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Pilot Study of Impact of a Pedal Desk on Postprandial Responses in Sedentary Workers


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2018 - Volume 50 - Issue 10 - p 2156–2163
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001679

Physical inactivity has been linked to rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease through insulin resistance and other mechanisms. Although sedentary workplace environments have unintentionally contributed to the risk for chronic diseases, innovations in the workplace environment could potentially rectify this public and occupational health problem.

Purpose To evaluate the effects of light-intensity physical activity using a pedal desk (PD) compared with a standard desk (STD) in a pilot study on postprandial metabolic responses and work skills.

Methods Twelve overweight/obese full-time sedentary office workers (six men and six women; body mass index, 28.7 ± 3.6 kg·m−2) were tested in two conditions: 1) PD, pedaling at self-selected light-intensity pace for 2 h and 2) STD, remaining seated for 2 h in a conventional workstation setup while performing scripted computer-based work tasks. Blood samples were analyzed for plasma glucose, insulin, and free-fatty acids in response to a standardized meal and work skills were evaluated. Paired samples t-tests were used to examine the differences in metabolic responses and work performance tasks between the conditions.

Results Pedal desk use required significantly less insulin to maintain glucose concentrations compared with STD condition (peak insulin concentration, 42.1 μU·mL−1 vs 66.9 μU·mL−1; P = 0.03; and area under the curve, 302.6 vs 441.8 μU·min−1·mL−1; P < 0.001). No significant changes in plasma glucose and free-fatty acid concentrations were observed at any timepoints (all P > 0.05). In addition, pedaling at a self-paced rate caused no adverse effects on work skills (P > 0.05).

Conclusions The PD resulted in lower postmeal insulin concentrations without an overall negative impact on work skills. Thus, the PD could have the potential to achieve public and occupational health goals in sedentary work environments.

1Department of Kinesiology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA;

2School of Community Health Sciences, Counselling and Counselling Psychology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK; and

3Department of Counseling, Heath and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

Address for correspondence: Stuart R. Chipkin, M.D., School of Public Health and Health Sciences University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 240 Thatcher Rd, Amherst, MA 01003; E-mail:

Submitted for publication August 2017.

Accepted for publication April 2018.

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© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine