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Workout While Working: 7 Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

Sitting all day at work may be good for your bank account, but it's bad for your health. Take time to exercise during the day to eliminate common problems.


Man holding a squat while at workYour body isn’t meant to sit around all day. Even if you sat in the perfect upright posture at work, you’re still sedentary for eight or more hours. And that excessive desk time can cause serious health problems, including high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body fat around the waist.

Too much sitting can also cause pain. A lack of movement and exercise from sedentary work is the cause of a majority of aches and pains in the back, neck and shoulders. It goes like this: if you don’t use it, you lose it. Motion is lotion, after all!

Excessive sitting can also lead to injury. Your joints and muscles aren’t ready to ramp up when they’re called upon. For example, say you sit eight hours a day for six months straight. Then, one weekend you rake up your whole lawn. There’s a good chance you’ll strain your back because you haven’t conditioned yourself to do anything physically demanding.

I have to sit all day at work. What can I do to help this potential problem?

The human body is genetically engineered for movement — and lots of it! We handle stress and feel better when we move well and often. You need to change positions frequently to oxygenate your tissues, lubricate your joints and allow areas that have been working to take a break.

If your job requires you to be at your desk for long stretches, you should take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. That might mean making up excuses to get up out of your chair. You can try:

  • Going over to someone’s desk to chat in person instead of using email or chat
  • Working from a high table or counter for part of the day
  • Standing when you’re on the phone
  • Walking meetings instead of sitting with your colleagues in a conference room
  • Desk or chair exercises

Exercises? What can I do from my desk or chair?

You need to lubricate your joints and stretch and contract your muscles throughout the workday. Movement keeps you limber, and when the time comes to do more physical work, your muscles and joints are ready for the challenge.

There are many types of exercises that you can do while sitting at a desk or by using a standard office chair. Low back and neck pain are the most common problems suffered by people who sit at a desk all day, every day. In addition to helping you get up and get moving, these exercises help prevent and treat the pains of working at a desk.

Seated Forward Bend

Sit with your knees together and your feet flat on the floor. Breathe in. As you breathe out, slowly bend forward over your knees, rounding your shoulders. Let your arms dangle at your sides and hold the pose for three breaths.

Chair Abs

Do an entire core workout from the comfort of your chair. Perform 10 repetitions each of crunch kicks, side-to-side knee swipes, knee-to-elbows, leg raises, cycling crunches and sitting twists.

Spine Twists

Place your right hand on your left knee. Rotate your belly, shoulders and neck, looking over your left shoulder. Hold the twist for a few seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Rhomboid Stretch

From your chair, bend forward and reach between your legs. Grab the leg of the chair with your right hand. Use your left hand to push your right elbow down towards the floor, stretching the muscles between your shoulder blade and your spine. Repeat with the opposite hand to stretch the other side.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Sitting sideways on a stable chair, move your right leg back behind you. Tuck your buttocks in underneath your hips. Stretch the front of your right hip and upper thigh just until you feel a gentle pull and hold it. Sit sideways facing the opposite direction to repeat the exercise on your left leg.

Marching in Place

Stand up with your feet slightly apart and your arms at your sides. March in place, lifting your knees up, trying to touch the ceiling. Do this 20 times.

Squat Holds

Widen your stance so your feet are more than shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Bend your knees and squat as low as you can while keeping your back straight. Explode back up to standing position. Repeat 10 times.

After completing these exercises, your muscles should feel fresh and loose. And you’ll feel re-energized for the rest of your workday!

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