Under Desk Elliptical vs Bike – What are the Differences?

We spend the majority of our workday sitting at our desks, only to spend even more time at home sitting on the couch watching television or on our laptops and tablets. According to Medical News Today and the Sedentary Behavior Research Network (SBRN), this sedentary lifestyle is a “significant public health issue…linked to a range of chronic health conditions.”

If YOU are trapped in this sedentary lifestyle, struggling to find time to keep active, why not exercise and burn calories AT YOUR DESK with an under desk bike or under desk elliptical trainer? It’s time to get moving!

Under Desk Bike versus Under Desk Elliptical

Under Desk Elliptical vs Bike: The Differences

An under desk bike and an under desk elliptical are very similar in size, weight, and primary function. Both options are suitable for exercising in your office environment (or at home), and both offer the same calorie-burning benefits. The major differences between an under desk bike and an under desk elliptical are the pedals and the stride, the pattern of the movement required to burn calories. With an under desk bike, you will make an up and down circular motion versus the forward/back motion of the under desk elliptical.

Our Top Picks

DeskCycle Under Desk Bike

Read our Review

Quiet, smooth, and healthy pedal motion.

Cubii Jr. Under Desk Elliptical

Read our Review

Fully customizable with adjustable handlebars and seat.

1. Workout  

Although both machines work on your legs, the way you work out using them greatly differs. In the Under Desk Bike, your legs move up and down in circular motions, just like riding a bicycle.

In contrast to this, the Under Desk Elliptical leg motions are like shuffling your legs back and forth. The major difference in movements’ direction will contribute to the exercise of various muscles on the legs. Moreover, the feet’s range of motion would also be different. You’re likely to get tired quicker with the Under Desk Elliptical because of all the muscle movements involved.

The difference on the pattern of the movement


Under Desk Bike Movement

Circular Motion


Under Desk Elliptical Movement

Forward/ Back Motion

2. Space

Although both are comfortable under a regular desk, being taller will place you at a disadvantage when using an Under Desk Bike.

While sitting with your legs, making 90-degree angles on your knees, going up and down can also cause you to knock your knees on the bottom of the desk if there’s not enough room beneath the desk. With the Under Desk Elliptical, the knees remain almost at the same position. So there won’t be any need to worry about knocking your knees on the bottom of the desk.

3. Feet Placement

With the Under Desk Bike, the pedals require you to insert your feet in it. If your foot size is more than average, we will recommend you consider getting a bike having pedals that can accommodate your size. In case you cannot find a bike that can accommodate your size, you can put your feet on the pedals instead of inserting them in the pedal loops.

The Under Desk Elliptical has larger pedals to accommodate any foot size. The pedals require you to stand on them and push them back and forth. Their design offers small barriers on the front and back to hold the feet in line.

4. Leg Muscles

Although the Under Desk Bike supersedes the Under Desk Elliptical as it offers more ways to involve the entire body and the legs, on the other hand,  the elliptical does offer more and better ways to work the legs.

You can target several leg muscles with the elliptical. You need to adjust the position of your feet on the pedals to get the desired result. To achieve the needed results, you can use the flat-footed position, toes, and heel. These positions are perfect when you recover from injury and you need to work out your legs.

You may also vary the difficulty of getting to the level of fitness you need. It’s particularly crucial when healing a joint, and you’re going through different stages of the healing process.

5. Benefits beyond Leg Muscles

Although both machines promise a focus on the legs, the Under Desk Elliptical is the one that sticks to this role only. While working with the elliptical, your workout will focus on legs only. The Under Desk Bike can be moved to a table, a bench, or another desk for working out the upper body. By putting your hands on the pedals, you can pedal away as you do with your legs.

The fact that you can regulate the difficulty levels of pedaling makes the bike better for the upper body. The pedaling movements work not only on the arm muscles but on the upper body as a whole. It’s a more complex machine than an Under Desk Elliptical.

As a result, if you have large feet, under desk ellipticals may be a better choice for you as they could provide you the leg clearance you need.

