Exercises you can do at the desk

Simple Exercises To Do At Your Desk [images and videos]

Why it’s fine to eat a salad at your desk and it isn’t when you work out?!

Here are two facts:

  1. 50% of U.S. adults admit that they don’t get the physical exercise they need.
  2. Sitting all day can lead you to obesity, back pain, leg cramps, poor posture, tense muscles, and boredom.

That’s alarming because most of us are living a sedentary lifestyle (including me writing this article right now). Finding time to exercise is hard, especially when you have kids and other responsibilities to handle after reaching home at night.

The best way to fight this lazy lifestyle is by introducing activity to your workday. There are some useful exercises and techniques you can do right at your desk; some even while you’re sitting down, they will make you stay active during the day.

So, what are we waiting for?! Let’s start this office workout together!

Start, Warm Up

  • Take A Deep Breath

Simple breathing can have a huge impact on the way you feel if you make it a part of your daily routine.

Go ahead, take a deep breath in, and let it out. Inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale.

Repeat it many times, and you will notice how it eases stress and makes you feel less anxious.

  • Move your head side to side

Make sure you are sitting correctly, then either:

  1. Move your chin toward your right shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds, then move it to the other side.
  2. Or Take your ear to one shoulder, hold for 20 seconds, and then switch to the other side.

Stretch It Out!

Let’s start with neck rolls.

  • Neck Rolls

  1. Relax and lean your head forward.
  2. Roll your head in a circle one side for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
  3. Do this three times in each direction.
  • Shoulder Rolls

  1. Raise your shoulders up toward ears, and slowly roll them backward.
  2. Repeat, rolling forward.
  3. Do this three times in both directions.
  • Shoulder Stretch

  1. Clasp hands together above the head with palms facing up toward the ceiling.
  2. Push your arms up, stretching upward.
  3. Hold for 2 to 3 deep breaths.
  • Chest Stretch

  1. Clasp hands behind the lower back.
  2. Push chest outward, and raise chin.
  3. Hold for 2 to 3 deep breaths.
  • Triceps Stretch

  1. Raise one arm and bend it so that your hand reaches to touch the opposite shoulder blade. (It’s OK if you can’t actually reach it.)
  2. Use your other hand and pull the elbow toward your head.
  3. Hold for 2 to 3 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Tricep stretch
  • Bent-Knee Stretch

  1. Lean back in the chair.
  2. Hug one knee at a time, pulling it toward your chest.
  3. Hold for 2 to 3 deep breaths, then switch legs.
  • Wrists and Fingers Stretch

Your hands perform a variety of tasks every day in your office job, from gripping a steering wheel to typing on a keyboard. These repetitive motions can create weakness and stiffness in your wrists and fingers.

Wrist exercises increase flexibility and help lower the risk of injury. Stretches are recommended as a preventive measure or to ease slight pain. People who can’t get their hands off the keyboard know what I am talking about, like programmers, assistants, and transcriptionists.  

Upper Body Exercises

  • Chair Dips

    1. Sit on your chair or bench with your arms at your side and your feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart.
    2. Position your hands so that your palms are down beside your hips. Your fingers should grip the front of the chair seat.
    3. Move your torso forward off the chair with your arms extended. Your buttocks should hover over the floor and your knees should be slightly bent. Your heels should touch the floor a few inches in front of your knees.
    4. Breathe in as you slowly lower your body, hinging at the elbows until each forms a 90-degree angle.
    5. Breathe out as you push up to your starting position with your arms fully extended.
    6. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
    7. Rest, then repeat 10-15 more times.
  • Arm Circles

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms parallel to the floor.
  2. Circle your arms forward using small controlled motions, gradually making the circles bigger until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
  3. Reverse the direction of the circles after about 10 seconds.
  • Desk Push-Ups

  1. Take a few steps back, so you can place your hands flat on your desk.
  2. Place your palms on the edge of the desk a shoulder’s width apart.
  3. Lower your chest to the edge of the desk, and push back up.
  4. Remember to exhale on the way up.
  5. Try to do it 20 times.

These push-ups can be done on the wall also. Stand a few steps from the wall, and lean toward it placing your hands flat. Then lower yourself down toward the wall, keeping your abs tight to maintain a straight line from your head to your toes, then push back up until your arms are straight (but not locked).

