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I tried an under-desk elliptical to keep me moving while I work from home - here's what it's like

INSIDER logo INSIDER 6/10/2021 insider@insider.com (Su-Jit Lin)

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a person sitting at a desk: Lifepro © Su-Jit Lin/Insider Lifepro
  • Lifepro's FlexStride is a lightweight under-desk elliptical that's portable and stows neatly when not in use.
  • It allows for an easy way to add low-impact movement to your day without overexerting yourself.
  • The FlexStride is an affordable buy for those looking to increase their mobility or continue at-home rehab.
Table of Contents: Masthead StickyFlexStride (small)

Adapting to the day-in, day-out routine of working from home continues to require a unique perspective. Not only have we outfit corners of our living spaces as home offices to support our work needs but we've had to significantly modify our fitness routine, as well.

One of the latest entrants to the workday workout is Lifepro's FlexStride, a lightweight, portable, and compact under-desk elliptical designed by a brand whose roots are based in at-home rehab and recovery. Its broad portfolio of products encompasses vibration plates, massagers and massage guns, foldable treadmills, and a FlexCycle Exercise Bike - the predecessor of the elliptical I recently spent time testing.

Specs

Weighing 26.5 pounds, the FlexStride measures 22.7 inches long, 18.5 inches tall, and 12.9 inches wide. There's no doubt this lightweight, compact piece of equipment is designed for portability and easy migration from chair to chair or room to room.

Designed to support a maximum user weight of 110 pounds per pedal, the FlexStride feels solid for its minimal footprint. Its pedals are wide and long to accommodate a range of foot sizes, with lips on the front and back edges to prevent slippage. They're rugged and textured to keep your feet from sliding but not too rough for those who prefer to go barefoot.

a hand holding an object in his hand: Su-Jit Lin/Insider © Su-Jit Lin/Insider Su-Jit Lin/Insider

The FlexStride is a minimalist machine but it still features a 2-inch by 2-inch LCD display that indicates data such as the exercise duration, distance traveled, strides per minute, total strides, and estimated calories burned.

The machine shuts off automatically after four minutes of idle time, conserving the life of the two AAA batteries that power its screen. This is the only energy required in order to get going, too. With no need to charge or plug it in, it cycled me back to the main focus of its design: extreme portability.

Aesthetically, it's neat, compact, and although it doesn't look like a high-tech, top-of-the-line innovation (which it isn't meant to be anyway), it isn't terribly outdated-looking.

How to set it up

The FlexStride comes well packaged, perhaps even overly so, as I found out while diving into its heavily fortified box.

It arrived in a large and sturdy cardboard box reinforced by plastic cords, which acted as handles. Underneath these straps, the box's edges were tightly sealed with layers of packing tape and a set of flaps that hung over the elliptical's components. It was so securely wedged that I had to flip the box over and slide it out upside-down.

Luckily, that was the most time-consuming and challenging part of the entire setup as it took just five minutes to go from box to desk once all the components were separated from their packaging.

Parts included two pedals, four bolt and washer sets, a mini wrench, foam stickers, a pair of chair stoppers, two AAA batteries, and the main unit, which was already mounted to its base. The wheeled arms that propel the elliptical pedals were already affixed, as well.

a group of items on a table: Su-Jit Lin/Insider © Su-Jit Lin/Insider Su-Jit Lin/Insider

The directions were straightforward, illustrated, and easy to follow. Like the packaging, they erred on the side of caution for thoroughness - i.e. highly detailed.

The only hiccup I ran into was when I second-guessed which pedal went on which side, as mine was mislabeled. The stickers were reversed but it was an obvious fix as the bolts wouldn't line up otherwise. Also, a quick glance at the product image showed that the outside of each pedal is left open while the inner part is completely framed.

a chair that is sitting on a table: Su-Jit Lin/Insider © Su-Jit Lin/Insider Su-Jit Lin/Insider

The last step was just to pop the batteries in behind the monitor, and snap the monitor into place.


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What it's like to use

The height of the machine allows good clearance under a standard desk height between your knees and the tabletop. The rotational plates aren't very big, which keeps the height low and makes it a good tool for light mobility and rehabilitation work.

