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Looking For The Best Compact Elliptical? We’ll Help You Choose The Best Under Desk Elliptical For Your Office Or Home

Best Compact Elliptical At A Glance: What’s The Best Elliptical For Small Spaces?

Best Compact Elliptical

Cubii Pro Seated Under Desk Elliptical Machine

This elliptical is by far the most advanced compact elliptical available. It comes with premium features including an LCD display, 8 levels of resistance, and a mobile app that allows you to track your training including the distance you pedaled and the calories you burned.

Best Elliptical Under $300

Cubii JR1 Seated Under Desk Elliptical Machine

This elliptical is the second-best option available from Cubii. For $100 less than Cubii Pro you”ll still get the same overall size and shape, level of quietness, and nearly-as-good black and blue color scheme.  It comes with an LCD display and has 8 levels of resistance.

Best Under Desk Elliptical

LifePro Under Desk Elliptical Trainer

Although not as advanced as the Cubii ellipticals, this happens to be the best under desk elliptical as it comes with a roller mat and chair wheel stoppers to make it the perfect fit for an office setting. Additionally, it comes with an LCD display, Bluetooth connectivity, and 8 levels of resistance.

Best Budget Elliptical

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Under Desk Elliptical Machine

Simple, yet effective, this elliptical has everything you need in a compact elliptical for weight loss purposes. It comes with a digital monitor, 8 levels of resistance, and only weighs 25lbs.

Elliptical machines are my favorite form of cardio.  They combine the benefits of running, a lesser version of rowing (sort of), and are low-impact so you don’t get knee and ankle pain the way you can from running.  

Given the known health risks of sitting down throughout the day, there’s been growing interest in replacing sitting with standing or steady-state cardio which can be performed while working– hence the recent popularity of standing desks, treadmill desks, and more recently, bicycle desks.

More recently, several companies have come out with under-desk elliptical machines.  These compact elliptical machines include only the foot pedal portion of a full elliptical machine and restrict the range of motion to easily fit under a desk for use while seated.  One advantage is that, unlike a treadmill desk or bicycle desk, they’re separate from the desk itself and can be placed under any normal desk.  

With that said, let’s get a better sense of how well under-desk ellipticals work and determine what the best mini elliptical is along with the best elliptical for small spaces, the best portable elliptical, and the most affordable elliptical.

Compact Elliptical Machines

Seated elliptical machines are like smaller, stripped-down versions of full-sized ellipticals.

First off, they only include the lower-body portion of an elliptical machine– no arm handles here.

Second, the range of motion is shorter– they mimic taking short steps, not big strides.

That said, they otherwise work the same way as a normal elliptical, mimicking the motion of running without subjecting the joints of your leg to impact forces.  

And on the plus side, they’re small– small enough to pick up and carry around.  And unlike a treadmill desk, they’re entirely separate from your desk, and therefore portable from one desk to another.

In short, they trade intensity for the duration– and they work quite well, as long as you take advantage of that.

Elliptical For Weight Loss

Regular elliptical machines burn substantially more calories than treadmill walking– around 400 calories per hour above resting energy expenditure.  This would equate to losing half a pound a week if you used an elliptical for an hour, 5 days a week.

Of course, compact elliptical machines don’t involve the upper body, use a shorter range of motion, and are designed to be used at a slower pace while working on a computer.  As such, they’re probably on par with treadmill walking, maybe even a little bit less effective since you’re sitting down.

That said, the advantage here, as with a treadmill desk, is the sheer amount of time you can spend.  Since you can exercise while you work, it’s entirely possible to use your compact elliptical for 2-4 hours a day.  Even at a slow pace, you might burn enough calories to lose a pound a week. 

Under Desk Elliptical VS Bike

Exercise bikes can’t fit under your desk, and bicycle desks are rare and take up a lot of space.  

That said, bicycles offer a wider range of motion, so they’re probably a better workout.  The wider range of motion will make them more disruptive to working however if you even try to work while riding an exercise bike– there’s a reason they’re so much less common than treadmill desks.

Ellipticals offer a lower quality workout, but one you can do for much longer, and one you can easily perform while working.   It’s a tradeoff between quality/intensity on one side and duration/usability on the other side.

Overall, a bike is a better option for a “workout–” one where your whole attention is on the exercise.  Under-desk ellipticals, however, are a far more practical option for getting some exercise while working at your job.