Lower Body Exercises

  • Calf Raises

  1. Stand on the edge of a step.
  2. Stand tall with your abdominals pulled in, the balls of your feet firmly planted on the step, and your heels hanging over the edge. You can rest your hands against a wall or a sturdy object for balance.
  3. Raise your heels a few inches above the edge of the step so that you’re on your tiptoes.
  4. Hold the position for a moment, and then lower your heels below the platform, feeling a stretch in your calf muscles.
  • Chair Squats

  1. Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your knees over your feet.
  2. Slowly lower your buns toward the chair without actually sitting down. Be sure to tighten your abdominals to help support your back.
  3. Keep your knees over your ankles and place your weight in your heels throughout the full range of motion.
  4. Placing your arms out in front of you may help your balance. Straighten your body upright and repeat. Beginners can try 1 set of 8 to 10 reps. More conditioned exercisers can try 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
  • Standing Rear Pulses

  1. With your feet together and facing forward, stand up holding the edge of your desk.
  2. Bend one leg behind you and flex your foot.
  3. After raising your heel up a few inches, release slightly and press your foot directly back behind you.
  4. Alternate between lifting your heel up, and pressing it back.
  5. Do it for each side 20 to 30 times, keeping your bent knee behind the standing leg the entire time.
  • Pretend Jump Rope

  1. Imagine having a rope.
  2. Hop on both feet at once, alternate if you need to modify. 
  3. You can increase the intensity by moving your arms as if you were holding a rope.

Core Exercises

  • Chair swivels

Remember how we use to play with swivel chairs when we were kids! It’s time to activate these memories.

  1. Sit upright with the feet hovering over the floor.
  2. Hold onto the edge of your desk.
  3. Use the core to swivel the chair from side to side.

Go back and forth 15 times.

  • Seated Bicycle Crunches

  1. Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Position your hands behind your head.
  3. Lift one knee toward the opposite elbow, twisting your body down toward it.
  4. Return to the seated, straight-back position.

Leave Your Desk, Admire the Butt Imprint Left Behind!

  • Be Friend with The Stairs

Taking the stairs is a great way to elevate your heart rate and have a leg burn. It’s also a brilliant method to avoid the small talks that take place in the elevator.

  • Take A Walk, Stand Whenever You Can

Walking during work is totally underrated. A study has shown that taking a five minute walking break every hour could yield beneficial weight control or weight loss results. If you are sitting down and reading this article right now, you should stop! Okay, well don’t stop reading, but you might want to stand up to finish it.

  1. So, take a break to catch up with some of your coworkers or welcome a new employee.
  2. Leave something important in your car (your lunch, your briefcase, etc.) so you have to run out to get it.
  3. Deliver documents or messages to co-workers in person rather than by email or text.
  4. Park farther away, walk around the parking lot or local mall on your lunch hour.
  5. Get a headset for your phone so you can move around while you talk.

Case Study - Office Exercises

A study was done on 250 office workers to evaluate the impact of stretch training exercises on Musculoskeletal Disorders. During 3 months, the office workers had to exercise using a training device enabling five different full body exercises.

Conclusion: After eleven weeks, participants in the experience felt less pain in the trained areas, greater mobility and less exertion. They also found positive effects in reducing neck pain and improving quality of life.

Work and Walk - Extra Tools

If you work from home or your boss doesn’t mind, you can get tools to enhance your daily activity and help you stay active without having to leave the task at hand.

Having a standing workstation will give you the opportunity to switch between sitting and standing without having to interrupt your work. Depending on your budget, you can get a standing desk or a standing desk converter. Generally speaking, standing desk converters are cheaper and more flexible.

We invite you to check our selection of the best standing desk converters. If you need directions to choose one, you can rely on our detailed buying guide that will walk you step by step to find the right one for you.

Slide it under your standing desk and start walking while working. You can use it while having a phone call, an online meeting, responding to daily emails… Basically, tasks that don’t require a lot of focus to finish them.

Mini Ellipticals and bikes are a great way to have some low impact exercise during a normal day of work. They are affordable, easy to move and effective. After pedaling, you can track your daily progress, challenge your co-workers and have fun.

  • Other

If it’s allowed, sit on an exercise ball (link to Amazon) instead of a chair. 

Use a pedometer or activity monitor, and keep track of how many steps you take.

Final Thoughts

Last but not least, don’t let fear of embarrassment keep you from exercising at work. Chances are, your co-workers will admire your efforts rather than be amused. You might even get them to join you on a lunchtime walk or to help you lobby for lunch-hour yoga classes at your workplace.

Finally, we would love to know which office exercise you like the most. Let us know in the comment section below.