The 10 Best Desk Exercises to Work Out at Work

Sweat, Workouts

Do you work an office job? The average worker spends around 61% of the day sitting down, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.[1]  That percentage skyrockets when it comes to office workers who have to spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk, staring at a computer. If having your dream job means being less than active at work, that’s a problem. But desk exercises could be the solution!

You probably already know that sitting down for long periods is bad for your health. Luckily, engaging in some desk exercises at work could be the answer. What’s more, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a quick look at how you can improve your lifestyle and boost your activity levels quickly and easily with some simple office exercises.

The Dangers of Too Much Sitting

woman doing seated desk exercises stretching behind a large white office desk

Research from the University Health Network (UHN) found a link between sitting for long periods of time and the risk of diseases as well as early death.[2] The expert analysis found that those who sit down for much of their life end up with a higher chance of getting heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

They also suggested that these conditions could increase the risk of early death. However, these results were more pronounced in people who did little to no exercise. That means that people who engaged in higher levels of activity, such as frequently going to the gym, were less likely to be affected by the diseases in the long run.

It’s not just your physical health that is at risk either. One study from BioMed Central found that leading a sedentary lifestyle could increase a person’s chances of suffering from anxiety.[3] While experts noted that more research needs to be conducted, this initial finding is a surprising one. Failing to lead an active lifestyle could affect your mental well-being.

How Can Desk Exercises Help?

woman doing seated office exercises stretching behind a wooden desk

So, how do desk exercises offer a solution to your sedentary lifestyle problem? Well, it’s pretty simple. While hitting the gym after work will go some way to solving the problem, engaging in desk exercises could get you moving during the working day.

As we already know, keeping perfectly still as you work is likely to have a damaging effect on your wellness levels. Taking a little time to do office exercises while you’re at work will get your blood flowing and use up some energy along the way too. Introducing both seated and standing desk exercises into your workday couldn’t be easier.

While office exercises are not the sole solution to reaching your health and wellness goals, they are certain to help you along the way. Research from the University of Copenhagen shows that engaging in just 30 minutes of exercise per day is enough to help people lose weight and improve their overall fitness levels.[4] So, while office exercises might not meet all of your exercise needs, they are certainly beneficial.

Do You Need Any Desk Exercise Equipment?

If you’re hoping to start doing some desk exercises, you might wonder whether you need any equipment. Should you work in a strict office, don’t worry. You can try many office exercises without the use of any sports gear. However, if you’d like to get the most out of your workplace workout, here are some of the things you might want to buy.

Small Dumbbells

small yellow dumbbells used for desk exercises in the office

From bicep curls to shoulder presses, a whole lot of your average desk exercises can benefit from a weight. Investing in a small 5kg dumbbell could be the way to go. You can keep this piece of equipment in your desk drawer so it shouldn’t get in the way.

 

Ankle Weights

yellow ankle weights on a woman used for desk exercises in the office


Equally, if you’re taking part in leg-centric office exercises, you might find that getting some ankle weights is a smart idea. You can strap these things to your ankle to give your workout an extra level of difficulty. Give it a go!

 

 

Exercise Ball

purple exercise ball office chair next to green dumbbells

You might not be able to change the fact that you have to sit down all day long, but you can change what type of chair you sit on. Choosing an exercise ball office chair could be all it takes to give your body an extra workout. Balancing on the ball will work your core muscles, such as your abs, all day long.

Alternatively, you could always invest in a standing desk for your workplace. Some progressive companies will allow you to stand up as you complete your daily tasks. The standing desk benefits are immense which means that it’s worth considering.

What is a Standing Desk?

woman at a standing desk making notes on a pad with a coffee cup in the corner

If you’ve never heard of a standing desk, we’ve got you covered. As the name suggests, this type of workstation is one that allows you to stand up. You might have a standing desk chair, which is higher than your average office chair and means that you can fully extend your legs and even try some standing desk exercises too. Experts believe that switching to this type of office set-up could have great advantages.

