Pedal desks may reduce health risks of sedentary workplace

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US found that pedalling while conducting work tasks improved insulin responses to a test meal.
Researchers said that pedal desks “could have the potential to achieve public and occupational health goals in sedentary work environments.”(Shutterstock)
Researchers said that pedal desks “could have the potential to achieve public and occupational health goals in sedentary work environments.”(Shutterstock)
Updated on Nov 11, 2018 12:52 PM IST
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Press Trust of India | ByPress Trust of India, Washington

Pedal desks can help sedentary employees achieve their health goals, and lower the risk of diseases linked to physical inactivity, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, a study has found.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US found that pedalling while conducting work tasks improved insulin responses to a test meal.

Insulin levels following the meal were lower when sedentary workers used a pedal desk compared to a standard desk. In addition, work skills were not decreased in the pedalling condition.

Researchers said that pedal desks “could have the potential to achieve public and occupational health goals in sedentary work environments.” They point out that physical inactivity and sedentary work environments have been linked to higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease through insulin resistance and other mechanisms. “Instead of approaching the problem by trying to squeeze intermittent activity into a largely sedentary work routine, we chose to consider integrating physical activity into the workday,” said Stuart Chipkin, who led the study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Researchers felt that the alternatives now available for office workers - standing desks and treadmill desks - are not feasible to use for whole shifts and may even pose some barriers, such as standing too long.

By contrast, a pedal desk can be used in a seated position at the user’s own pace for as little or as much time as the worker chooses.

Though there are currently no commercial pedal desks on the market, researchers were able to use a prototype pedal desk.

They recruited 12 overweight/obese full-time sedentary office workers, six men and six women, and tested them in two conditions, pedalling at self-selected light-intensity pace for two hours, and working while seated for two hours at a conventional desk.

In both conditions, participants performed computer-based tasks and were tested on mouse proficiency, typing speed and accuracy, reading comprehension and concentration/attention.

The participants also provided blood samples after eating a light meal for analysis of metabolic responses of glucose, insulin and free fatty acids, a link between obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers report that pedal desk use required significantly less insulin to maintain glucose concentrations compared with using the standard desk.

“It took much less insulin to keep their blood sugars the same. This means that the body doesn’t work so hard to maintain blood glucose and fatty acid levels with use of the pedal desk compared to a standard desk,” said Chipkin.

“From the metabolic point of view, the pedal desk seems to be helpful and the from the work point of view, work tasks were not impaired,” he said.

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