Exercise as it relates to Disease/Cycling workstations; an approach to increasing energy expenditure in office settings

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This is an analysis of the Journal Article “A cycling workstation to facilitate physical activity in office settings” by S. Elmer and J. Martin.(2014)[1]

What is the background to this research?[edit]

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, accounting for 6% of deaths globally. Insufficient physical activity is associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.[2] In modern society sedentary behaviour is merged into daily living, through transport, the workplace, school and in the home.[3]

Despite strong evidence suggesting physical activity is associated to a better quality of life, lower stress levels and better self-perception, many individuals report insufficient time and fatigue as barriers to physical activity.[1] [3]

A form of sedentary behaviour in the workplace[4].

As a result of decreased energy expenditure from sedentary behaviour, the prevalence of obesity is increasing, an epidemic currently costing the United States government $147 billion per year.[1]

The workplace is a major contributor to sedentary behaviour therefore a key area of focus is incorporating physical activity into office-based settings. [3] Cycling workstations have been considered as an effective approach to reduce the risks associated with sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity in the working day. [1]

This study looks at the difference between typing whilst sitting compared to typing whilst peddling and the effect on productivity in the workforce.

Where is the research from?[edit]

The research was conducted by Steven Elmer from the University of Maine and James Martin, from the University of Utah. The study addresses the applicable expenses associated with sedentary behaviour and obesity levels in the United States of America.

Both researchers have previously been involved in studies relating to cycling ergonomics. Elmer has contributed to numerous studies in the field, whilst Martin has declared a potential conflict of interest due to inventing property related to a cycling workstation in conjugation with the University of Utah. Despite the potential conflict, the procedures in relation to this study were reviewed by the University of Utah Institutional Review Board. [1]

No outside funding was received for this study. The research was published in the ‘Applied Ergonomics’ journal.

What kind of research was this?[edit]

This type of study is a case-crossover study; it involves two experimental trials taking place consecutively in a randomized order to provide the difference between outcomes on the same participants. [5]

Procedures were explained verbally and written informed consent provided by participants.

What did the research involve?[edit]

Ten healthy male volunteers working in office settings participated in this study.

Participants were to refrain from eating for at least 3 hours prior to testing, upon arriving to the laboratory dressed in office attire, resting baseline data was recorded. The two experimental trials then took place, each 10minutes in duration, with a minimum of five-minute rest between trials. Both involved transcribing the Gettysburg Address at a comfortable typing speed whilst correcting any typing errors to represent office work.

  • Sitting while typing - positioned on cycling workstation without pedaling.
  • Pedaling while typing – participants selected preferred resistance level to comfortably maintain, participants peddled at this level for ten minutes and were free to modulate their pedaling rate.
Information collected
Sitting and Cycling Oxygen consumption, Carbon dioxide production, Minute ventilation, Respiratory exchange ratio, Metabolic equivalents, Heart rate, RPE
Cycling only Pedaling rate, power produced

The methodology was appropriate for the research topic, however a larger sample size would be beneficial in order to improve the accuracy of results.

What were the basic results?[edit]

Elmer and Martin found that oxygen consumption, minute ventilation and heart rate were substantially greater during pedaling and typing, when compared to sitting and typing trials. Therefore energy expenditure was greater when participants pedaled for the ten-minute period, resulting in a metabolic cost/MET 2.5 times greater than that of the sitting whilst typing trial.

The time required to complete the typing task and number of errors did not differ between the sitting and pedaling trials, this is important to note for productivity in the office.

Results of the two trials were interpreted into graphs to clearly convey the differences in trials and to state the beneficial impact of a cycle ergometer in an office setting. The researches made an effort to state that pedaling was of “very very light” exertion and that it did not compromise productivity in the workplace. [1]

What conclusions can we take from this research?[edit]

Introducing cycle ergometers into office settings will increase metabolic costs and therefore increase energy expenditure during the working day. By breaking up sedentary office work with pedaling, physical activity levels are increased, benefiting the health of those individuals.

The results obtained in this study are aligned with previous studies, in indicating that cycling workstations increase physical activity in the workforce and do not negatively impact productivity.[1]

A study carried out over a 20-week period by Torbeyns et al, found that most participants found the use of a bike desk to be a positive experience and that they would continue to use the bike desk if made available in the workplace. Findings included improved attention, work performance, motivation and self-confidence in addition to the benefits of increased energy expenditure.[6]

By implementing bike desks in office settings, physical activity is expected to increase during the working day.

Practical advice[edit]

This research has suggested that the use of a cycling workstation in office settings will increase physical activity during working hours. The major implication of introducing an intervention requiring physical activity is that it requires motivation on an individual level.

When individuals are working full time in an office-based workplace it may be beneficial to introduce the use of a cycling workstation. It is important to note that the expenses associated present a limitation, however the benefits are likely to be worth the investment.

Individuals must take care in the use of a cycling workstation, paying particular attention to maintaining a comfortable resistance level to ensure the activity is of light intensity and does not interrupt the productivity of work.

A practical and appropriate way for many individuals to incorporate the use of a cycling workstation in the workplace is by pedaling for ten minutes at the end of every hour; throughout the duration of an eight hour shift, it becomes possible to accumulate 80minutes of extra physical activity.

Further reading[edit]

Further readings: For further information and studies related to the use of cycling desks and active workstations;


  1. a b c d e f g Elmer S, Martin J. A cycling workstation to facilitate physical activity in office settings. Applied Ergonomics. 2014;45(4):1240-1246.
  2. Global recommendations on physical activity for health. [Internet]. World Health Organisation; 2010 [cited 9 September 2017]. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44399/1/9789241599979_eng.pdf
  3. a b c Torbeyns T, de Geus B, Bailey S, De Pauw K, Decroix L, Van Cutsem J et al. Cycling on a Bike Desk Positively Influences Cognitive Performance. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2016 [cited 12 September 2017];11(11):e0165510. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0165510&type=printable
  4. Study Break (3853161500).jpg. 2009. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Study_Break_(3853161500).jpg
  5. Wellek S, Blettner M. On the Proper Use of the Crossover Design in Clinical Trials [Internet]. 2012 [cited 14 September 2017]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3345345/pdf/Dtsch_Arztebl_Int-109-0276.pdf
  6. Torbeyns T, de Geus B, Bailey S, Decroix L, Meeusen R. The potential of bike desks to reduce sedentary time in the office: a mixed-method study. Public Health [Internet]. 2017 [cited 13 September 2017];144:16-22. Available from: https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0033350616303882/1-s2.0-S0033350616303882-main.pdf?_tid=60617196-a11f-11e7-b71e-00000aacb35d&acdnat=1506254359_c43403aae72968f8693831bd50f8f743