Research from the Texas A&M University Health Science Center suggests that one of the biggest standing desk benefits is a lower BMI.[5] Participants who worked standing up had an average of 5.24 percentile points less on the scale than those who sat down all day long. As it burns more energy to stay standing up, this makes perfect sense.

Plus, you could find that another one of the more unexpected standing desk benefits is productivity. While it’s not health-related, researchers have found a link between standing and improving cognitive functions and attention levels.[6] With that in mind, if you’re able to have a standing desk in your workplace, it could be a genius way to incorporate some office exercises.

10 Best Desk Exercises to Try

Trying to think of exercises to do at your desk? We hear you! The truth of the matter is that most office exercises don’t have to be overly complicated or difficult. Once you get into the swing of things, you should find that these are a simple addition to your daily routine and that they don’t cause you any hassle. With that in mind, here are ten of the best desk exercises you can try at the office.

For Glutes, Quads and Hamstrings

1. The Glute Squeeze

highlighted anatomy of the female glute muscles when doing glute squeezes

You might not think it but toning up your butt is just as important as any other part of your body. This is one of the office exercises that attacks your glutes which are the muscles in your butt. Since this particular muscle group doesn’t get worked all that often, it’s crucial that you spend extra time focusing your attention on it.

Not all office exercises have to be difficult. To complete the glute squeeze, squeeze and hold your glute muscles for around 15-30-second intervals. You might need to start with short time periods and build your way up.

Pro tip: Tense your abs while you’re squeezing to truly intensify your exercise. It might feel difficult at first but it’s worth the extra effort.

2. The Calf Lift

Sitting down all day means that your leg muscles hardly do any work. That is a real problem. While you might not be able to run a marathon while you’re in the office, you should do some office exercises that get your blood pumping. One of the best desk exercises you can try is the plain and simple calf lift.

While you’re sitting at your desk, point your legs out in front of you. Lift both up from the floor so that your feet are no longer resting on anything. Next, lift one of your legs upward as far as you can and hold. You should hold this position for around 20 seconds.

Pro tip: If you’d like to get more out of this exercise, use some simple ankle weights. You can strap them discreetly under your trousers adding extra weight to the exercise. 

3. Squats

woman doing squats for standing desk exercise

One of the biggest standing desk benefits is that you have a wider range of activities you can try. An excellent exercise for working out your glutes and quads is the humble squat. Every now and then, take a short break to complete a set of these exercises.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat downward while driving your heels into the ground behind you. Make sure that you lead with your butt – it should move outward as you go down toward the floor. Try a set of just 10-15 reps at a time.

 4. Lunges

Similarly, you should find that lunges are very easy to try for yourself. This standing desk exercise is straightforward and doesn’t take all that much time to perfect. They target your hamstrings, quads, and glutes which means that you get an intense workout.

Your starting position is the same as the squat position. Step one foot forward and bend the knee at a 90-degree angle as you do so. Lunge down and hold the position for just a few seconds. Again, you should try to complete as many reps as you can handle.

Pro tip: Make sure that your knee is facing forward when you lunge. If it starts to flair out to the side, your reps will lack the intensity they need. Every now and then, check your stance and correct yourself as needed.

For Core Training

5. Wall Sit

young woman in bright orange workout clothes doing wall sits

Correcting your posture while also giving you a complete body stretch, you can’t go wrong with the classic wall sit. For standing desk exercises like this one, you will need to find a nearby wall to use as a piece of equipment. Make sure that it’s sturdy!

Press your back against the wall and sit downward as though there were a chair there. Hold this position for around 30 seconds to a minute. At first, it is sure to feel easy but as the time builds so will the pressure. Try to remain strong and solid throughout this one.

6. Ab Attack

Ready to attack those abs? You don’t need to hit the gym to train your core. In fact, you hardly have to move at all. Before you start, you will need to invest in an exercise ball office chair which will take the place of your regular seat.

