Sitting at a desk job all day can put a surprising amount of strain on your body. Fortunately, fighting the effects of desk life doesn’t require a personal trainer or a trip to the gym. You can do a number of stretches and desk exercises right in the office. Check out a few exercises to do at your desk below, and learn how they might help benefit your health and work performance.
The Downside To Sitting All Day
Long work days can be demanding on your whole body. Sitting for long periods of time puts pressure on your back, hip, and neck muscles. This can do more than leave you feeling stiff. All that sitting might create more long-term issues such as poor heart health and weight gain.1
Moreover, that sedentary position can actually be detrimental to your work performance. That’s because sitting can hinder productivity by reducing blood flow to the brain.2
Prolonged sitting may limit your body’s need to process food for energy. As a result, your body might retain more fats and sugars. This may contribute to weight gain.3
Back Pain And Poor Posture
Sitting for hours on end can strain your spine and overstretch the ligaments in your back. This tension can make you uncomfortable, and it may lead to long-term back issues.4
How Desk Exercises May Help
The American Heart Association recommends that people who sit for work make a point of moving around for five minutes every hour.5 This is why Tony Horton recommends breaking up the work day with some easy desk exercises. These little bits of movement or exercise can go a long way to supporting your overall health. Here are a few of the main potential benefits:
Short periods of exercise may help support your heart health. Three 10-minute sessions of activity are even comparable to a normal 30 or 60 minute workout for some people.6
Exercise can boost blood circulation and increase oxygen flow, potentially giving you more energy. It might also help support your ability to sleep well, giving you more sustained energy throughout the day.7
Physical health and mental health are closely related. Moderate amounts of exercise may have an immediate impact on your mental health, helping to ease anxiety and stress and promoting relaxation. Exercise may also help support your ability to focus (a big plus at work).8
Easy To Do Desk Exercises
These are some of Tony Horton’s top-recommended exercises to do at your desk. These simple exercises can all be done sitting at your desk or standing next to it.
Work your arm muscles with this desk exercise. Be sure to use a stationary chair to prevent slipping or falling.
- Scoot yourself forward off of a stationary chair. Hold yourself in a squat position with your hands facing forward.
- Keep your hands flat. Lower yourself by pushing your elbows back.
- Lift yourself back up and repeat.9
Strong Arm Pulses
Another great arm exercise to do at your desk is strong arm pulses. You can hold a common office object, like a filled water bottle, for a little extra weight resistance.
- In a standing position, with feet shoulder-width apart, extend your left arm in front of you and your right arm out to the side.
- Pulse your left arm by making small motions up and down 30 times. The extra weight of a water bottle will increase the challenge.
- Do the same for the other side. Repeat.10
Work those chest muscles with this office-friendly version of a push-up. This is a great exercise to do at your desk because you actually use your desk for this routine.
- Take a few steps back away from your desk, then lean forward and place your hands flat on your desk.
- Lower yourself down until your chest comes close to the desk. Keep your core tight.
- Lift yourself back up to the starting position and repeat.11
Squats can be done just about anywhere. Take advantage of this exercise routine whenever you find yourself with a free moment.
- Stand with feet flat on the ground, shoulder blades back, and chest open. Clasp your hands in front of your chest.
- Lower by thrusting your hips back, almost like sitting in an invisible chair. Keep your lower back loose.
- Push back up through your heels. Repeat.12
Lunge At Lunch
Sneaking in a few lunges at your desk can be a great way to help support lower body strength. They may also help support core strength and posture.
- Stand and step forward with your left foot. Keep your core tight and your back straight.
- Bend your knees to lower down until your right shin is nearly parallel with the ground. Your left leg should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Push through your feet back to the starting position.13
You can do this flexibility exercise from your chair for a good upper back stretch. It might also help to strengthen your core and support your hip flexor endurance.14
- Sit up straight in your chair. Slowly twist to the right and grab on to your chair with your right hand.
- Twist until you reach a comfortable position and hold for 30 seconds.
- Return to a neutral position and repeat on the other side.15
Keep your posture trim and proper with a few sets of shoulder rolls everyday. You can do these from a seated position at your desk. They’ll boost blood flow to your shoulders which may help to ease muscle tension.
- Sit tall with a neutral spine. Pull your shoulders down and back. Eyes forward.
- Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears without slouching your back. Then squeeze your shoulders back.
- Use your mid-back to pull shoulders down back into a neutral pose. Repeat.16
If you work at a computer all day, then your wrists are hard at work, too. Try a light stretch a few times throughout the day to help maintain healthy joints and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome.17
- Hold your left arm straight out with your elbow bent. Use your right hand to pull your left hand back toward your arm. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
- Now, pull the left hand down the other way and hold that stretch for 20-30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.18
Tight muscles and neck pain are common issues for people who work at a desk all day. Fortunately, you can help alleviate this discomfort from your seat with a few circular motions of the head and neck.
- Start by looking straight ahead with a comfortable, neutral posture.
- Gently lean your head to the left. With a soft and controlled motion lean your head back, then to the right.
- Finish by leaning your head back forward with your chin on your chest. Repeat.19
Note: If at any time you feel discomfort in your neck, stop the exercise.
Tips For Maintaining Your Desk Exercises
During a busy day, it can be easy to let your self care fall by the wayside. Try a few of these simple tips to help you stay on track with your office exercises:
- Set a timer as a reminder to do your exercises a few times a day.20
- Leave yourself sticky notes on the computer with encouraging statements to maintain your desk exercises.
Take Care Of Yourself At Work
Sitting all day may seem like a harmless activity, but it can put a good amount of strain on the body. This might have a negative effect on your work performance and overall health. That’s why it’s so important to combat those effects with daily exercise.
Even a few simple stretches and aerobic exercises at your desk may help support better posture, increase energy, and help enhance productivity. There are all sorts of great exercises to do at your desk above. Spend a few minutes with them each day to help maintain a truly valuable office asset – yourself.