Below, we will describe how those two machines differ and then we will give you some tips about what to choose based on your needs.

Sum-up: Comparison Table

Under Desk Bikes

A mini under desk bike

They have smaller bicycle pedals which travel in a circle, much like a stationary bicycle. If you have larger feet, the size of the pedals may be a consideration. One benefit of the under desk bike over the elliptical is the fact that you can place the “bike” on a bench, table, or desk and use it as an upper-body ergometer by placing your hands on the pedals.

Under Desk Ellipticals

Cubii Pro - Seated Under-Desk Elliptical

They have significantly larger pedals than the under desk bike, almost like a boot-shaped platform, which may be a better choice if your feet are large. The motion of an under desk elliptical is more forward and back than circular, much like walking or climbing stairs.

The larger foot surface combined with the elliptical pattern allows you to target different muscles in your legs by choosing different foot positions, including flat-footed, tiptoe, and heels.

1. Top 10 Under Desk Bikes & Ellipticals
2. Cubii Pro vs Cubii Jr.: A Complete Comparison

How Do Under Desk Bike & Under Desk Elliptical Work?

Under Desk Bikes and Ellipticals are great at improving overall fitness, burning calories, improving tone, maintaining healthy joints, and improving circulation. They are easy to use under a desk, in front of a TV, or wherever they are convenient.

The main difference between the typical stationary upright exercise bikes and under desk bikes or ellipticals is the sitting position. The person is seated upright in the saddle on the upright bike, using the middle torso area’s core muscles to balance the exercise. With under desk bikes/ellipticals, you are less likely to get this advantage unless you pick the right chair for your workout.

Using Under Desk Bikes or Ellipticals helps you lose weight and exercise muscle groups, improving tone and definition through a bit of extra use. In particular, it will strengthen your leg muscles over time.

Which is better: Bike or Elliptical?

Well, the short answer is: It depends. As we mentioned before, although those machines work a little differently, they share many common features and the results of the exercise are quite similar.

The right question is: Which is better for my needs?

Check out the following tips, so you can pick the right one for your needs.

  • Clearance:
    If you have long legs (or a low desk), the up and down circular motion of the under desk bike may not provide you the leg clearance you need. The more forward/back motion of the under-desk elliptical may be the best option.
  • Resistance:
    If you are “hardcore” and like a challenge, look for an under desk trainer that allows you to increase the resistance. The under desk bike option may be best for you as increasing the tension on an elliptical may result in your feet sliding off the platforms. If resistance is a requirement for you, you need to choose a trainer that has enough weight to remain in place as you exercise.
  • Smooth, Quiet Operation:
    You need a trainer that you can use as you work, type, answer phone calls, without disturbing your coworkers. For example, DeskCycle and Cubii Jr. Elliptical are known to be very quiet machines.
  • Pedals:
    Under Desk Elliptical has longer and broader pedals. This helps the user to exercise in a variety of positions. The larger pedals allow you to target and exercise different muscles of your leg. If you are pedaling with your heel, toes, or even a flat foot, it involves various muscles in your legs. Under Desk Bikes have pedals resembling that of a bicycle.
  • Bells & Whistles:
    Under desk bikes and under desk ellipticals are much like automobiles in that, the more you spend, the more options and accessories you receive. Examples of available options include digital displays, monitors, and the ability to link to applications on your phone or computer.

Our Top Picks

DeskCycle Under Desk Bike

Read our Review

Quiet, smooth, and healthy pedal motion.

Cubii Jr. Under Desk Elliptical

Read our Review

Fully customizable with adjustable handlebars and seat.


Questions you might have

How Many Calories Can You Burn with An Under Desk Bike or Elliptical?

While the manufacturers of both under desk bikes and ellipticals claim a calorie burn of “up to 300 calories per hour,” a more realistic result may be in the 100+ calories per hour range. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine* provided office workers with an under desk pedal exerciser for 16 weeks. The office workers burned (on average) an extra 107 calories each day by exercising in short 8-10 minute periods adding up to a total of 50 minutes per day. This relatively short period adds up to more than 500 calories a week burned without leaving their desks! You could quickly boost your calorie burn and weight loss by increasing your exercise beyond the 50 minute total.

