on March 23, 2012
I read through every description and review I could find before I bought this because I wanted to know if I could use it at my desk while sitting and working. Nothing really answered that, so I got in anyway. And now, it is clear that this thing is the missing link in my fitness program. I'm basically sedentary for 8 hours a day at work. Not anymore. I did 14 miles on it yesterday and am up to 12 miles today, and it is only 11am.
Here's the deal: Sit down at your desk with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. If your feet aren't flat on the ground, lower your chair until they are. Now measure the distance between your knee and the desk (measure to the bottom of the workspace area, to see how much distance you have before your knees knock up against the desk when you lift them). If you measured 7 inches or more, you are fine and can get this thing with no problem. If you measured less than seven inches, take off your shoes and try again. When I took off my shoes, I had a seven inch gap. Generally, the highest your knees will go is 27.5 inches from the ground. My desk is 28 inches from floor to the bottom panel of the workstation, so I never knock my knees.
Assembly is easy, the machine does not rock at all if you assemble it correctly. The instructions tell you to turn the machine around if you are using it under your desk, and that is correct. Resistance can be adjusted easily with a dial, and there is a meter that scans through distance in miles, time used, calories burned, etc, while you work out. It shuts off automatically. You can even pedal backwards to vary the workout. You can move your chair close or farther from the machine as well.
1. You really need a minimum of 27inches of height under your desk for this to work well. Take off your shoes, lower your chair, use those desk raiser pads from Lowe's or Home Depot if you need to raise the surface of the desk.
2. Your chair could pose a problem. I have an Aeron chair at work. The legs are a little close together, but far enough that I don't knock the pedals of the machine. I wish they were farther apart because then I could scoot all the way under my desk. The legs of my chair are 14 inches apart at their widest point. 15 inches would be perfect. Anything less than 14 and you won't be able to scoot under your desk while pedaling.
3. Lift up your toes and just pedal with the ball of your foot to get an intense workout for your calves.
4. I use this and I also have a FitBit. Unlike when sitting on a yoga/balance ball, pedaling this machine doesn't change my steps walked or climbed on the accelerometer of my FitBit, which is nice. Sometimes, on a bouncy ball, the FitBit thinks you are climbing steps or walking.
5. If you keep this under your desk, you can't really see the meter, mostly because it is dark and not angled toward you, it is angled up. But you can just peek under your desk and look at it when you need to. There's pretty much now way to see it while you are working out.
6. On the lightest setting, it is an easy workout, but you start to feel it after about 5 miles. It doesn't hurt my lower back, but I have lumbar support in my chair.
7. It is also a standing machine, too, but I only use it for sitting because it keeps me active at my desk.
8. There is no strap for your feet, so don't pedal crazy fast. If you are not wearing shoes, it is pretty easy to slip and knock your feet against the pedals.
9. DON'T EVER ATTEMPT TO MOVE THE DEVICE BY JUST DRAGGING THE PEDALS. I smashed my finger pretty badly when the pedals turned and pinned my finger against the side. Pull it from the stabilizer bar at the bottom, or from the base itself.
10. Push the device far into your desk, as close to the wall or back of the desk as possible. That gives you the most space. The pedals NEVER touch the back of my desk, and the cool thing is, when I'm not pedaling, this thing is a great foot rest!
11. It's a lot easier to stabilize yourself on this thing if your hands are on your desk and you are typing or just resting your hands on a keyboard or something.
12. It's really quiet. It's quieter than a fan or a gym machine.
13. For the most part, only your lower legs move. The area around your knees move too, but this is less of a bike and more of an elliptical. If you push your chair in, it really doesn't look like you are working out at your desk. You don't look as silly as you think, especially if you go slow.
Honestly, I wish I had this thing years ago. I can do 10 miles at work easily, with no problem. It just keeps me moving. I think it would be too tough to focus if I increased the resistance, so for now, the lightest resistance and a steady pace burns about 600 calories and keeps me active at my desk without interfering with work.
on July 5, 2014
Needless to say, with my 165-pound weight loss, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this machine, but as others have pointed out, it's not perfect, and there is certainly room for improvement in a future model. Grab a cuppa while you read about my pedaling adventures ...
