Bike Desks May Improve Cognitive Performance

We’ve all heard about biking to work. But here’s a slightly more radical concept: biking at work.

Along with standing desks and treadmill desks, pedal desks are a way furniture designers have tried to address the health consequences of sitting too much.

There are a lot of different reasons you might choose to use a pedal desk. It’s fun. It’s good for your health. It makes you look cool.

And here’s another one: a new study from researchers in Belgium, the United States and Australia suggests bike desks may even improve your cognitive performance.

In the study, 23 participants completed several different cognitive tests at both a cycling desk and a boring old sit-still-while-you-work desk. Overall, their performance was equally accurate at both desks, but their reaction times on two of the tests were faster at the bike desk.

The finding that biking while working doesn’t hurt people’s performance fits with previous research on the topic. For example, a 2014 literature review found that active workstations in general do not appear to have any harmful effects on people’s work performance. Research done the same year showed that cycling workstations in particular do not cause people to make more typos or type more slowly.

However, the finding that bike desks may even give people a slight cognitive edge is new. So far, the question has been whether active workstations might hurt people’s work performance. But with more and more studies coming back with a resounding “no” as the answer to that question, it’s now worth asking whether bike desks, treadmill desks and so on might even help.

It’s worth noting that this was a small study, and the researchers found a difference in people’s reaction times but not the accuracy of people’s performance. Still, the results are a hint for employers that beyond boosting morale and health, active workstations could turn out to directly improve employees’ work performance. And at the very least, biking at work can counteract some of the monotony and health risks of sedentary work without interfering with people’s ability to get the job done.

Image: Flickr/Benny Wong