best-use cases. Here are some of the most common portable elliptical units you’ll see on the market.

Compact Ellipticals

These are the most common and widely available types of desk elliptical. They are usually lightweight, portable, and easy to store. Most models have a simple design with basic resistant levels and small foot pedals.

Pedal-Only Ellipticals

Pedal-only ellipticals are bare-bone models that only include foot pedals. They’re typically even more compact than standard under-desk models, with many units featuring foldable designs.

Pedal-only units may have less durable constructions, smaller foot pedals, and fewer resistance levels. The trade-off is affordability and accessibility.

Magnetic Resistance Ellipticals

These models utilize magnetic resistance to produce a smoother, quieter ride. You can find magnetic resistance in compact, pedal-only, and other types of models. Many options include adjustable resistance levels, digital displays, and app connectivity.

Selecting a magnetic resistance model is wise, as they’re less likely to break down or require maintenance. That said, these constructions may be more expensive compared to other types of products.

Desk Ellipticals

Although our comparison is about under-desk machines, you can find complete elliptical desks. These units typically include a full or half-size elliptical with a connected desk and chair. Many models include adjustable seats and backrests, providing more comfort.

Full-size desk ellipticals may be better suited for individuals with mobility issues or back pain who need additional support while exercising.

A man using a stationary bike in his home gym
  • Save

Under Desk Elliptical Features to Consider

When selecting and comparing desk workout equipment, it’s critical to understand what features to look for. Different models will have varying build quality, foot pedal size, resistant levels, and advanced features. Here are a few factors to consider.

Build Quality and Traction

You’ll likely use an under-desk elliptical every time you work or study, so purchasing a durable model is a must. Selecting ellipticals with high-quality materials will ensure it withstands wear and tear.

Look for models with traction support on the pedals. Traction support may include grooves or grippy material. The pedals should be wide enough to support your feet with adjustable straps.

Some machines include straps to connect to a chair or desk for extra security. Otherwise, a grippy floor mat can help secure your unit in place.

Resistance Levels

Multiple resistance levels will help you push yourself, build muscle, and burn calories. Many units include an adjustable knob to change the tension. Ellipticals without resistance levels can feel too easy, offering little challenge or improvements to health.

Magnetic Resistance Flywheels

Cheap machines with thin foot pedals and low-quality materials are more likely to break. Instead, find under-desk machines with magnetic resistance flywheels. These machines use magnets to change pedal resistance instead of pads that wear out over time.

Noise Levels

Magnetic flywheels can also combat noise levels. These resistance systems don’t rely on physical pressure, offering quieter designs. Cheaper machines may have low-quality pads that cause increasing noise with age.

Additional Features

Some under-desk ellipticals feature special features, like screens, app connectivity, and Bluetooth support. These features may not be necessary or impact health benefits, but they are nice to have.

You might want a screen so you can quickly look down, gather information, and adjust the resistance or pace as needed. App connectivity or Bluetooth support can be excellent for tracking your exercise results.

image 92
  • Save

What Is An Under Desk Bike?

An under-desk bike, often referred to as a desk pedal exerciser, is similar to the elliptical. It’s a compact fitness machine that can fit under a desk or table. Mini exercise bikes include a set of pedals and adjustable resistance levels. 

Under Desk Bike Benefits

Like the elliptical, desk bikes offer low-impact exercise, improving circulation, strengthening leg muscles, and burning calories.

  • Improved focus and productivity: Exercise has been shown to improve focus and productivity, so using an under-desk bike while working can help you stay alert and focused throughout the day.
  • Low risk of injury: Under desk bikes are generally safe and low-risk, making them an ideal option for those who are new to exercise or have physical limitations.
  • Improved cardiovascular health: Using an under-desk bike can help improve cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate and circulation. This can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular-related issues.
  • Increased leg strength: Regular use of an under-desk bike can help strengthen leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, which can improve overall mobility and balance.

The Different Types of Under Desk Bikes

There are countless variations of desk bikes available, each with advantages, disadvantages, and best-use scenarios. Here are a few of the standard options you’ll see when shopping for a desk bike.

Pedal-Only Bikes

Pedal-only bikes are probably what comes to mind when you imagine an under-desk bike. These models are lightweight, compact, and easy to store. They are similar to ellipticals, as many options provide displays, adjustable foot straps, and resistance settings.

Seated Bikes

Some stationary bikes include a seat and backrest, providing more comfort. These machines will consist of a desk attachment, allowing you to study, work, or watch media comfortably.

Although they aren’t technically under desk models, they’re a reasonable consideration if you have mobility limitations or need extra support.

Recumbent Bikes

Similar to seated bikes, these models have a reclined seating position. This design offers a low-impact workout that’s easy on the joints.

Many models include resistance levels, digital displays, app connectivity, and workout programs. Again, they aren’t technically under-desk models, but they are an excellent option to consider if it meets your needs.

A stationary bike in an empty room
  • Save

Under Desk Bike Features to Consider

There are several features to consider when selecting an under-desk bike to ensure it meets your fitness goals and needs. Here are a few standard features to think about when shopping for an under-desk bike.

Size and Portability

Selecting a model that matches your space and desk will help you get the most out of your machine. Look for compact, lightweight, and easy-to-store models. Many desk bikes are foldable, which can be beneficial if you have limited space.

