Cubii is an ergonomic under-desk elliptical. (Photo: Cubii)
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting,” Dr. James Levine, the inventor of the treadmill desk, told LA Times. “We are sitting ourselves to death.” After months of wishing I had a treadmill desk just like Victoria Beckham, I decided to look into other options to keep me active during the day. I started doing calf raises and shifted my weight between feet at my standing desk, made an extra effort to stand for about half the day, and did what I could to walk more (I drink much more tea now). Fitness is a priority for me, and if something I do all the time is really “the new smoking,” I will run the other direction. Or in this case, pedal. Enter Cubii.
Cubii is an under desk elliptical designed exclusively for seated use, and the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign. At the beginning of my search, I limited my options to compact ellipticals that can alternate between sitting and standing, but Cubii made my decision for me as it’s the only under desk elliptical on the market with an interactive app. The ergonomics of the machine differ from other under desk ellipticals because the motion keeps your knees from hitting the underside of your desk. It’s also virtually silent, making a very quiet white noise sound that won’t bother your coworkers.
My Cubii arrived a week ago, and adjusting to it was admittedly harder than I expected. Getting into a routine with my standing desk came quickly, but when I started using Cubii, my activity was inconsistent. I was very active the first day, and over the course of the following days I pedaled incrementally less. After the weekend, though, things got easier and my in-app chart rewarded me with a major upturn. Mondays are good that way.
My activity tracked on the Cubii app.
The activity is as moderate as walking if you choose a sustainable level. I found that my best choices were levels three and four out of eight, which are about as easy as pedaling on a seated bike with little or no resistance. The calorie output is low, but better something than nothing. In five minutes of pedaling on level three, I burned about 10 calories and traveled about .2 miles, making 408 strides. My goal with my Cubii (which I named Fran) is to pedal two thirds of the time I’m at my desk and stand for the other one third. Even with Cubii I think it’s important to stand to get your core engaged, but I digress. If I can keep up my goal, I will pedal for 37 ½ hours a week, tacking on an extra 90 miles traveled and 4,500 calories burned per workweek. Definitely better than nothing.
My calorie output and strides after five minutes on Cubii’s third level.
Level eight is not physically difficult, per se, but it’s very warming (good thing I wore deodorant), and it requires a little more attention than the lower levels. Halfway through my five-minute performance self-test to determine calories and strides, my bad treadmill habit kicked in and I checked up on how much longer I had left. Has it really been only two minutes and eight seconds? I got over level eight fast. Still, Cubii’s most strenuous level is comparable to the recovery at the end of a spin class – fairly leisurely. In five minutes I burned around 17 calories and traveled .2 miles after 371 strides. The calorie output is much higher, but I wouldn’t be able to keep it up casually all day without getting warmer than I’d like to be while sitting at my desk. I’ll stick to levels three and four.
My calorie output and strides after five minutes on Cubii’s hardest level.
One of the first things I noticed about Cubii was how good its battery life is. Its app connects to your iPhone or Android using Bluetooth, and surprisingly does not drain your phone’s battery. Apple could take a few tips from these guys. On the first day I got Cubii, I charged it up to 50% and have used it four days since. Pedaling every workday I’ve had it has only diminished the battery to 35%. I thought about bringing it home with me for the weekend to offset all the time I planned to spend catching up on low quality television, but at 27 pounds, I couldn’t muster the energy to bring it with me on the subway – it’s not as portable as it’s made out to be. I realized how heavy it was when I moved it from beneath my desk to my coworker’s, and when she tried it, she had a few issues. Her chair started rolling backwards as she pedaled and pushed herself away from her desk. Cubii includes pads to put under the wheels or back legs of your chair to prevent this, but they make it hard to move your chair around when you need to. Also, her heels made the situation much more difficult. Flats are definitely the best bet with Cubii. Later when we were talking, she added that Cubii made me look nervous, as it caused me to sway side to side as I pedaled. It’s something I can get over, but my cool, casual, and laid back personal style is forever tarnished.
I sway side to side a bit when I pedal on Cubii.
So does it work? I didn’t lose weight after four days using Cubii if that’s how you define “working”, but I didn’t hope to lose any weight. Plus, weight is an erroneous way to measure health and body composition anyway. Cubii is designed to combat our sedentary office lifestyles by keeping the lower half of our bodies moving, not to replace our gym memberships. SoulCycle has nothing to worry about here. Calorie output is low, so any weight loss that may occur will be slow. The fact that “sitting is the new smoking” is the real issue at hand, and the benefit of regularly using the Cubii could be your improved quality of life in the long run that results from leading a more active lifestyle. But at $347, it doesn’t come cheaply. If your resolution is weight loss, this will probably help if you’re patient, but if your resolution is health, make the investment.