Under Desk Steppers FAQ

Under desk steppers FAQ or frequently asked questions provide insight into under desk steppers, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Also, use under desk steppers buyers guide to find best under desk stepper for your needs.

Q. What is a sitting stepping machine?

A. The desk or sitting step machine is comprised of two independent footplates (also known as pedals) that move up and down. And you use it by stepping or pushing down on the footplates with your feet while sitting down on a chair or couch.

Moreover, some versions of the sitting step machine have handles which help you maintain your balance when you are standing on it.

Because the handles are generally not easily removable, a desk stepper with handles can’t be used under a desk. And, even if used while sitting on a couch, the handles become a distraction. Therefore its best to get a desk stepper without the handle if you intend to use it while sitting.

Q. When do you use a sitting stepper?

A. The best desk steppers, described here, can be used while sitting. And because they are compact, they can be used at work if you have a job that requires a lot of sitting. Furthermore, you can use it at home while you are sitting on a couch watching TV.

Most of all, these steppers do not come with handles. While they could be used standing, it is recommended you do not use them standing if you have problems maintaining your balance.

Q. What's the difference between desk and standing steppers?

A. Most of all, to use the standing stepper you use your body weight and push down on the footplates. So, to increase the stepping rate and get a better aerobic exercise you quickly alternate from one footplate to the other. However, avoid bouncing or jumping on the footplates.

On the other hand, with a desk stepper, you have to push down on the footplates with your legs. As a consequence, the pushing action exercises your feet, calves, thighs, and glutes. However, the stepping rate is not as high as with the standing stepper. As a result you burn less calories when you use the desk stepper.

Meanwhile, the desk stepper, frees you to do other work such as reading a book, using your computer or cell phone, making phone calls, watching TV, and listening to music or other audio. On the other hand, other than watching TV, listening to music or other audio, the standing stepper prevents those other activities from being done concurrently.

Also, desk steppers are used to get your legs moving when you have to sit for a long time. Consequently, their use is not the same as when you stand on the steppers to get a cardio workout. Finally, standing on mini steppers without handles require you to be able to balance yourself. This may be a problem for some seniors and the elderly.

Q. What are sitting step machines used for?

A. Most of all, a sitting step machine helps mitigate the severe health consequences of regularly sitting for long periods of time.

Hours spent sitting

According to the 2017 American time use survey by Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American over the age of 15 spent on average 8.78 hours each day sitting doing activities like, eating, drinking, working, attending classes, doing homework, watching television, socializing, being on the phone, going through mail and emails.

Consequence of too much sitting

In any case, sitting too much is really bad for your health. In fact, prolonged sitting on a regular basis results in health problems such as:

Metabolic syndrome

Poor blood circulation


Muscles and Posture

Develop diseases


Mental Health



Q. What are the benefits of a sitting stepper?

A. Some of the benefits of a sitting stepper include the following.

First, standing for long periods creates excessive pressure on the legs, which can lead to varicose veins. While using the sitting stair stepper helps prevent varicose veins.

Second, using the seated stair stepper exercises the calf muscles which increases blood circulation to your feet and ankles and stops blood from pooling. As a result, there is reduced risk of deep vein thrombosis or blood clots.

Third, it helps reduce numbness in feet and ankles.

Fourth, it  helps prevent swelling of feet, ankles, and legs from water retention due to edema. Indeed, regular use of the seated stair stepper, will reduce these symptoms of edema.

Finally, it helps reduce damage to the knees. In fact, the low impact sitting step machine does not cause body joints to get jerked or suddenly shocked. However, while the sitting step machine does not harm the knees, people with sustained injuries or weak knees should consult a doctor before using the seated stepper machine.

Q. How does a sitting step machine help?

A. By providing some cardio workout, a sitting step machine, also known as the seated stair stepper, helps mitigate some of the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

In fact, the repetitive stepping motion of the seated stair stepper mimics climbing. As a result, your heart and lungs work harder thereby providing an aerobic workout for improved cardiovascular health and increased endurance. Also, because the stepper is smaller it is affordable. In addition, the stepper can be easily moved around and stored away when not being used. In fact, the  stepper can be used either at home or in the office.

