Testing the FitDesk: an update

Last week I posted on testing the FitDesk. Here’s an update.

I discovered I had mounted the desktop backward. I had assembled it intuitively and then thought the velcro for attaching the electronic monitor was missing. I held the laptop in place with the giant rubber bands the company provided.

Later, I saw a piece of velcro on what I thought was the wrong side, and the little wheels in my mind started turning. I got out the instructions, looked at the photo, and sure enough, the fat end of the desktop is closer to the rider.

Here’s a photo with it mounted correctly, electronic monitor attached:

FitDesk

This way, there’s a slight ledge that you can’t really see but can feel on the desktop (which is made of dense foam covered with cloth) that will keep your laptop from sliding off. Although giant rubber bands are included, I did not find them necessary to hold my laptop in place with the desktop mounted correctly.

Note: I didn’t really use the electronic monitor. I just looked at the clock or set a timer on my iPhone and pedaled for a set length of time. Since I’m not using it to meet fitness goals, I found it more of a bother.

FitDesk pocketThis way of mounting the desktop also places the pockets closer to the rider. I used my iPhone to take these photos, but when not in use, I store it in one of the pockets, with Post-Its and writing instruments in the other pocket.

My friend Edward Spurlock tested it out. He adjusted the seat to fit his leg length. He is a cyclist and concurred with me that the FitDesk is not comparable in quality with exercise bikes at the gym (which are built for heavy, nearly constant use mimicking hills and so on). But for simply keeping your legs active while doing computer work, it’s great.

(Note: I took the photo below before figuring out the right way to mount the desktop!)

Edward monitored calories burned using an app called BodyBugg and reported the following:

I spent the entire interval from 12:42 PM to 12:48 PM turning the pedals on the FitDesk and burned 23 calories total during that time.

By comparison, I highlighted and selected the interval from 1:06 to 1:12 PM, when I was sitting in stop-and-go traffic on IH35 on my way home. The ‘Bugg registered a total of 8 calories burned for the interval, or around 1.4 calories / minute.

I usually burn 1.2 – 1.4 calories per minute on a normal workday sitting at my desk. If I used the FitDesk for a longer period, I might have slowed down a bit – but I think it’s fair to assume that one would burn at least twice as many calories turning the pedals and holding one’s body upright using the FitDesk than sitting still in the standard office chair with backrest.

Two to four calories per minute is pretty good compared to 1.2 – 1.4. You could definitely lose weight/eat more delicious food using a FitDesk regularly!

And finally, I want to report that the FitDesk does seem very feasible for use in an actual office wearing actual office clothing. I rode it for 30 minutes with the pedal tension set to 1 (no tension). You may remember that my first test was for an hour with the tension set midway at 4. I got sweaty then.

I did not sweat using the lowest setting, which is pretty remarkable considering I keep my trailer a bit warmer than the typical 72 degree setting found in most offices, closer to 76.

So I would say that the FitDesk is a desirable option in an office setting as well as for working at home.

Check out my tips for improving your health while sitting less (written while pedaling on a FitDesk)!

I’m pedaling on a FitDesk as I write this!

The FitDesk that I wrote about previously arrived last week in a big box — and today was the first day I had time to devote to assembling it, testing it, and inviting friends to come over later and try it out.

I am pedaling as I write this blog post! After hopping on for seat adjustment (none needed for my 5’1″ height on the lowest setting), I decided to cycle for an hour while I read email, caught up on FB and Twitter, read some articles, and wrote this post. I set the tension control midway.

The FitDesk came with its own assembly tools! I didn’t even need a screwdriver or wrench, just a sharp knife for opening the box and unpacking the parts. Assembly was very easy and took about 15 minutes. There are 12 bolts already in place, and the desktop just slides onto the handlebars. The laptop is held in place with giant rubber bands.

FitDesk assembly tools

I did discover that the cloth covering the desktop did not have any Velcro (TM) in place for attaching the electronic monitor (which measures time, speed, distance, and calories), so I used it without the monitor. Since the purpose is to be active while getting computer work done, the monitor seemed like it would be a distraction.

I imagine the company would rectify this quickly if asked.

And now I’ve finished one hour! I did get off it a couple of times to make hard-boiled eggs and drain them.

I got a little sweaty using the midway tension control setting, which was comparable to going up a very low incline. I’m wearing exercise clothes, so no problem.

I will try it later at a lower setting dressed in business casual clothing because I’d like to find out if an office worker could use it at work and look fresh afterwards.

I can feel my sit bones! There’s no pain, but it’s been awhile since I’ve ridden a bike. The seat is wide and cushy. I imagine it just takes time to adjust to riding, no matter what kind of seat. The company suggests standing frequently, using a gel cover for the first few weeks, wearing padded cycling shorts, and, lastly, trying a different saddle (they have an accessory that allows universal saddle mounting) if it bothers you too much.

 

FitDesk bike seat

 

This is my initial report. Please let me know if you have any questions. I will write more later.

 

Tips to counteract a sedentary job

If you have a desk job that requires a lot of sitting and you’re concerned about the health risks now being associated with prolonged sitting, here are some things you can do that require no expense:

  • Use a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch and walk around every 30 or 60 minutes. Google “timer” to find a virtual timer you like. Aim for a few minutes of non-sitting movement every hour.
  • Find ways to walk more: Place your phone away from your desk, so you have to stand up and walk to it to make or answer calls. Use a small cup for your drinking water or beverage of choice (or fill your regular cup partway), and when it’s empty, get up to refill it. Don’t use the restroom that’s closest to your office — walk to a more distant one. Instead of emailing colleagues, walk to their offices to talk, when feasible.
  • Breathe fully and deeply, using your abdomen, moving your ribs front, sides, and back. Do 5 of these breaths, then return to normal breathing.
  • Take a yoga class on your lunch hour. Or do desk yoga (Google “rodney yee 4 minute”  to see videos of Rodney Yee doing seated sequences). You can evendo cat-cow ever so often while sitting: curl your spine forward and back a few times, exhaling when you curl forward, inhaling when you arch your back.
  • Close your door or put on your headphones, turn on your iPod or a music video, and dance!
  • Fidget and wiggle. Especially move your legs.

When you’re not at work, avoid sitting as much as you can:

  • If you drive to work and your car has no lumbar support, place two tennis balls inside a piece of pantyhose with a knot in the middle and at the ends. Put it behind your lumbar vertebrae and press into it as you drive. It will feel great — and you’ll know when you’ve had enough.
  • If you watch television in the evenings or on weekends, stand, use your treadmill, or bounce on an exercise ball while watching. If you sit, get up and move during commercials.
Sit on an exercise ball at work instead of a desk chair. It strengthens your core, improves balance, improves flexibility, burns more calories, and requires you to use your legs. You can get them for under $20. Get a 75 cm for the most height. 

All of these tips can make a difference, helping to lower blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, and waist size; improve posture, breathing, and metabolism; and decrease back pain.

“If there’s a fountain of youth, it is probably physical activity,” says Yancey, noting that research has shown benefits to every organ system in the body.

Next: standing desks.