fitness and sports

The 6 Very Best Under-Desk Ellipticals

Including ones you can use at standing desks.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

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You might feel like moving around more if you work from home or aren’t commuting as much as you used to. All that sitting (and, if you’re like me, hunching over a laptop) can put a strain on your body. That’s why it’s important to get up and move often. Dr. Tzuting Tomlinson, a physical therapist at Motion Sports Medicine in Brooklyn, recommends doing so every 30 minutes. “It doesn’t have to be a five-minute break every time. It’s more like ten seconds of standing up and readjusting your spine,” she says. “When you’re sitting for long periods of time, your postural muscles (your core stability muscles) are constantly firing and they get tired. So by changing your position, that kind of releases the stress on those muscles.”

But if you want to do more than take stretch breaks during the day, you could try an under-desk elliptical. “I generally recommend them to patients who are more sedentary or wheelchair-bound as it’s a great way for them to get cardiovascular fitness and movement that they wouldn’t otherwise,” says Katie Cyrana, a physical therapist and co–clinical director at Evolve Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation in New York City. “An under-desk elliptical is definitely better than nothing, and moving as much as you can while still being productive is so important.” Whether you use one while you work in your office, home office, or watch TV on the couch, pedaling in place is a good way to get in daily cardio and some extra steps (certain models can be used while working at a standing desk).

Under-desk ellipticals are essentially smaller versions of standing elliptical trainers, which are recommended for those looking for low-impact workouts. “Ellipticals are a good consideration for people who enjoy doing a cardiovascular activity but may have certain physical barriers preventing them from running comfortably,” says Dr. Clinton Lee, a physical therapist and the founder of PhysioStrength. “There’s less impact when using an elliptical because both feet are contacting the moving platforms at all times, as opposed to running, where the feet leave the ground.”

But not all under-desk ellipticals are created equal. The right one for you depends on your exercise needs, desk height, and storage space. If you have an idea about which kind of under-desk elliptical you’re looking for, click the links in our table of contents above. Otherwise, read on for our roundup of the six best models.

What we’re looking for

Size

If you plan on using your elliptical under a desk, you’ll want enough room for your legs to move and pedal without hitting the bottom of your desk. We’ve listed the dimensions of each model below.

Weight

The heavier your under-desk elliptical is, the more planted it will stay on the floor. This will provide stability while you’re pedaling in a seated or standing position. A heavier model will be harder to transport, so keep weight in mind if you’re going to be moving your elliptical and using it in multiple locations.

Resistance

All but one of the under-desk ellipticals on this list provide some type of resistance for your legs and feet to push through at different degrees of difficulty. Some models have magnetic resistance that you adjust with a dial, while some have a friction brake that you adjust with a knob. We’ll also break down how many levels of resistance each model has.

Features

Most under-desk ellipticals are straightforward machines: You put them underneath your desk and start pedaling. But other models can be used while standing, sync to health and fitness apps on your phone via Bluetooth, and/or provide metrics like time pedaled, calories burned, and distance traveled on LCD displays.

Best overall under-desk elliptical

From $105

Size: 24.5 x 17 x 12 inches | Weight: 24 pounds | Resistance: Magnetic with dial | Features: Sitting and standing pedaling, forward and reverse pedaling, access to fitness app with personalized workouts, small LCD display

The Stamina InMotion is the under-desk elliptical I’d recommend to most people because of its versatility. It has a wide, flat steel base that lets you pedal forward and backward, an adjustable tension knob and small digital monitor to track your activity, and unlike most under-desk ellipticals on this list, this one can be used standing, too. In terms of size, the elliptical is about as long and wide as others on this list, but it’s shorter than most, which lets you move freely without hitting your knees on your desk. And while it’s not the lightest on this list (the budget-friendly folding option below is a quarter of the weight), at 24 pounds, it’s still fairly compact and easy to store when not in use.

It took me ten minutes to assemble the E1000. Once it was set up, I found it easy to adjust its position on my office’s carpet (thanks to some felt sliders underneath the steel base), but it didn’t budge when I was pedaling while sitting or standing. It took some tweaking at first to adjust my seat height and positioning of the elliptical because the pedals are fixed, so you can’t change their angles, but once I found the right position, I was pedaling throughout the workday. I have a tendency to tap my feet while I work, and I noticed that the E1000 helps me scratch that itch to move (in addition to standing up and walking around). And at higher levels of resistance, the E1000 can also provide a sweat-inducing workout. It’s extremely quiet as well. The movement of the rubber wheels against the steel base makes a faint gliding noise, but it’s barely noticeable (my co-workers didn’t notice I was using it while seated at my desk). And since it doesn’t require any power, there’s no electric humming or buzzing like a treadmill might have.

Most portable under-desk elliptical

Cubii Go
$260

Size: 24.5 x 17.2 x 9 inches | Weight: 19.4 pounds | Resistance: Magnetic, eight levels | Features: LCD display, retractable handle and wheels

We’ve written about Cubii’s under-desk ellipticals before, noting their “whisper quiet” resistance. This newer model, the Go, is just as quiet and is one of the brand’s more compact, lightweight, and portable options compared to others in the Cubii stable, such as the Total Body+ (which has a pulley system with handles for rowing and Bluetooth compatibility) and the Cubii Move (which has only six levels of resistance). The Go has an LCD monitor that displays your revolutions per minute, calories burned, and distance pedaled. It does not have Bluetooth syncing, so you’ll have to manually enter your data if you want to track your stats. The wide, flat pedals mimic the pedals on a larger, standing elliptical machine (as opposed to the smaller pedals on a stationary bike), though the Cubii is not intended for standing exercises. But the highlight is its retractable grab handle and set of wheels, which make it easy to pick up and move like wheeled luggage. If you plan on using your elliptical regularly around different parts of the house or the office, the Go is your best bet.

Best budget-friendly under-desk elliptical

Size: 19.5 x 14 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 5.8 pounds | Resistance: Friction brake with knob | Features: Folding, foot straps, LCD display for time, revolutions per minute, and calories burned

For those who want something small, light, and easy to put away at the end of the day, this folding under-desk cycle is the simplest and cheapest option. Although technically not an elliptical machine, this small cycling station is only 13 inches long and six inches high when folded up, and at 5.8 pounds it’s incredibly lightweight, so you can easily move it to another room. While it’s minimal in style, it still offers plenty of function. Nonslip foot pads keep it from sliding around while you use it, and foot straps on the pedals (which are similar to the pedals you’d find on a stationary bike) offer more stability. And like all the others, it has an adjustable tension knob and a small electronic display to track your activity. It’s nothing fancy, but for less than $50, it’s a nice, simple machine for anyone who wants to maintain their mobility and movement.

Best quiet under-desk elliptical

Size: 24 x 20.1 x 10.2 inches | Weight: 23 pounds | Resistance: Magnetic, eight levels | Features: Adjustable pedal height, wired and removable LCD display, foot straps

If noise is a concern for you — say, you work at an office with minimal chatter or want to work during Zoom meetings — we recommend this under-desk cycle that has a smooth and quiet resistance. It has an adjustable pedal height that lets you customize it to your desk height as well as eight levels of magnetic resistance so you can pedal based on your strength and fitness goals. And the large-font LCD display is connected by wire, but the console is removable, so you can place it on a table for easier reading without having to stick your head under your desk. If you like the idea of stationary desk cycling on a model like the Wakeman above but want a quieter and more stable upgrade, the DeskCycle 2 is our recommendation.

Best no-assembly under-desk elliptical

Size: 24 x 19 x 11 inches | Weight: 25 pounds | Resistance: Magnetic, eight levels | Features: LCD monitor, carrying handle, no assembly

Unlike the other options on this list, this elliptical is ready to use right out of the box. Although it looks a little dated and clunky, it has all the same features as other ellipticals on this list, including a digital monitor; eight levels of resistance; nonslip, flat pedals; and a relatively compact size. Like the Stamina and Jfit models, you can use this one while standing up. Some customers have noted that it’s generally quiet to use, though you may hear the flywheel spinning while you’re pedaling.

Best under-desk elliptical with chair holder

Features: 23.3 x 16.8 x 12.9 inches | Weight: 32.3 pounds | Resistance: Magnetic | Features: Sitting and standing pedaling, adjustable pedal angles, top grab handle, front handle doubles as center-chair-leg holder, LCD display

A common complaint about under-desk ellipticals is that they sometimes slide around depending on which surface you place them on. That issue is solved here since this elliptical can attach to your desk chair to help prevent sliding. The front handle doubles as a hook for the wheel of your office chair, keeping everything in place so only your legs are moving, therefore making it one of the most stable models in this roundup. (If your chair doesn’t have a center leg, such as what you’d find on a typical task chair, it might be awkward to angle that hook onto the right or left leg of the chair, which would put the elliptical off-center.) Another bonus: You can adjust the pedal angles for sitting and standing. And while it’s the heaviest on this list, it has front rollers for easier transportation.

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The 6 Very Best Under-Desk Ellipticals