Q. Is there proof that a sitting stepping machine really helps?

A. Studies show that physical inactivity and sedentary work environments increases insulin resistance. Moreover, this increase leads to higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. However, a recent study showed that exercising, while sitting, improves the body's insulin response and thereby reduce these risks.

In fact, University of Massachusetts researchers published the study in October 2018 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. And, the study reported that pedaling while working improves the body’s insulin response. While this study used pedals, a seated stair stepper is simply another way to get an equivalent exercise as the pedals. Consequently, the results of this study also apply to a seated stair stepper.

Meanwhile, the study comprised of six men and six women overweight/obese full-time sedentary office workers. And, these seated participants pedaled for two hours while working at their desks. Incidentally, the participants pedaled at their own pace for as little or as much time as they choose.

Next, after eating a light meal, the participants provided blood samples. The blood samples were used for analysis of metabolic responses of glucose, insulin and free fatty acids. Indeed, glucose, insulin, and free fatty acids are linked to obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

When compared to sedentary behavior, the study showed that pedaling required significantly less insulin to maintain glucose concentrations. Consequently, their insulin levels were lower, which in turn, reduced their risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Consequently, the body doesn’t work so hard to maintain blood glucose and fatty acid levels when pedaling. Best of all, their work output and efficiency were not affected by the pedaling.

Finally, a seated stair stepper is better than treadmill or standing desk because long periods of standing lowers productivity besides being tiring.

Q. What muscles does the sitting stepper exercise?

A. Most noteworthy, exercise machines, in general, move your body forward. A seated stair stepper, on the other hand, requires that you move vertically with an up and down motion of the legs. In fact, a stepper works your lower body, toning your legs and hips.

Because your range of motion is limited on the seated stair stepper, your muscles will get some exercise. In fact, the stepper uses the same muscles as you would when you walk or climb stairs. Indeed, the muscles that get exercised include the hip muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles.  And, the more you use the stepper the stronger the muscles become. As a result, with time your leg’s muscular endurance increases. Lastly, to prevent injury or get sore muscles, it’s important to stretch before and after using the stepper.

The following is a list of all muscles these machines (including those used while sitting or standing and using resistance bands)  tone and help:

Abs - standing on stepper

Arms - standing on stepper

Back -standing on stepper

Calves - standing or sitting on stepper

Chest - standing on stepper

Glutes - standing on stepper

Hamstrings - standing or sitting on stepper

Hips including Hip flexors - standing on stepper

Obliques - standing on stepper

Quadriceps - standing or sitting on stepper

Shoulders - standing on stepper

Thighs (including inner and outer thighs) - standing or sitting on stepper

Waist - standing on stepper

Q. Does the sitting step machine help reduce weight?

A. Above all, the seated stepper machine helps you lose weight by burning calories. In fact, according to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, using the sitting step machine while at work or at home watching TV can help you burn about 100 calories in one hour of use.

Lean Person

Especially noteworthy, a lean person, using the seated stepper machine at a leisurely pace of 13 steps a minute or one step every 4.6 seconds, burns about 100 calories in an hour. On the other hand, if your other concurrent activities don’t need as much of your attention, you could speed up the pace to say 26 steps a minute or one step every 2.3 seconds. This pace would double the calories expended to 200 in one hour.

Obese Person

While an obese person using the seated stepper machine at a leisurely pace of 10 steps a minute or one step every 6 seconds, burns about 108 calories in an hour. Similar to the discussion in the previous paragraph, you could double the calories expended to 216 calories in one hour by picking up the pace to a step every 3 seconds.

Effort to Lose One Pound

Therefore, you can use the seated stepper machine to lose weight. In fact to lose one pound you have to burn 3,500 calories. So, if you burn 300 calories daily you could lose one pound in 12 days assuming you ate the same calories as you normally do. However, to burn 300 calories in a day, you would have to use the seated stepper machine for 3 hours each day. Something that’s possible if you sit a lot at work or at home.