After decades of fluctuating between "skinny years" and "fat years," a serious bike accident in 2003 left me almost immobile with daily chronic, severe pain, limited mobility and energy - and tipping the scales at 310 lbs. I spent 5 years experimenting with different at-home exercise gadgets in search of something that I could do comfortably within my mobility and energy limitations and still burn up enough extra calories to make the scale move. Balancing ergonomics with while-you-type exercise gadgets proved challenging because of the clearance required to accommodate the circumference of most pedaling/stepping devices. The lower pedaling circumference of the Stamina portable elliptical machine allowed me to have the best of both worlds.
I put it under my desk and pedaled while I worked, at a medium tension, mostly at a 5-7mph rate, off and on throughout the day (not constantly, just whenever I thought about it). I also watched TV while at my desk, so during those times when I would be watching a show or a movie and not needing to focus on work, I would increase the tension a bit and pedal faster, maybe 10-15mph. I averaged about 30 miles total each day on the machine (IMO, the mileage setting is a more meaningful gauge of progress than strides or minutes), taking into account that I spend a minimum of 10-12 hours at the computer each day. Most of the time it would take the entire day to get the 30 miles, but during my occasional "movie marathon" sessions, I could easily put in 20-25 miles per movie, and my all-time record is 75 miles in a single day (3 movies plus some computer/work time). :)
The very first month I lost 8 pounds, WITHOUT CHANGING MY VERY BAD EATING HABITS AT ALL! That was the catalyst I had been waiting for, for so long, and I finally got my motivation to start focusing on my diet as well. I changed my eating habits over the next few months, gradually transitioning to mostly healthy food choices as well as paying attention to portions. After 10 months I had lost 80 pounds, and up to that point, this machine was my ONLY form of (aerobic and/or calorie-burning) exercise!
This machine was a life-changer for me. When I first got it, I was living with a roommate in a loft-style cottage, and my bedroom, bathroom, and office were upstairs. My 24/7 chronic pain was so severe that I often had to go up and down the stairs sitting on my butt, because my knees couldn't handle the stress, and I got too winded if I walked up the stairs. I also couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes or walk more than a block without being in excruciating pain or feeling very winded and totally out of breath. But I could sit and pedal (and work) all day - yay!
As the scale continued to move downward, my chronic pain and windedness eventually subsided enough to incorporate other exercise into my daily routine, such as lifting weights, walking (usually with walking poles, and only for a definite purpose, like doing errands), and riding my (outdoor) bike (my favorite thing in the world to do). But through it all, I continued to pedal while I sat at my desk. I also continued to tweak my eating regimen, gradually moving toward a 95% healthy, whole-food diet that is mostly an even mix (1/3-1/3-1/3) of (healthy) fats/protein/carbs (mostly low-starch carbs), with occasional "anything goes" splurges.
During this whole weight loss journey (began June 2011; lost 165 pounds by June 2013), I have also gone through multiple stints where, due to various injuries, I was unable to engage in any of my usual exercises or activities. I had several falls in the snow during the harsh winter that left me with multiple injuries (including a torn rotator cuff, severely sprained ankle, and bruised knee), and I also fell down the stairs (spraining my ankle in three places), as well as fell while running on the MetroLink platform (falling full force on my knee). While waiting for my body to heal following each of these injuries, I was unable to walk (outdoors) or ride my bike, and in most cases unable to lift weights or put a lot of weight on particular body parts. But in all but one instance (the badly sprained ankle), I was still able to use my portable elliptical and continued losing or at least maintaining my weight while I healed, so it saved the day more than once!
As others have pointed out, though, as WONDERFUL as it is for my purposes, it is not a perfect machine. I have had a GREAT experience with both of mine, with no problems whatsoever (I eventually got a second one to use elsewhere in the house, which I just sold, because I recently moved and don't have room for it in my new place). I have enjoyed three years of blissfully quiet operation, with no noise issues whatsoever until very recently (July 2014). However, after some exploration, I discovered it was because one of the nuts underneath the stabilizer bar had come loose, and after I tightened it, the noise went away.
That being said, after all this time, if I do end up encountering noise or other operational issues which hinder its use or quiet enjoyment, rather than bother with the expense and hassle of a hit-and-miss approach to identifying and replacing parts, my personal choice would be to simply buy a new machine. That's just me. In my opinion, the $90 I spent for 3-plus years of trouble-free and quiet operation to GET MY LIFE BACK was money well spent, with no regrets, and I am happy to do it again. I will always be in love with my elliptical, and I believe it will always have a place in my health and wellness regimen!