Unfortunately, this trait is what makes it frustrating for athletic types who may want a more intense workout since it keeps your strides tediously small. If you're used to clocking high mileage at a fast pace, this flaw may leave you disappointed.

I found the unit to glide smoothly across its 8 tension levels but it felt as though that fluidity made it hard to determine when it shifted. It's so smooth that you don't even notice when it gradually inches away from you (even on carpet). You have to sit close to your desk in order to type and use the FlexStride, so I found myself moving it around more than expected.

Lifepro says it's a calf exercise machine but I felt my hip flexors, quads, glutes, and hamstrings worked harder trying to stay stabilized and balanced while pedaling. I could feel those muscles working almost right away, which amplified my rate of perceived exertion. Meanwhile, my heart rate stayed disappointingly low.

In other words, it feels like more physical work than it is.

For instance, at level 3, my heart rate remained below 100 beats per minute; my normal heart rate at my desk hovers in the low 70s. After over half an hour pedaling at a 5, my fitness tracker didn't register any type of activity. Another test where I lowered the resistance but attempted to pedal at a higher RPM provided similar results.

While my affected muscles were fatigued in the short term, very few calories were burned overall, even over extended use.

What else it comes with

The user's manual comes with a warm-up guide, a link to a Facebook group for users of Lifepro's gear, and a QR code that links to compatible fitness apps as Lifepro doesn't yet have one of its own.

The three offered are FitHome, Kinomap, and Zwift. This allows you to create structured biking workouts and track your stats if you want to get serious with it, insofar that you can for such a low-strain machine.

text, letter: Su-Jit Lin/Insider © Su-Jit Lin/Insider Su-Jit Lin/Insider

Lifepro's website doesn't currently have specific videos or resources for FlexStride, but I assume it's because it's too new for it to have developed the content yet. The library does offer plenty for its other products

Should you buy it?

Buying the Lifepro FlexStride depends on your fitness goals. Are you just starting out and seeking to make incremental, small changes? Maybe you're looking to do some active recovery, maintain or increase mobility, or recover from an injury?

It's also great for anyone who wants to make more efficient use of their seated time and move around a bit while working from home.

If any of these fit your routine, go for it. It's a low-risk piece of equipment that costs under $200 and can be stowed away at your convenience.

What are your alternatives?

Lifepro's FlexCycle Exercise Bike, the predecessor to the FlexStride, has been on the market since October 2020 and provides a similar function.

The difference - other than its pedal shape - is that it doesn't sit on a flat, solid plate and it features a mechanism that pushes down like a bike pedal. It also comes with extras like a stabilizer tether that attaches to your chair as opposed to chair stoppers.

Another differentiator is that it can be converted to an arm pedaler for greater variety, comes with resistance bands to incorporate upper body options, and costs less.

Other manufacturers with similar concepts include the DeskCycle Ellipse and the Cubii Pro Under Desk Elliptical.

The DeskCycle costs more and offers the same levels of magnetic resistance as the FlexStride. However, it lacks the high rims of the pedals and a carrying handle. The same can be said for the sleeker Cubii Pro, which boasts a burn of "up to 150 calories an hour," which is in line with the FlexStride's tested output. It does cost roughly $100 more, too.

The bottom line

The FlexStride is a quality under-desk elliptical that succeeds in getting you moving but doesn't quite deliver an advanced workout. Its footprint makes use of dead space the same way its activity makes use of dead time, so you don't have to make any major changes to incorporate it into your home office. It's a superior model compared to its competition, and a 30-day money-back guarantee and lifetime support are attractive reasons to give it a try.

However, if you're looking for a serious piece of workout equipment, this may not be the home gym machinery you're looking for.

Pros: Good value compared to competitive models, a great way to integrate simple movement into your daily routine, silent operation, lightweight, easy to carry, doesn't take up much space, great pedal design, simple and quick to put together, ideal for at-home rehab, mobility, or recovery

Cons: Serves one function, moves around on carpet while in use, tiny strides that slow down your mileage, not suited for full-on workouts

FlexStride (button)
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