Do Under Desk Ellipticals Work?

According to one study, low-speed seated pedaling burns around twice as many calories as sitting, and 50% more than standing.  The “pedal desks” used in the study aren’t exactly the same as a compact elliptical, but in practice, they’re close to that than to an exercise bike, involve the same amount of muscles, and likely burn about the same amount of calories.

In other words, yes, under-desk ellipticals work.  Like any other form of physical activity, they have to burn calories– and as it happens, they’re sustainable for a long period of time, so that seemingly modest increase in caloric expenditure adds up.

That said, the best workouts are full-body, so if you want to maximize your results you should add some upper body work to complement your seated elliptical.  A few sets of pushups throughout the day would significantly improve the quality of the workout, burning more calories while allowing for some muscle growth.    

Our Reviews For The Best Under Desk Elliptical Including Options For The Best Mini Elliptical, The Best Elliptical For Small Spaces, The Best Portable Elliptical, And The Best Budget Elliptical

Cubii Pro Seated Under Desk Elliptical Machine

Best Compact Elliptical

Cubii Pro Seated Under Desk Elliptical Machine

The Cubii Pro compact elliptical machine has several features which make it, in our opinion, the best under desk elliptical machine available right now.  The first thing that’s likely to jump out at you is the form factor: sleek, sporty, with an attractive black and red color scheme, carry handle, and an LCD display.  

Under the hood though, it has several capabilities which make it a highly versatile and effective elliptical.  First, the resistance level is highly adjustable– you can start it out high to quickly get your heart rate up, then lower it to maintain a steady pace.  Second, it integrates with fitness trackers such as FitBit and the Apple Watch to track your progress.

Add to that the light weight and near-noiselessness, and the Cubii Pro is our top choice for a compact elliptical device.


Cubii JR1 Seated Under Desk Elliptical Machine

Best Elliptical Under $300

Cubii JR1 Seated Under Desk Elliptical Machine

The Cubii Jr elliptical is the more bare-bones version of the Cubii Pro.  It has the same overall size and shape, and a nearly-as-good black and blue color scheme.  It has adjustable resistance and LCD display and is similarly quiet.

What it lacks is the ability to integrate with fitness trackers– the Cubii Jr. Provides no help in tracking your workouts.  It’s a more economical choice for people who don’t own a fitness tracker and aren’t interested in recording their workouts.


LifePro Under Desk Elliptical Trainer

Best Under Desk Elliptical And Best Elliptical For Small Spaces

LifePro Under Desk Elliptical Trainer

The LifePro compact elliptical is somewhat cheaper and less sleek than the Cubii ellipticals but features the same range of motion and adjustable resistance.  It does not have the ability to integrate with fitness trackers and uses a much simpler display that provides less information and is harder to see. 

On the plus side, it’s a few pounds lighter and very easy to carry. It even comes with a roller mat and chair wheel stoppers to make it the perfect fit for an office setting.

The other, less obvious difference is that the pedals on the LifePro under-desk elliptical change their angle to a greater degree as they move.  That makes it more ergonomic if you’re sitting in a position where your feet are far forward of your body, but less ergonomic if your feet are only slightly forward of, and mostly under, your body.


Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Under Desk Elliptical Machine

Best Budget Elliptical And Best Portable Elliptical

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Under Desk Elliptical Machine

This is, simply put, the low-cost option.  The Sunny Health and Fitness compact elliptical machine eschews fancy features in favor of low cost and simplicity.  Resistance is adjusted with a simple dial, and the display is bare-bones and not illuminated.  The form factor is also relatively un-aesthetic; this looks like something from the eighties.

On the plus side, it’s lighter than each of the previous ellipticals and only weighs 25 pounds, making it easier for more people to carry.  The pedals are larger than other models, which potentially could be helpful for people with very large feet.  Overall, this is a decent choice if you’re on a budget– it won’t blow you away, but it works just fine.

Studies And Research Related To Eliptical Machine Training And Workplace Activity


Editor’s note: we are regularly updating this review. If you see any problems, weird interpretations of the data, or just want to say hi, please reach out to hello@the-unwinder.com.

Photo by Cubii

About the author

John Fawkes is the Managing Editor of The Unwinder. John is an NSCA-certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition-certified nutritional counselor who has been featured on over two dozen websites and podcasts. He works with clients in Los Angeles and online, and can be reached on Instagram and Twitter.

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