That being said, I do wish that they would design the machine in such a way that it was EASY to (1) figure out which part is having trouble and (2) take the machine apart to lube and/or replace a troublesome part. Given the fact that SO MANY people have had issues with noise or breakage, this should be obvious to the designers. I plan to write to the Stamina folks to let them know about it, and I would suggest others do the same, because customer feedback does have sway with folks who care to listen, so it's always worth a shot!
RECOMMENDED FOR SITTING DOWN ONLY!
After taking into consideration what so many other reviewers have said about their experiences, I think I would ONLY RECOMMEND THIS MACHINE FOR USE WHILE SITTING DOWN, because if you read through the reviews, although some of the "sitting only" folks have had issues as well, most of the folks who have the most serious issues of breakage or noise or other trouble after a short while are using it while standing. I really don't think a machine of this design, at this price point, can be expected to withstand that kind of weight and pressure over the long term - it's just not robust enough to do that. But sitting down does not put pressure on it - it's just a movement, which does cause some wear and tear, but nothing like pounding on it with 100, 150, 200 or more pounds of pressure for hours every day.
Also, if you do use it sitting down, it's VERY IMPORTANT that you turn it so that the oval metal part is FACING you and the bar is farthest from you (you can pop the LED display off and turn it around so that it faces in the right direction if you do that). If not, you could risk causing a lot of pain and possible long-term injury in your ankles, because they will be flexing too much if you try to use it in a sitting-down position with the machine facing forward. Try it both ways, and you'll see the difference.
One commenter pointed out that you need about a 27-28" clearance under your desk to avoid your knees hitting the top of the desk. That is pretty much correct for conventional desk arrangements, but I have found, after much tweaking, that what works better for me is to have a higher desk, with a 34-35" typing surface and a bar-height task chair. I also prefer to use the elliptical with shoes on, because I can use it at a higher tension setting that way - with my shoes off, I find I have to keep it at a lighter setting in order to be able to push off, and I don't think I get as effective a workout with too light a tension. I am 5'6" high, so I don't know how well this would work for shorter folks.
Also, with the higher desk surface, I can occasionally use my computer while standing up, which is also a healthy thing to do. It's easy to create a DIY desk of this height by placing a piece of wood or old door on top of some of those 3-tier cubbies you can get from Target, Walmart, etc. I also have a non-slip grid thing that you put under rugs ($2 at the dollar store) which I put under the elliptical to keep it from slipping out of place.
I have recently moved to a new apartment and once again have a temporary setup. My bar-height task chair broke, so I adapted my standard-height chair to be a little higher until I can get a proper bar-height chair, which I prefer. I also plan to get some other pieces and parts for my workstation that will work with my new decor. Meanwhile, while not the most aesthetically pleasing sight, this temporary setup does the job beautifully. I have posted 2 pics of it in the customer images section, so check that out if you're interested.
NOT A FAT "TORCHER," BUT DEFINITELY A FAT "BURNER"!
If you are looking for a machine that will "torch the fat" in a short amount of time, this is not going to be it. You are NOT going to be burning as many calories per hour in a sitting-down position as you would standing upright, so temper your expectations accordingly! At my typical 5mph pace, I estimate that I burn calories at roughly the same rate as a "leisure" bike ride or walk - about 150-200 calories an hour. If I'm going at a faster speed or higher tension, I am sure it's higher than that, but for purposes of calculating my daily calorie burn so that I can align it with my food intake, I always err on the side of caution and estimate in the 150-200-cal/hr range. I've actually converted my calorie-counting for the elliptical based on total mileage rather than clock time, just to make it easier, since that is all I really keep track of, being that I use it off and on throughout the day and don't keep track of my actual pedaling time.
So I guesstimate that I burn approximately 30-35 calories per mile at my 5mph rate (on medium tension), and I bump that guesstimate up to 40-45 calories per mile if I'm going 10-15 mph on medium tension (which I will do if I'm watching a movie) or 50-50 calories per mile if I'm going 10-15 mph at a very high tension. Based on my weight loss-to-calorie-deficit ratio, I think I have been pretty accurate with those assumptions. So, basically, I'm burning, on average, around 1,000 EXTRA calories a day WITHOUT having to dedicate additional time to exercise or going to the gym - just doing my normal activities that I would be doing anyway. How cool is that!
