Desk jobs can be hard. You may get fidgety or restless, or the sedentary work might have you feeling lethargic by the time you leave for the night. It can be hard to feel motivated or accomplished. But sitting for long hours at a computer isn’t just draining; it can actually be bad for you. In addition to the risks of poor posture or sub-par chairs leading to back pain, sitting for eight hours a day can reduce your lifespan and increase your risk for certain diseases. But having a desk job doesn’t have to mean sitting all day.
Here are 15 exercises you can perform at your desk (or at least nearby) to get you active at work*.
- Desk Pushups– Place your hands on your desk and walk your feet backwards to put your body at a 45 degree angle. Complete a set of 10-15 pushups in this position.
- Shoulder Blade Squeeze– Press your shoulders back to pull your shoulder blades in as close to each other as possible, like you’re trying to hold something between them. This will also help alleviate poor posture.
- Office Yoga– Basic yoga positions can be accomplished in relatively open spaces, such as an office if you have your own or a break room. Simple positions are a quick form of stress relief and light exercise. This one might be a little rough in a cubicle, though. Try making arrangements with supervisors to allow for 15-minute group yoga sessions for the whole team a few times a week.
- Squats– You can do standard squats and complete a set of 15 in front of your desk, or you can modify the squat to use your desk chair. Lower your body in a squat position until your butt just bumps the edge of the chair, then rise back up.
- Wall Sits– Stand a few inches away from a wall and lower into a squat position, with your back pressed against the wall. Lower your body until your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle and hold this position for a few seconds before standing back up. Repeat.
- Calf Raises– Stand with your feet together and raise up your heels and calves so you’re standing on your toes. Hold this position for 10 seconds then gently lower down. Repeat. If you need the extra support, hold onto your chair back while you’re on your toes for stability.
- Seated Leg Lifts– Sitting on the edge of your chair, extend one leg to stick straight out and hold it out for 10 seconds. Slowly lower the leg, nearly to the floor but not quite, then lift again and hold for 10 seconds. Complete a few repetitions and then switch to the other leg.
- Standing Stretches– Just the simple act of standing is enough to see some health benefits during the day, but you can make this even more valuable by throwing in some quick stretches. Bend over and attempt to touch your toes. If you can’t, just go as far as is comfortable and each day try to bend just a little bit further. Standing upright bend your neck side to side slowly, trying to press your ear into our shoulder. Move your right arm across your body and use your left arm to press it into your chest, and then swap sides. Raise your arms above you, then grip your hands together and lower them behind your head. Place your legs shoulder width apart and your arms to the side, slowly rotate your body to one side, then the other. Do a couple hops and shakes to get rid of any extra stiffness.
- Desk dips– Place your hands on the desk behind you and walk your feet out a little bit. Lower your body down with your arms, hold for a second, then raise yourself back up. Complete 10-15 of these motions.
- Bicep Curls– You don’t need dumbbells when you’ve got a water bottle, a stapler, or pretty much any small object of weight that you can fit in your hand. When you’re watching a video or reading an email, use your arms to get in some simple bicep curls, holding your object in your hand and curling it in towards your shoulder.
- Overhead Presses– Use that handy water bottle again and this time start with your elbow bent to the side and raise up like you’re pushing the water bottle to the ceiling. Lower your arm back to a 90 degree bend and then repeat. Slow and steady is the key to feeling these exercises working.
- Table Press and Leg Lift– If you’ve got the space under your desk or conference table, press both hands down on the top of the desk while lifting both legs to be fully straight under the table. Hold for 10 seconds, release, then repeat.
- Hand Strengthening– With or without a stress ball, you can exercise your hands and help relieve pain from typing by making a fist, squeezing tightly for a few seconds, then releasing and stretch your fingers. Repeat this exercise periodically during the day to help prevent carpal tunnel pain.
- Toe Raises– While seated, keep your heels firmly on the ground and lift your toes. You’ll feel the stretch in your shins and calves. Repeat periodically throughout the day. A perk of this one is it can be done subtly under your desk at any time.
- Single Leg Romanian Deadlift– Placing your right hand on your desk for balance stand on your right leg. Slowly lower your torso and arm in front of you while raising your left leg behind you, with your right knee just slightly bent. Hold this position for a few seconds then straighten back up and switch legs.
But desk exercises aren’t the only way to counteract long hours sitting. In addition to these exercises, there are other work changes that can have great benefits for both your mental and physical health.
- Instead of emailing your coworkers walk to their desk or office. It’ll get you walking and the face to face interaction can help humanize the work space and make a friendlier environment.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator if you are physically able to, and if you’re really trying to get an early workout take the steps two at a time (carefully!).
- When you find yourself getting restless, stand up. Even without exercises, the act of standing gets your blood flowing and your mood boosted.
Making these changes in the workplace will not only be reflected in your health, but in higher energy levels at work, less lethargy when you come home, reduced stress, and an overall better mood. Remember, small changes can make a big difference!
*The content above is for informational purposes only, and before starting any exercise program, you should consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider to make sure it is right for you and to answer any questions you may have. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.