Finally, regular seated stepper machine use, also increases your resting metabolic rate.

Q. How much weight do you lose with a standing stepper?

A. A 2007 study reported that everything else being equal, using a standing stepper for 2 hours a day can result in a weight loss of 44 pounds in one year.

Study relating stepping rate to calories

First and foremost, lean adults stepping at 39 steps per minute burn on average 312 calories per hour or 0.13 calories per step. In fact, the 313 calories was an average for all the lean adults ranging from a minimum of 221 calories to a maximum of 403 calories.

Meanwhile, obese adults stepping at 40 steps per minute burn on average 433 calories per hour or 0.18 calories per step. In fact, the 433 calories was an average for all the obese adults ranging from a minimum of 324 calories to a maximum of 542 calories.

Next, in order to measure the effectiveness of a standing stepper, a study was done by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2007. Meanwhile, the study included lean adults with an average BMI of 25 and obese adults with an average BMI of 29. Especially relevant, the study used a standing stepper. Lastly, the study reported that everything else being equal, using the standing stepper for 2 hours a day can result in a weight loss of 44 pounds in a year.

Study relating exercise duration to calories

As another data point, Harvard Health published, in the past, the following.

First, a 125 pound person using a standing stepper for one hour uses up 360 calories

Next, a 155 pound person uses up 446 calories in one hour, and

Finally, a 185 pound person uses up 532 calories in one hour.

Furthermore, adjusting the resistance of the standing stepper allows you to burn even more calories. For example, a 175 pound person using the standing stepper for 60 minutes could burn 556 calories as opposed to 504 calories with very low resistance.

Q. What are the steps for using a sitting stepper?

A. Most of all, to use the seated stair stepper, you simply step on the footplates and push down with each foot. Next you move your feet in a stepping or climbing motion. Meanwhile, the adjustable hydraulics  provide resistance as you push down on the footplates.

Warm up

Warm up is pretty straightforward. In fact, start using the seated stair stepper at a slow stepping pace. And keep this up for five minutes or so.

Keep Those Legs Moving

Once you have warmed up, increase the stepping rate to what is possible in your environment. For example, if you happen to be at work and the phone starts ringing, slowing down the stepping rate is natural. On the other hand, if you are surfing the web or doing activities that don’t need your intense concentration, then, yes, speed up your stepping rate to whatever you are comfortable with.

Cool Down

Cooling down shouldn’t interfere with whatever you happen to be doing. For example, if you have to get up and leave the desk or the couch, then go. On the other hand, if you know you have to come to a stop, then slow down your stepping rate for the last five minutes.

Using the seated stair stepper

To use the seated stair stepper, sit up straight close to the edge of the seat. Next position the stepper so that back of the stepper is directly under your knees. In fact, in this position, your shins are nearly vertical to the floor as you push down on the footplates. Lastly, as you use the stepper, your posture should be such that you are not straining your back or knees.

Q. How long do you need to use a sitting stepper?

A. Most of all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone do at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic workouts weekly. Therefore, daily use of a under desk stepper for 30 minutes allows you to meet that target in five days.

In addition, according to the Mayo Clinic, to get the most out of the seated stair stepper, you need to use the stepper for at least 10 minutes. Consequently, three 10 minute sessions throughout the day helps you get the recommended 30 minutes of aerobic workout in a day.

Q. How do sitting steppers compare with other desk exercise machines?

A. Most noteworthy, some mini steppers may have resistance cords for an upper body workout. Also, some steppers can be used while sitting or standing. Because the stepping action requires pushing down on the pedals against hydraulic resistance, there is greater stress on the knees. But there is a better muscle workout, especially of the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Meanwhile, desk elliptical machines produces a walking action swinging the lower legs back and forth. Consequently, the joints relax during the exercise. In addition, the desk elliptical machines don’t put too much stress on the legs.

Finally, desk pedal exercisers have a greater circular motion of the lower legs and hence more circular movement of the knees than the desk steppers described here.