EVEN AT 5MPH, IT CAN STILL HELP BOOST YOUR METABOLISM!
If you are looking for something to use for "dedicated," sustained, serious aerobic exercise several hours a week, this machine is not the best choice. If saving space and portability are issues, then I would suggest some other machines that can fold up and go in a closet or under a bed when not in use, but which provide a greater range of motion and calorie-burning yield.
I think the best use for this machine is NOT for "dedicated exercise," but instead, for "multitasking exercise" - in other words, a way to burn calories while you're doing something else. Although it's certainly not a "calorie torcher," the machine serves a GREAT purpose if you are looking for something that can facilitate burning extra calories while in a sustained sitting position and simultaneously engaged in other activities.
In addition to using it while I am at my computer, I used my second elliptical for other activities. I would slide it under the table in the kitchen or dining room during my lengthy once-a-week or once-a-month food prep sessions. So, unlike many folks who end up with swollen, aching feet after standing in the kitchen for hours, I would burn calories instead and have no aches or pains!
I also created a configuration in my bedroom where I propped it on the side of my bed, with a DIY vanity setup (with large mirror) across from (the side of) my bed. I would then plop my blow dryer, curling iron, hot curlers, and makeup on my bed and sit there on the bed and pedal while I did all my morning primping. This worked great during a short stint when I decided to work as a temp outside of the house for a few months (and thus needed to primp every weekday morning), until I decided I'd had enough of temping. :) I would average about 5, sometimes 10 miles during my "primping time" and 10 to 15 miles during the food prep time.
TONE WHILE YOU PEDAL!
I also like to add a little extra oomph to my pedaling, so once or twice a week I will also use my Suzanne Sommers Thigh Master gadgets (I still have the originals from 35 years ago!) WHILE I AM PEDALING. I have both the original one that you squeeze IN as well as the other one that came along later that you squeeze OUT. I don't actually squeeze them in and out repeatedly (as you would typically do) while pedaling - I just place it between or around my legs and hold it into position while I pedal, for maybe half an hour, and then I'm done. I also sometimes wear my 10-pound leg weights (reduced to 8 pounds after removing two of the sandbars that were hurting my shins) at the same time, and I will keep those on while I walk around the house for a few hours each week. All of those things not only helps to burn more calories, but it adds toning at the same time.
BURN FAT WHILE YOU EAT!
This is one of my favorite tips for getting the most bang for your buck on multiple levels. I was excited to discover a scientific reason to actually validate the health and weight-loss benefit of what I used to see as a mere distraction. So here's the deal ...
I'm sure many of you are aware of the fairly recent movement touting the benefits of "mindful eating," and one tip we hear a lot in that vein is to actually take a break and sit at a table and remove all other distractions while you eat. I totally get while that is a great idea ... for SOME folks. But I have had a very dysfunctional love-hate relationship with food for most of my 61 years. I inhale my food at warp speed, and even with my wealth of knowledge about how and what to eat for optimal health, I still struggle with portion control and eating SLOWLY so that I don't get too full too fast. Perhaps one day I will win that battle and be able to sit down at a table for 20 or 30 minutes and slowly savor and chew each bite a gazillion-billion times before swallowing. But meanwhile, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and I prefer my Plan B eating strategy - CREATE A DISTRACTION so that the food is a footnote rather than the main event. Enter my elliptical machine and TapTiles!
A few years ago I purchased an HP Envy TouchScreen computer with Windows 8, which came with TapTiles installed. I am SO IN LOVE with and SO ADDICTED to that game! I discovered it was the PERFECT accompaniment to my meals, because it is fast-paced, requires concentration, and is timed in such a way that I have the perfect interval pace between each bite of food, and while I am definitely ENJOYING my food, I'm not solely focused on it, and not wolfing it down, which is the most important thing. And the end result is that I feel full at the appropriate time and don't overeat, which is wonderful!
But on top of that, I am pedaling the entire time, usually at a faster rate than I normally go, because of the adrenaline triggered by playing the game. I do this for 15-20 minutes, until my meal is finished, and then I've had my game fix, my food fix, and some great exercise, and I'm ready to get back to work. And recently I have discovered another GREAT benefit to doing this...