At the end of the 16-week study, researchers also noted significant improvements in overall weight reduction, total fat mass, body fat percentage, and waist circumference, reduced resting heart rate and improved concentration and fewer sick days!

Can Under Desk Bike/ Elliptical give you a high-intensity workout?

While using an under desk bike or under desk elliptical won’t give you a high-intensity workout, you can still achieve a beneficial low-intensity workout. Each device provides exercise similar to walking or biking, both of which can improve your overall fitness, burn more calories, improve your muscle tone, maintain healthy joints, and improve your circulation. As a bonus, both can be used under your desk or in front of your chair at home while you watch TV.

Are Those Machines Suitable For The Elderly?

Seniors and the elderly spend an incredible amount of time sitting every day. Since sitting has many negative consequences, Under Desk Bike or Elliptical will help minimize some of the bad consequences.

As cardio and other machines are more difficult to use, the Under Desk Cycle or Elliptical helps the elderly exercise safely. Many units are compact and portable, allowing them for indoor or outdoors uses. Though it will take longer to burn calories, doing light exercise is better than not doing any. Here are a few of the great benefits of Under Desk Bike or Elliptical for the elderly:

1. Improve metabolism
2. Reduce the effects of arthritis
3. Improve mood and sleep
4. Burn calories
5. Tone muscles
6. Promote weight loss

Sources: American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Total Worker Health Intervention Increases Activity of Sedentary Workers.

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The article has been researched & compiled by the Editorial IF-FIT Team, a group of experienced fitness & health writers.

This post has 7 Comments

    1. Hi,

      Under desk bikes & ellipticals won’t give you a high-intensity workout like a regular Treadmill or Exercise bike. However, you can burn around 100 calories for one hour of exercise while sitting on a desk or a couch, watching Netflix, without even realizing it. If you are doing it regularly and you are following a healthy diet and life, under desk bike/elliptical can really help you with losing weight.

  1. I am interested from a cardio workout point of view. Can you lift your heart rate sufficiently with the under-desk units? I need it for cardio workout in a small apartment (during COVID lock-down) with no room for any equipment? Or is a cardio workout easier to do on a foldable upright?

    1. Hi,

      Under-Desk Bikes & Ellipticals are offering a low-intensity cardio training workout where Exercise Bikes can offer a higher intensity cardio training. Low-intensity training is a low impact workout, and it can provide you with all the cardiovascular benefits of exercise without over-taxing your body.

      So, the short answer is yes, under-desk units can lift your heart rate enough, from a cardio workout point of view. However, if you want to have a greater freedom of exercise intensity, you could go with a foldable upright, like the Exerpeutic Folding Upright.

      You can also read this helpful information with Exercise Suggestions from the official Deskcycle page (look at “Suggestion 2: Cardio Workout).

      *Disclaimer: We suggest that you should also consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs.

  2. “Can you lift your heart rate sufficiently with the under-desk units?”

    You may also want to look at eliptical under desk/stand units. You can use them under desk, then move them out and do a standing work out as well (get one with a handle on top for easy movement). Hold on to a chair back or tall file cabinet for balance and you won’t need a fold up unit.

  3. Hi-I am interested in the cardio benefits as well as low impact for my joints. But more importantly I’m hoping to improve circulation and muscles strength in my legs. Will both lower leg and thigh muscles benefit?

    1. Hi Annette!

      Based on the published surveys & scientific research, a pedal exerciser can increase the blood circulation around your body. Now, regarding the muscles worked, an under desk bike or elliptical can work on many muscle groups, including glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and hip flexors.

      Of course, you won’t get the same resistance, hence muscle strength, as a regular exercise bike, but remember that we speak about a low impact workout, so that’s normal. We suggest that you should also consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs.

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