Career

15 Super Effective Ways to Exercise at Your Desk (without getting weird looks from your co-workers)

Need a break from your computer? These exercises will help you stay fit during the workday.

By: Ashley Brewer

Between the amount of time we spend sitting at our work desks, sitting on our couches looking at Instagram, lounging around watching TV, and sleeping – we’re actually really sedentary creatures. With everything being so easily accessible to us on our phones, tablets, and computers, we really don’t have to move around a lot, but we should and could exercise at our desk.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 3.2 million deaths a year are attributed to a lack of physical activity. That’s a crazy and startling statistic, and one to wake us up and realize that being so sedentary is linked to more health problems than we may think. We’re talking loss of muscle and bone strength, diabetes, and heart disease. It really is true-sitting is the new smoking.

Think about it, between a commute in the car, an 8-hour work day, chill time at home, then sleep – we do a lot of sitting and lounging. So, even if you try and get 30 minutes of exercise a day, it’s still probably not enough movement throughout the day to keep your muscles, heart, and brain happy. You might be thinking – “how the heck am I supposed to find more time for more exercise?” Luckily, there are simple exercises and movements that can be done right at your desk (whether you work from an office or from home) without taking time from your busy schedule.

Sounds awesome, right? Let’s get to it and look at how you can stay active even during your busy workday. And, the best part? These 15 ‘deskercises’ are sneaky enough to do without your co-workers looking at you funny all while you improve strength, burn calories, and keep your positivity up in between staring at Excel all day. (Sign us up!)

Cardio

  • 1-minute cubicle jog. You get to work at 8:00 am, sit down at your desk, then the next thing you know it’s 10:45 and you haven’t really moved at all. Set a timer on your phone or computer to get up every 30-60 minutes and jog in place for 1 minute. If you really want to get your heart-rate up, do some high-knees! That might draw more attention your way but who cares?
  • Get up and make ‘hello’ rounds. Take a 5-minute break a few times a day to just wander around for a bit. Say ‘good morning’ to co-workers or just find a reason to grab something from the supply room. The bottom line – make a conscious effort to get up and move
  • Take the stairs. This work-cardio tip has been around for ages, but that’s because it’s a great way to get your heart pumping. Avoid the elevator if you can and take the stairs instead. Plus? You get to avoid elevator small talk.

Shoulders & Arms

  • Shoulder raises. Typing away at a computer all day can really tighten up the muscles in your neck. We often hold tension here without even realizing it. Raise your shoulders up to your ears, hold for 10 seconds, then release.
  • Chair dips. Get some strength-training done for your arms right in your cubicle. With your hands on the armrests of the chair, scoot yourself to the front of the seat. Straighten your arms, lifting your body off the chair. Hold for as long as you can then lower down. Repeat.
  • Self-handshake. This one seems a little strange but it really does work. Sit up straight and with arms at shoulder-height, give yourself a handshake, making sure one thumb is pointing toward the ceiling and the other to the floor. Now, pull! Create resistance by pulling with each hand and arm. Hold for 10-15 seconds then release.

Core

  • Breathe and squeeze. This is a great ab and core exercise that is silent, discrete, and effective. Just take a deep breath in and tighten the ab muscles. As you exhale, bring in your abs toward your spine. Hold that squeeze for about 10 seconds then release and repeat. This can even double as a mindfulness tool to take a few minutes to just breathe and be present.
  • Perfect your posture. Simply sitting in a certain way will activate your core and engage your muscles. Make sure your desk chair is positioned in a way that your feet, hips, and arms are all at 90-degree angles to the floor.
  • Seated crunches. Work on those flat abs all while multitasking with Photoshop duties by doing seated crunches. Take a few breaks throughout the day and place both elbows on your thighs. Try and curl your chest forward and in toward the legs while resisting with your arms. Hold this crunch for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat as often as you’d like.

Legs & Butt

  • Copy machine calf raises. Waiting for that million-page report to print? Or need to make copies of a document for the entire floor? While you’re waiting, stand at the machine and do some calf raises. Press up onto your tippy-toes, hold for a couple seconds, then lower down.
  • Super secret butt squeeze. Tone and tighten your glutes while sitting at your desk by simply giving your butt a tight squeeze. Just squeeze your glutes then hold for 5-10 seconds. Your co-workers in the open workspace won’t even notice.
  • Seated leg raises. Get in some quad and hamstring work while sitting at your desk. Sitting up straight, straighten out one or both of your legs and squeeze your quad muscles. Lower the leg or legs back down but don’t fully touch the ground. Lift up and repeat the process for however many reps you’d like.

Back, Neck, & Chest

  • Shoulder pinch. Stretch out your chest and engage your back muscles by pinching your shoulder blades together as much as possible. Pretend you’re trying to hold a pen in between your shoulder blades, squeezing tightly. Hold for 5-10 seconds then release.
  • Head swirler. Here’s a nice move that is great for stretching out tense neck muscles and getting some movement going. Just drop your head, chin toward the chest, then gently roll your head from side to side.
  • Back twist. Give your spine a much-needed stretch by doing back twists throughout the day. Sit in your chair then place your right arm behind your right hip on the armrest. Twist to the right side and hold for 5 seconds. Release and repeat on the other side.

The Takeaway

Doing these movements and exercises throughout the day is a great way to increase your physical activity if you can’t leave your desk. But, if you can, get outside and go for a walk around the block! Any movement you get in during your workday is considered a win, and both your mental and physical health will thank you for it.