Last year I purchased The Sugar Blockers Diet, which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND as a tool in your weight loss arsenal. I found that it basically validated my already existing eating regimen, but with the help of the book, I made some minor tweaks to really take my weight loss/maintenance/health to another level. One of the recommendations in the book is to go for a 20-minute brisk walk IMMEDIATELY after eating, because this engages your large muscle groups and sends the message to your body to BURN the energy you have just consumed rather than store it as fat for future use. So by pedaling briskly on my elliptical while playing TapTiles as I eat my meal, I am accomplishing my ultimate goal of making my body a very efficient fat-burning machine. Yay!
Of course, this diversionary setup of eating/gaming/pedaling is easily doable as a singleton, and I realize it might not be so practical if you are accustomed to eating with other family members. Social eating is its own pleasant distraction, so that serves a purpose as well and is certainly preferable to eating alone - it just doesn't burn as many calories. :)
I love that I have found a no-brainer way to burn calories while I work, thereby eliminating ALL excuses for incorporating exercise into my day!
Based on what we've been hearing for so many years (and are still hearing) about the need for X minutes a day or week of sustained aerobic exercise in order to lose or maintain weight, I'm guessing many people will be skeptical of how it's possible to lose weight while SITTING DOWN and PEDALING LEISURELY at a snail's pace of just 5mph. I want to first emphasize that if you ONLY put in 5 miles over the course of the day, you will not see noticeable results - remember that I'm putting in 30 miles per day, even if it takes me 10 or 12 hours to do that!
The reason I get results is because I am burning more calories ALL DAY LONG by moving more than I would be if I were just sitting sedentary at my desk. Science has proven that if you sit (still) for 20 minutes, your metabolism starts to slow down. But if you move while sitting, you counteract that problem and not only burn more calories in the process, but you keep your metabolism elevated (even if only slightly) all day long. Every little bit helps! Studies have also shown that breaking up your exercise into multiple smaller increments is not only just as effective as doing it all at once, but in many cases, it can be even MORE effective, because it recharges your metabolism. Of course, it's important to remember that you can't exercise away a crappy diet laden with pizza, colas, and cookies. But if you combine this with a healthy diet, it's a win-win situation!
BUT DO REMEMBER YOU STILL NEED TO GET UP OUT OF YOUR CHAIR!
One final thing I do want to say about exercising while you work, though, is to point out that while this DOES, indeed, count as EXERCISE, and it's GREAT for (lower body) circulation as well, it is NOT a cure for excessive sitting. We hear a lot these days about how sitting too long or being sedentary, whether at a desk or watching TV or for any other reason, is killing us. What we don't often hear is the caveat that there are TWO reasons for that. Incorporating exercise into your sedentary activities certainly helps to address one concern in terms of exercise. But it does not address another important concern - and that is the pressure on your organs from sitting, which is also killing us. Even if you did this for every waking moment that you were sitting, you could still be destroying your organs if you sit too long.
So you still need to be mindful about that and try to get up at least once every 20 minutes, even if all you do is stand and sit right back down. It's not only great for your metabolism, but it relieves the pressure on your organs. You will also find, if you use this machine a lot, that you will need to do that anyway, in order to give your legs a break and loosen them up a bit, because it's no different than any other sustained activity, such as bike riding, skating, kayaking, rowing, or other similar activities - you will feel stiff and achy if you do it for a long time without a break. So take a break periodically and shake it out! Stretching helps as well!
I still have about 30 pounds to go before I reach my goal weight, and I plan to do a blog and some videos about it at that point, because I have incorporated a lot of creative and healthy ways to lose and maintain weight without having to go hungry or feel deprived or spend hours each day in the gym or doing dedicated exercise. Using this little gem of a machine is just one of numerous strategies I've employed in that process, but I credit it with a HUGE part of my weight loss success, and I am so thankful I discovered it. I literally think it saved my life, and it certainly gave me my life back in terms of quality of life, the way it used to be before the bad bike accident. There are numerous tips I plan to share about how to get the most out of using it when I get my blog going.
THANK YOU, STAMINA - I love you guys! Oh, and one more thing to add to my wish list for any potential new model: I would LOVE it if you could include a REMOTE/PORTABLE digital display that I could put on my desktop, so I don't have to peak down into the dark black hole under my desk every time I want to see how far I've gone. Just sayin' :)