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Wellness

12 Simple Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

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Jeff Gapinski

Image shows a girl stretching her arms at a white desk with the words "12 simple exercises you can do at your desk"

If you’re back in the office and starting to miss your home Peloton workouts and lunchtime walks, you’re not alone!

It’s estimated that over 80% of Americans work a sedentary desk job, with many office workers spending upwards of 15 hours a day sitting down. In addition to this, people are returning to the office either in a hybrid or full-time capacity, which means even more time is spent commuting or sitting in meetings. 

Leading an active lifestyle is important for your health, but how can we ensure that we’re not spending our entire day hunched over our desks? While getting a few hours of focused work is great for productivity, sitting for too long can lead to numerous health issues including blood clots, joint pain, and high blood pressure. 

Luckily, even just a few minutes of movement every few hours can be extremely beneficial for your well-being. Not only does light exercise improve your cardiovascular health, but it can also boost your cognitive function, leading to higher productivity during the work day. 

So, what can you do during your working hours to reap these benefits? We’ve curated a list of exercises that can be completed with minimal to no equipment. 

Get your body moving and your blood pumping with these 12 desk workouts.

Arm circles

Arm circles are a simple yet effective exercise that targets your shoulder muscles. 

In a standing or seated position, extend your arms out to either side and roll them forward in a circular motion.

Try circles of different sizes after about 20 rotations.

Do the same movement in a backward motion.

Neck rotations

Also called neck swings, carefully rolling your neck can relieve the tension that builds up after a long day in front of a screen. 

Relax your muscles and lean your chin down toward your chest. 

Roll your head gently from shoulder to shoulder. 

Repeat 3-5 times.

Overhead stretch

One of the most popular upper body stretches, the overhead stretch helps maintain the range of motion in the shoulders.

From a seated or standing position, extend your arms above your head. 

Interlock your fingers and turn your palms toward the sky. 

Gently push your arms up and hold for 5-10 seconds.

Seated hip stretch

This exercise is a great way to reduce lower back and hip pain. 

From a seated position, keep your left foot on the ground, and cross your right ankle on top of your left knee. 

Keeping your back straight, gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hip and glute. 

For a deeper hip stretch, gently press down on your right knee. 

Hold for 10-30 seconds and then switch your legs so your left ankle is on top of your right knee.

For more low-impact movements you can do at your desk, try these 10 easy desk stretches.

Tricep dips

All you need to complete this exercise is a non-swivel chair with sturdy legs (please do not attempt this with a rolling office chair!). 

Standing with a stationary chair behind you, put your palms flat on the chair with your fingers facing away from you.

Lower your body until your arms are parallel to the ground. 

Push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat 10 times.

Calf raises

Though this movement may look too simple on the surface, don’t be fooled. Calf raises help you avoid certain injuries related to running or jogging, such as Achilles tendonitis. They also improve balance and ankle stability. 

Start by standing with feet about hip-width apart, with your toes pointed straight ahead. 

Extend your ankles and rise up on your toes. 

Lower down and repeat this movement 10-15 times.

Desk or wall push ups

This versatile full-body exercise can be completed on the edge of a desk, on the floor, or against a wall depending on your skill level. 

If using a desk, lean against it with your palms slightly wider than your shoulders. 

Lower yourself until you’re almost touching the desk and then raise back to the starting position. 

Repeat 10-12 times.

Lunges

Lunges work your core, quadriceps, and hamstrings, and can be completed with or without weights

Begin by standing with your hands on your hips. 

Step forward with your left leg and bend until your right knee almost touches the ground. 

Return to a standing position and then move forward with your right leg. 

Repeat 10-12 times with each leg.

Side lunges

Also known as a lateral lunge, side lunges work the glutes, hamstrings, and quads while improving stability. 

Begin with your feet shoulder width apart. 

Take a giant step to the right, bending the knee until it reaches a 90 degree angle. Your left leg should remain entirely straight. 

Return your body to the center and repeat with the left leg. 

Repeat 10-12 times with each leg.

Chair squats

Squats work your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. This is another exercise where your office chair comes in handy. 

Stand with your chair behind you, and lower yourself down as if you’re going to sit in it. 

When your backside is about to touch the chair, raise it back up to a standing position. 

Repeat 10-12 times.

Jumping jacks

This throwback from gym class is actually a great full-body exercise and will help get your blood pumping. 

Start from a standing position with your arms by your side and your feet shoulder-width apart. 

Jump up, throw your hands above your head, and land with your feet wider than they were at the start. 

Jump again and return to the position in which you started. Repeat for 30 seconds to a minute.

Imaginary jump rope

Some of the more dedicated gym goers may return to the office with workout equipment, but did you know you don’t need a jump rope to jump rope? 

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart

Hop with both feet at once or alternate legs while making small circles with your wrists at your sides.

Need a challenge?

While health and exercise goals are unique to everyone, it can be a lot more fun and productive to team up with coworkers to hold each other accountable and spend some time together outside of normal working situations. Organize a low-stakes exercise challenge in your office to give new meaning to healthy competition.

How are you planning on staying active while at the office? We’d love to hear your ideas on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

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Jeff Gapinski

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