Exercise at Work: Portable Equipment is Attractive Option

Physical inactivity leads to health problems. One solution is to increase physical activity at the workplace. This study found that portable pedal machine were accepted by participants who usually spent 75 percent of their office time sitting at a desk. The number of participants decreased toward the end of four weeks of testing, but the time spent in pedaling and the intensity of exercise remained constant. By using specific software, these machines give automatic feedback about the exercise performance of individual participants. This can act as a self monitor and a motivator.

Workplace-related sedentary activity has increased over the past half century increasing risks of obesity and metabolic diseases. Programs aimed at reducing sedentary activity at the workplace without affecting work performance are beneficial. But such programs require workers to remain away from their workstation in order to exercise. They do not significantly reduce the sedentary time of a typical desk-dependent worker. The current study tested the feasibility and acceptance of a portable pedal machine that could be used right where the employee sits.

* Eighteen healthy adults spending more than 75 percent of their workplace time sitting at the workstation participated in this study. They visited a laboratory for body measurements at the beginning of the experiment and four weeks after.
* Participants exercised on a portable pedal machine connected to their computer on which real-time feedback on pedal speed, time used, and calories spent for the distance covered could be automatically recorded and stored.
* After four weeks the data stored on computers was collected. Participants also answered a questionnaire that documented their opinions and experiences with the machine, its feasibility and acceptability. The questionnaire also provided information about the intensity at which participants typically pedaled.

Results/Key findings
* Participants on an average used the exercise device on 12.2 days out of a possible 20 days. Each day they pedaled on average for 23.4 min and covered 4.8 miles. The average daily calorie expenditure during exercise was 186 calories.
* In answering questions related to the machine, participants said that the pedal machine was “easy to use,” and they would “use the pedal machine regularly at work if provided by their employer.”
* Participants stated that “work productivity” and their “quality of work” were not affected by using the machine at work.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The study was designed to test the feasibility of a portable pedal machine. No behavioral modification of the participants was carried out. They were not informed about the health risks of sedentary activity and possible benefits of physical exercises. A few participants stated that reading could be completed, but not all computer related tasks could be accomplished while using the machine. The study was carried out using participants who were predominantly healthy, educated Caucasian (94 precent) females (89 percent). If exercises are coupled with health information and motivation, the results would possibly be better.

Sedentary activity is defined as activity where caloric expenditure is same as the resting activity. Sedentary activity carries higher health risks like obesity and metabolic syndrome. In the work place, desk-bound jobs produce sedentary activity. Time spent in such activity has increased in modern times. To counter this, different physical exercises to be done at the work place are being planned. A portable pedaling machine is an attractive option, as the exercise can be carried out while sitting at an office desk. It gives real time feedback to participants on the connected computer screen about speed of pedaling, calories burned, and distance covered. This can act as a motivator to continue exercises.

For More Information:
Feasibility of a Portable Pedal Exercise Machine for Reducing Sedentary Time in the Workplace
Publication Journal: British Journal of Sports Medicine, February 2011
By Lucas Carr; Kristen Walaska; Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, The Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island, and East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.