What Is a Pedal Exerciser? Here’s Everything You Need to Know.

It seems like every day someone tells us about a different diet or workout that will solve our health and weight loss woes. We could spend half our income on various pieces of equipment. Or we could think about what we need, do a little research and learn what’s right for us. Case in point: the pedal exerciser. What is it? What muscles does it work? Will it help you lose weight? What should we know before buying one? Read on to find out.

What Is A Pedal Exerciser?

A lot of us spend a lot of time in sedentary positions either because of work, travel, or injury. A pedal exerciser is an excellent way to introduce physical activity to people who have limitations in terms of time, space or mobility. It is a small floor or table sized piece of equipment that resembles the pedals of a traditional bicycle. You can hide it under your desk at work, or use it while you’re at home. You can even use it on your upper body.

What Muscles Does It Work?

The pedal exerciser gives your body a low-impact aerobic workout that’s easy on the joints, builds endurance, and improves blood circulation and heart rate. This can boost your mood, prevent obesity, and improve your heart health. It can be used in a variety of ways to get a different kind of workout.

The muscles used on a pedal exerciser are similar to the muscles used on a recumbent bicycle. These include the hip flexors, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. A pedal exerciser with a resistance feature allows you to increase the intensity of the workout by making it more difficult to pedal. But the benefits of this kind of exercise aren’t limited to the lower body. A pedal exerciser can be used with the hands as well. This motion will work your biceps, triceps, shoulders and forearms. To do it safely, secure the pedal exerciser to a table or countertop by placing it on a rubber mat before use.

For optimal benefits, aim to use the pedal exerciser for about 150 minutes per week. You can increase the intensity by increasing the duration of a workout and increasing resistance. You can also vary the intensity of your workout pedaling faster for short periods and then slowing to a more regular pace. This is a variation on high intensity interval training (HIIT) which can boost your metabolism for hours after a workout. One way to tell if you’re exercising at the right intensity is to do a talk test. You should be able to carry a conversation or hum a tune while you’re working out. But, if you’re able to sing a song, you probably aren’t working hard enough. But high intensity exercise isn’t the only way to get results. By pedaling at a slow pace while you work on the computer, you can burn a lot more calories over the course of the day than you would if you were sitting still.

If you’re using the peddler for weight-loss remember that diet and other forms of exercise play an important part in results. Cut out junk food, sweets and alcohol and replace them with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Don’t skip breakfast, but try to eat a high protein breakfast rather than cereals and breads. Protein has a high thermic effect, meaning that it uses more calories to digest, and makes you feel more satisfied. Another way to boost weight loss results is the addition of resistance training to your pedaling two to three times per week. This will burn calories and build muscles. The additional muscle will help you burn more calories while you’re pedaling. You can even multi-task by using dumbbells to do bicep curls and shoulder presses while you pedal.


Things To Consider Before Buying One

Think about what will make a workout comfortable for you. Is a smooth ride an important consideration for you? Is it a problem if your exerciser makes a noise? Do you plan to use the pedal under a desk or table? Will the exerciser fit comfortably where you plan to use it? Can you bring it with you when you travel? If you can create a positive exercise experience, you’re more likely to keep it up, and make it a part of your lifestyle.


Many pedal exercisers have a jerky motion. For some devices the jerkiness varies with the resistance. There are a few pedal exercisers that feature a better mechanism and have a smoother motion.


Pedal exercisers are designed to fit under a table or desk. But the width of the platform can make a difference in terms of stability. A narrow platform means that it will be harder to keep the device stable. Therefore, a wider platform is better in terms of balance and stability.


If you travel frequently and want to bring your device with you, get one that folds up neatly so that you can slip it into your luggage. Some devices may even be small enough to use on a plane!


Resistance type, level and adjustability

All stationary exercise bikes have either magnetic or direct contact brake/friction. In a magnetic system, the brake does not come into contact with the disk. It gets closer to the disk or further away depending on the level of resistance. A friction system touches the disk and therefore needs the pads need to be maintained and changed. The brake touching the disk can also be noisy. One way to deal with the noise is to dampen it by putting some graphite powder on the surface where the knob clamps down. If you don’t want to deal with that, a magnetic system may be the best choice for you.

Pedal height, width, and straps

To figure out what pedal height you need, sit on a chair behind your desk or table and raise your feet to the height of the pedals. Do your knees hit the desk? If they do, try to adjust the height of the desk or your chair and try again. Lower pedals are generally better because they allow you to exercise comfortably under short tables and desks. The distance of the pedal to the floor is usually listed on the description of the pedal exerciser. You can also test the width of the pedal exerciser that you’re interested in, by putting something the same size under your desk. Will the pedaler come into contact with the wheels/legs of the chair? If it does, that can push you away from your desk, and make it uncomfortable for you to work while you pedal. Of course, if you don’t plan to use the exerciser under a desk or table, this isn’t something you need to worry about. Though even in that case, you should look for a device with a wide base, so it’s stable. Adjustable straps are also a consideration to keep your feet firmly on the pedals.

Digital Display

How many calories have you burned? How much distance have you traveled? What is your speed? How long have you been working out? It’s important to keep track of these values because doing so can help keep you motivated. Most exercisers have digital displays, but it’s a good idea to check to make sure.

Pedal Motion

Make sure that you can pedal forward and backward on your exerciser. Pedaling backward or in reverse on some bikes elicited higher heart-rate and energy cost values. The backward pedaling can also reduce the pressure on the joint.

If your pedaler moves away from you when you try to use it, look at how you’re pedaling. If you pedal in a downward motion, it shouldn’t move. If you are trying to pedal in a forward motion, then the force will be more than the weight of the pedaler, causing the device to move. If you don’t want to adjust the pedals so that you can pedal in a downward motion there are several options. Some machines come with a Velcro tether that keeps the device from sliding away from your chair. If your pedaler doesn’t have a tether, you can improvise with a rope or belt. If your pedals have a t-bar for the feet, you can attach them to a piece of carpet using a “c” clamp. Make sure that the carpet is big enough to go under the chair and the pedals, so that the weight of the chair keeps everything in place.


Remember that things can break. Look for an exerciser with a longer warranty. This proves quality, because it means that the manufacturer believes that the product will last for a long time, and will not need to be replaced.



A pedal exerciser can be a great solution for people who have their exercise options limited by a sedentary lifestyle. It can also lower stress, boost energy, burns calories, and help improve desk work efficiency and even improve your mood. But it’s important to be aware of your needs in terms of size, noise, and the kind of pedaling experience that you want. Knowing what you want will make it easier to find the right exerciser for you.
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