New exercise machine targets office workers

Designed to fit underneath a standard desk, so users can exercise while working

Wish you were working a little less and working out a whole lot more?

Well, a new device that hit the market this week may not be able to help you put in fewer hours in the office, but it can help you get a good cardio workout while you're troubleshooting that laptop or reviewing that spreadsheet.

Gamercize, a British company, this week launched the GZ PC-Sport & Power Steppe, which is designed to fit underneath a standard-sized desk so someone can sit at their computer or talk on the telephone while using the stepper.

Gamercize officials note that the machine is not just a small version of a StairMaster machine that you'd find at the gym. The machine can be hooked up to a keyboard or mouse through a USB port. The user can set it up so they can use the stepper whenever they want, or they can prevent their keyboard or mouse from working unless they're exercising.

"It's like your own personal trainer or motivator, because if you slow down, it will push you to keep going," said Samantha Wallbanks, a manager at Gamercize. "People are working more and more hours and you've got to keep the blood flowing."

Gamercize earlier came out with stepping machines that can be hooked up to a PlayStation, an Xbox and a Nintendo Gamecube. Wallbanks said one of the company's managing directors first devised the idea to get his young game-addicted son to exercise.

Then company officials decided to adapt the idea for people who are working in an office, and maybe dealing with a growing waistline, as well.

Wallbanks said there are five settings on the under-desk step machine. The lowest setting lets workers simply exercise their legs at an easy pace whenever they want. At the top level, the work out is much harder and the user must exercise to keep his or her keyboard or mouse working.

At the lowest setting, a user could burn 100 to 200 calories an hour. At the top level, she could burn as many as 500 calories an hour. (That's like burning off the equivalent of an entire milk shake.)

"I find it quite relaxing," said Wallbanks, who uses one herself. "I don't have the time to drive to the gym, get changed, exercise, shower, get changed again and come back to work. That's two hours for a half an hour of exercise time... After a couple of minutes of this, I can really feel it."

She laughed and added that most people don't work out hard enough on the stepper to be out of breath when they're on a business call or to work up a good sweat there in the office. "You don't want to break out into a sweat and be horrible in the office," she said. "This is a good replacement for going out for a good walk."

The PC-Sport & Power Stepper costs US$205.65.

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