While you’re sitting on the exercise ball office chair, simply squeeze and hold your ab muscles. This is one of those office exercises that takes a little practice to get right. Once you’ve perfected it though, you can do it throughout the day without anybody knowing.

Pro tip: While on the exercise ball, lift your feet up off the ground and try to balance. Doing so will require you to seriously tense up those abs and work your core.

For Arms and Pecs

7. Chest Stretch 
young female in sports wear doing chest stretch standing desk exercises

Improving your posture while you’re at work is a real must. When you sit in the same position all day long, you will naturally fall into bad habits. You might find yourself hunched over or slouching down in your chair. Luckily, some simple desk exercises can help you to combat just that problem. Here’s one you should try:

The chest stretch doesn’t take an expert level of knowledge. Instead, you just need to pull your arms straight behind your back, clench your hands together, and lift the two of them upward. You might not be able to lift them too far when you first start out but keep at it. Before you know it, this chest stretch will be as easy as pie!

8. Bicep Curls

Are your biceps in need of some attention? There are plenty of office exercises that attack this set of muscles. Since you don’t have to stand up to work out your biceps, you can cover this base without ever leaving your desk.

First of all, you need to find something heavy. A large book or paperweight should do the trick. Alternating between the two arms, lift the weight so that your arm goes from a 90-degree angle upward. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Pro tip: If you can manage it, lift both arms at once with a weight in each hand. That way, you will get more out of this simple exercise.

9. Shoulder Press

woman seated at a desk doing office exercises for arms with dumbbells

Here’s one of the most effective standing desk exercises when it comes to your arms. If you’re looking for a quick way to tone up and look fabulous, you might just have found it. You will either need to use a small weight or something that is quite heavy. Again, something like a large book or paperweight may do the trick.

Hold the weight in one arm at shoulder height. Lift it above your head in a straight upward motion. Repeat this action around 10 times for each arm. If you’d like to add a new level of intricacy to this exercise, why not add some lunges into the mix?

For Cardio

10. Jog in Place 
a professional woman seated at her desk in heels with running shoes set beside her

It’s far from easy to slip a little cardio into your workday. The last thing your boss wants to see is you star-jumping around the office. However, one of the most remarkable standing desk benefits is the fact that you can get moving and get your heart racing while you’re at work. Why not take a short jog?

The next time you have a break, take the opportunity to jog on the spot for around 20-30 seconds. Doing so will break the repetition of merely standing and get your pulse going for a moment. How much you can do will depend entirely on your type of work.

Simple Hacks to Help You Stay Active at Work

flat lay of exercise equipment and athletic clothing

Want to take your desk exercises to the next level? Practicing these exercises regularly is a great place to start. As an added bonus for you, here are some super simple hacks that will help you get more out of your working day while staying active. Try them for yourself!

  • Keep small weights, such as dumbbells, in your drawer or locker
  • Set a reminder on your smartphone to exercise a little each day
  • Encourage your co-workers to work out with you for extra motivation
  • When an exercise starts to feel ‘easy’ increase your reps, time, or weights
  • Avoid sending in-office emails and walk to see your co-workers instead
  • Stand up and walk around at least once each hour

Desk Exercises to Work Out at Work

Conclusion

Staying fit and healthy when you work in a standard office environment doesn’t have to be hard. Now that you understand these straightforward office exercises, you should have no problem getting it right 100% of the time. Why not start today? Dedicate a little time to working out in the office. Your body will thank you for it later.

Looking for more simple ways to add exercise to your daily routine? Try these exercises you can do in front of the TV to get a little extra activity at home.

  • [1] https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2017/standing-or-walking-versus-sitting-on-the-job-in-2016.htm
  • [2] http://www.newswise.com/articles/sitting-for-long-periods-increases-risk-of-disease-and-death-regardless-of-exercise
  • [3] https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-015-1843-x
  • [4] https://www.physiology.org/doi/10.1152/ajpregu.00141.2012
  • [5] https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303323
  • [6] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21577323.2016.1183534

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