Simple Desk Exercises for Fitness at Work

Do these desk exercises to help you improve your physical and mental wellness, and prevent health issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 50% of Americans don’t get enough aerobic physical activity daily. The CDC also estimates that $117 billion in yearly healthcare costs are related to low physical activity. And that’s no mystery. Lack of physical activity can lead to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. The good news is that even if you have a desk job, you can stay active at work.

Simple desk exercises can help you improve your physical and mental wellness, and help you from developing a health issue.

Desk exercises: the ultimate office fitness routine

Desk exercises are activities that can be performed at or near your desk with minimal equipment. Often these healthy exercises use body weight as the resistance. Weighted objects such as books, exercise bands, exercise balls, and light hand weights also work well. 

To help you make physical activity a part of their daily routine, consider asking your employer to provide some exercise equipment onsite. Or allowing you to bring small pieces of equipment from home. 

Cardiovascular exercises

Cardiovascular exercise, or aerobic exercise, helps get the blood pumping by elevating heart rate. Aerobic exercise is great for burning calories, increasing stamina and energy levels, and facilitating weight loss. It may even help control blood pressure. It also typically results in people feeling more alert. During active exercise, it’s important to wear proper athletic shoes rather than standard dress shoes. Cardiovascular exercises to consider as part of a daily routine include:

  • Pace the office while talking on the phone.
  • Use 15-minute breaks to walk outside or climb stairs.
  • Take 5-minute breaks once an hour to do jumping jacks.

Tone your calf muscles

A simple but excellent exercise for toning calf muscles starts with placing your feet flat on the floor. Then raise your feet while keeping your toes on the floor, which should flex your calf muscles. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds, then lower your feet. Repeat this exercise 8-10 times to complete 1 set. Do 3 sets.

Desk push-ups

To do a desk push-up, place your hands flat on your desk. You can grip the edge of the desk for stability. Step backward until your body is at a 45-degree angle with the floor, and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower yourself toward your desk and raise yourself back up with your arms. Do 8-10 reps to complete a set. Do 3 sets. This exercise helps build upper body strength.

Invisible-chair sit

The invisible-chair sit is a low-impact squat that works legs and core muscles. To start this exercise, lower your seat to the bottom stop. If your chair is a rolling or swivel chair, place the back of it against a wall to prevent movement. Next, stand facing away from the chair and assume a wide stance with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your core tight and lower yourself slowly into a sitting position until your butt just touches the chair. Then raise yourself back into a standing position. One set is 8-10 reps. Perform 3 sets to complete this exercise.

Overhead presses

Overhead presses work your shoulders and arms. To perform this exercise, locate a pair of heavy books or full water bottles or use a resistance band. Sit straight in your desk chair with your feet flat on the floor. In each hand, hold a heavy book or other option with at least 1 pound of weight or resistance. To get into the starting position, extend your arms to the side with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Your hands should be just about eye level. Remember to keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout this exercise. Next, press upward until your arms are fully extended. Then, lower your arms until they again form a 90-degree angle at the elbow. A set is 8-10 reps. Do 3 sets.

Seated chair raises

Seated chair raises help increase the strength of your arms and core muscles. To perform this exercise, cross your legs in your seat. Next, grip the arms of your office chair with your hands. Push yourself upward and lower yourself slowly. Do 8-10 reps to complete a set, and 3 sets to complete this exercise. If you can’t raise your entire body off the seat with just your arms, it’s OK. Leave your feet on the floor and use your legs to assist you.

Straight-arm shoulder blade squeeze

The straight-arm shoulder blade squeeze can help improve your posture and upper-arm stability. You will need an exercise or resistance band for this exercise. To start, put your arms straight out in front of you with your hands shoulder-width apart. Hold the band. Next, press your hands outward until your arms are straight out at your sides. Remember to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Then, slowly return your hands to the front of your body, keeping your arms straight. One set is 8-10 reps. Perform 3 sets.

Wrist stretch

To prevent wrist pain, it’s a good idea to periodically stretch your wrists. To accomplish this exercise, hold the right arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing upward. With your left hand, gently pull your right fingertips to face the floor. You should feel resistance but not pain. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds. Then repeat with the other arm.

Staying on track

Leading healthy lifestyles can prevent illnesses, improve cognitive function, and increase stamina. Of course, you’ll want to have help staying on track. Ways to do this include:

  • Wearing a fitness tracker to log steps, physical activity, and meals.
  • Drinking more water.
  • Encouraging exercise on breaks.
  • Setting aside a few 5-minute time slots for employees to get up and walk around for short bursts of exercise.

Physical exercise supports physical and mental health and overall healthy lifestyles. Participate in promoting exercise activities at work — maybe even set aside a few minutes for group exercise with colleagues before the start of each shift.

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