10 Easy exercises to do at your desk
For 8 to 10 hours a day, many of us sit at our desks, we commute to and from work sitting on public transport; then we might spend at least part of the evening in front of the TV. But all this sitting not only increases our risk of developing back pain and poor posture, it can also lead to tense muscles, leg cramps and an increased risk of obesity.
You might be thinking, “But I don't have time to exercise during the day.” Yes, you do – you can do it at your desk, even with a constant barrage of email, conference calls and Skype meetings! A study by the National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion revealed that almost half of adults in the USA don't get the physical exercise they need. Similar studies in the UK have been carried out too – a University of Bristol study found that 80% of adults in the UK failed to meet recommended government targets for exercise (1).
The good news is that there are plenty of exercises you can do at your desk to improve your flexibility and boost your strength. So the next time you're facing an extra-long shift or mounting paperwork, take some time out for some of these exercises to leave you feeling more energised.
#1. Neck Stretch
Stretching can help reduce your risk of back pain and, if you're already sore, can help to relieve some of the tension in your back and neck. Touch your ear to your shoulder and hold for a few seconds. Switch sides, repeating for 5 times each side until your neck starts to feel more relaxed.
#2. Magic Carpet Ride
To work your arms and core, sit on your chair, legs crossed and feet on the seat (as if you were meditating). Place your hands on the armrests, pull your belly button in towards your spine and lift yourself a few inches above the seat, using your stomach muscles and arms. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Aim for 5 reps.
#3. Split Squat Jump
Got that Friday feeling? Or maybe you've FINALLY managed to fix the photocopier. Celebrate in style, by trying out some split squat jumps! Stand with your feet hip-width apart and step your left leg back, balancing on the ball of the foot. Lower into a lunge and push yourself upwards – YAY! Switch feet whilst you're in the air, so your right leg is now behind you. Aim for 10 to 12 reps per leg.
#4. Tricep Dips
To strengthen your upper body (typing won't do that for you), this move is ideal, and all you need is a desk. Sit on the edge of your desk, placing your palms on the edge of the desk either side of you. Put your feet together, bend your elbows and slide down off the desk . Dip down a few inches and then push yourself back up. For the best results, dip down until your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle. Aim for 20 reps – this can be quite tiring, and we don't recommend trying it before a big meeting!
#5. Circulation Booster
Looking to strengthen your lower body, alleviate leg cramps and keep your circulation healthy? Then you need to try this. Sitting in your chair, extend your leg straight in front of you. Hold it for 2 seconds, then lift it as high as you can, and hold for another 2 seconds. Do 15 reps per leg.
#6. Seated Spinal Stretch
Increase your flexibility and reduce your risk of back pain with this move which stretches out your spine – it feels so good! Sit up tall in your chair, stretching your arms towards the ceiling. Put your left hand down on the desk, and grab the back of the chair with your right hand as you twist to the right. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat, turning the opposite way. Hold for 10 seconds then relax.
#7. Secret Glute Squeeze
Shhhh..It's possible to carry out exercises at your desk without anybody even knowing! This move tones your glutes, for uplifting results! Squeeze your buttocks, hold for 5 to 10 seconds, release and repeat until you're tired (or until it's the end of yet another meeting).
#8. Wrist Reliever
If you've been typing emails and reports all day, stretching your wrists can help to prevent muscle ache and repetitive strain injury (RSI). Stretch your arm out, palm facing down. With your other hand, pull your fingers down, and hold for 3 seconds. Then pull up on your fingers, holding for 3 seconds. Repeat 3 times, then alternate hands.
#9. Shoulder Spin
Aching shoulders left you feeling grumpy and affected your productivity? You're not alone. Try this move to relieve pain and increase flexibility. Sit tall in your chair and reach your left hand over your shoulder behind you, letting it hang down between your shoulder blades. Now reach your right hand around your back and up between your shoulders – the aim is to touch the left hand. If you can, great! If not, hold onto your shirt. Hold for 10 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.
#10. Chair squats
This exercise targets your glutes and thighs - sitting at a desk all day means they don't get much opportunity for a workout! If you can lower your seat as far as possible that's ideal for this move - don't worry if that's not possible. Stand in front of your chair, feet hip-width apart. Now place your hands on your hips and lower your butt until it's just above the seat. Make each movement slow and controlled as you sit down as slowly as you can. Aim for 20 reps. To add an extra level of difficulty, try reaching your hands over your head as you squat down.
Try these moves together for a full desk workout, or squeeze them into your day separately, whenever you have a spare moment. If you have time, we recommend a quick lunchtime workout - even if it's just a walk or run around the block - to fight that mid-afternoon slump and get those endorphins flowing, boosting your mood, energy and productivity!
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