Resistance Levels

If you want to customize the intensity of your workout, look for machines with adjustable resistance levels. The adjustable levels will help you challenge yourself and improve your fitness as you use the bike.

Pedal Size and Shape

The pedal size and shape will significantly impact how you use your bike. The pedals should be large enough to accommodate your feet comfortably. Non-slip, traction, and grips will help prevent slipping during your workout.

Pedal straps are helpful for securing the machine and your feet in place. Some models include built-in adjustable foot straps which can help you find a comfortable position.

A woman using a bike at the gym
  • Save

Comparing Under Desk Ellipticals and Bikes

Before you swipe your card, it’s critical to compare under desks ellipticals and bikes to determine which machine suits your needs. Both pieces of equipment offer a convenient solution for adding physical activity to your daily routine.

While they have similarities, there are some differences between the two that should be considered to make the right choice.

Space and Size

One of the most important factors to consider when comparing the two machines is their size and space requirements.

You’ll need to consider not only the size of the machine but the height of your desk. You may have to narrow the options you’re considering depending on your desk height and space allowance.

Typically, desk ellipticals tend to be larger and bulkier than bikes. This makes them more challenging to store or transport. They also require more space under the desk or table to be used comfortably, which can be an issue in small workspaces.


The intensity and resistance levels are important factors to think about, as they will affect how much you get out of your machine.

Are you looking to get an intense workout while on the clock or a simple way to burn calories?

Ellipticals usually offer higher intensity sessions, as they engage more muscle groups and provide a more comprehensive range of motion. However, they may not be suited for you if you have limited mobility or joint pain, as they require more movement from the hips and knees.

Under-desk bikes typically offer a lower-intensity workout, but they can still provide excellent cardiovascular training.


Your budget may be the most critical factor when selecting a machine. Generally, under-desk ellipticals tend to be more expensive than bikes, as they offer more features and a higher-intensity workout. However, there are affordable options available for both ellipticals and bikes.

If you are on a tight budget, an under-desk bike may be the more affordable option. However, if you are willing to invest in a higher-quality machine and want a more challenging workout, an elliptical may be worth the extra expense.


Noise level is another factor to consider when comparing under-desk ellipticals and bikes. Under-desk ellipticals tend to be noisier than bikes. They use a larger range of motion and require more force to operate. 

If you are in a shared living space or office, this may be an issue. 

Under-desk bikes, on the other hand, tend to be quieter than ellipticals. The bikes use a simpler motion and require less force to operate. This makes them better suited for offices or shared apartments where noise levels need to be at a minimum.


Finally, convenience is an essential factor to consider when choosing between under-desk ellipticals and bikes. Under-desk ellipticals can be more challenging as they require more coordination and balance.

Under desks bikes are generally easier to use and more convenient to store and transport. They require less coordination and balance, making them an excellent option for those who are new to exercise or have physical limitations.

Someone using an elliptical at the gym
  • Save

Which Should You Choose?

So, which piece of equipment should you choose to add to your nine-to-five grind? Either option will provide health benefits and help you reach your fitness goals, but each machine has different best-use cases. Here are some factors to keep in mind.

Individuals With Joint Pain

An under-desk bike may be better suited for you if you have joint pain. Both options offer a low-impact workout, but bikes tend to put less stress on the joints.

Ellipticals have a wider range of motion, which can be challenging if you have joint pain in the hips or knees. A bike’s pedal motion is usually more straightforward and less straining, making it a gentler solution overall.

Office Workers

The noise levels are a significant factor if you work in an office. Both types of machines have quiet models, but it’s essential to select a high-quality model. Look for machines with magnetic resistance flywheels, as they make less noise.

High-quality construction materials will ensure your machine runs a bit quieter. Adding a non-slip mat can also help prevent the machine from moving or shaking around. 

Overall, look for premium products from reputable brands that prioritize a quiet design.


The factors to prioritize for apartment dwellers are size, storability, and noise levels. The sound levels might not be as crucial if you live alone, have thick walls, or live on the first floor. Otherwise, select models with magnetic resistance systems to reduce noise.

Under-desk bikes are generally more compact and easier to store, making them the better choice for those with limited space. Selecting models with foldable designs or smaller constructions will make them easier to store.

Fitness Enthusiasts

If you’re a fitness enthusiast looking to get the most out of your desk job, an elliptical might be right for you. Desk ellipticals have a wider range of motion and engage more muscle groups. That said, the suitable machine will depend on your goals.

It’s best to select a high-quality machine that offers varying resistance levels. As you get used to the workout, you can increase the intensity to challenge yourself further. You may also want to look for machines with fitness apps, workout programs, or advanced features to help you reach your fitness goals.

A man during his elliptical session at the gym
  • Save

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does an Under Desk Bike or Elliptical Burn More Calories?

Generally speaking, an under-desk elliptical will burn more calories than a bike. The elliptical has a wider range of motion and engages more muscles in the lower body. However, the different resistance levels and how hard you push yourself will impact how many calories you burn.

Are Under Desk Ellipticals Good for Cardio?

Yes, under-desk ellipticals and bikes are good for cardio. These machines can help you increase your physical activity and burn more calories. That said, they do not engage the upper body, so you won’t burn as many calories compared to other forms of cardio exercise.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

Share via
Copy link