20 Desk Exercises to Workout on the Clock

woman exercising at her desk

You’ve just started your dream job, spending over 8 hours a day glued to your desk to prove that you do have what it takes to excel in your career. You’re eating take-away meals (as you don’t have time to cook) and are nibbling away at all the delicious treats you can find. Before you know it, the pounds are piling on and you’ve gone up a whole dress size.

Besides increasing weight, desk jobs also increase the strain on your back, wrists, eyes, and neck, and can result in a general loss of muscle tone. "People who sit at their computers for hours every day —are in for serious medical problems," Sharon Hame, MD, associate clinical professor at UCLA's department of orthopedic surgery, told WebMD. "We're seeing more things than carpal tunnel; those pains go up the arm to the elbow and shoulder and then translate to the neck and back. It's a huge problem."

So how can you squeeze in some exercise in your busy 9-to-5 schedule? Follow our guide below for some simple and discreet (a few – not all) routines that you can practice daily to ensure you’re fighting fit:

1. Rubber neck

Sit up tall and drop your left ear to your left shoulder (they don’t have to touch). Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side. Practice doing this exercise every time you feel your neck is strained. It will release the tension in your neck and reduce headaches.

2. Look around

This one will seem like you’re being nosey, or, are bored; but little will your colleague’s know that you’re squeezing in a cheeky workout. Turn your head to the left and try and look over your shoulder and hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the right.

3. Shrugs

So, you know when you’re not sure about something and you lift both shoulders towards your head? Right, well do the same movement and hold for 10 seconds before dropping your shoulders back down. This will not only relieve tension in your neck, but it does wonders for your back too.

4. Leg raise

Feeling a bit restless? To tighten abs on a short deadline; while sitting, straighten your left leg and hold for 10 seconds. Lower it almost to the floor, hold and repeat on the other leg. You can do this discreetly under your desk to gain some washboard abs.

5. Big hug

To stretch your back; hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and the left hand on your right shoulder. Breathe in and out, releasing the area between your shoulder blades.

6. Spinal twist

If you have an aching back, this simple twist can get rid of the stress you have built up from sitting down all day. Sit in your chair sideways, grip the top of the chair with both hands and pull your body towards the back of the chair. Do this two or three times and hold for 10 seconds before switching to the other side.

7. Chair squats

To get your booty as toned as the printer, try some chair squats. Stand six inches in front of your chair, lower yourself down until your butt reaches the edge of the seat, then pop back up. Do at least three reps of 10 squats and build it up as you see fit.

8. Twinkle toes

Don’t worry – you don’t have to dance around the office like a ballerina! Simply tap your toes to bring your heart rate up. Obviously, this isn’t as effective as a leg lift or doing 30 squats, but simply tapping your toes in an alternating pattern, as if you were running, can actually help you burn off a few extra calories while keeping your heart in check.

9. Wrist stretch

To release stress and pain in your joints, and tendons and to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, practice stretching your wrist once or twice per hour. To do so, extend your arm outwards from your side and flex your hand up (palm facing away from your body). With your other hand, pull back on your fingertips and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. After releasing, bend your hand downward (palm facing towards your body) and pull it towards your body once more with the opposite hand. Swap hands and repeat two to three times.

10. Praying hands

An alternative activity to stretching out your wrists is the praying hands. Put the palms of your hands together around chin-level and slowly bring them towards your waist, keeping your arms close to your body. Lower them until you feel the tension in your wrists and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat when you are feeling a bit stiff.

11. Chair dip

This one may be better for those with their own office and definitely a solid chair (that isn’t on wheels). To strengthen and tone your arms, face away from the chair and sit on the edge of the seat. Place your palms on the edge of the seat and slide off the chair. Slowly lower your body until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle, then raise your body back to seat-height. Try one set of eight reps and increase repetitions as necessary.

12. Chair lift

This exercise is similar to the chair dip, except instead of dipping, you will be lifting. Position yourself near the edge of the seat and grip the arm rests behind your back. Lift your body off the seat and hold for a few seconds, then gently let yourself back down. Repeat five to 10 times.

13. Desk curl

Grab anything that weighs a little on your desk; either a bottle of pop or your laptop and do a set of 15 bicep curls on each side. Repeat this once or twice a day, preferably when your boss isn’t looking or she might freak out that you’re flinging a laptop around instead of doing some actual work.

14. Walk it out

If you’re feeling demotivated and tired, stroll to your nearest staircase and walk up and down one step for a minute or two to get your blood pumping and your legs toned. You’ll go back to your desk feeling energised and full of ideas (hopefully).

15. The magic carpet

To work your core and your arms; sit in your chair with your legs crossed and your feet on the seat. Place your hands on the armrest, suck in your gut and raise yourself a few inches above the seat. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Prepare for a few odd looks whilst doing this, but, don’t worry as you’ll be the one with the killer abs in the long-run.

16. Book press

To diminish your chicken-wings and work your triceps; grab a heavy book, hold it up behind your head and extend your arms up. Drop it slowly back down towards your neck and repeat for three reps of 15.

17. Shoulder blade squeeze

To not end up like Quasimodo you need to ensure that you have good posture. Many of us hunch over our computer screens without realizing it. To improve the hunch-back, pretend to hold a pencil between your shoulder blades, squeeze them together. Release and repeat at least 15 times.

18. Calf raise

If you’re in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil or your food to heat up in the microwave do a few standing calf raises. Standing with your feet together, raise your calves so your ankles are off the ground, lower yourself and repeat until the microwave pings.

19. Toilet lunge

If you’ve popped to the loo and have a few minutes to spare, practice a few lunges whilst you’re there (if it’s not a tiny cubicle of course). Start with feet hip-width apart, bring the right knee forward to a 90 degree, stretch the left foot back and hold for 15 seconds, repeat on the other side.

20. Raise the roof

Have you just scored a new deal or received some great feedback from a client or manager? Do a little victory dance whilst burning some timber too. While marching in place, push towards the ceiling with your palms up and thumbs almost touching your shoulders. Whoop Whoop!

To ensure that you are keeping fit you should follow a few simple rules on a daily basis to not only keep your body but also your mind healthy. Ensure you’re sipping on plenty of water throughout the day, which is said to help with weight-loss. When you are feeling stressed try some breathing techniques to rid your body of the tension.

Even when you’re not exercising, you should make sure you sit at your desk the right way, says Jason Queiros, a chiropractor at Stamford Sports & Spine, in Connecticut, told Forbes. “It’s important that your desk chair is at the proper height to reduce strain on your neck and back,” he says. “The chair provides the support for your body throughout the day. Adjust the height so you’re in a 90-90-90 position; feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest and your knees and hips bent at 90-degree angles. Keep your lower spine flat against the back of the chair to maintain proper curvature. The chair will help keep the rest of your back and neck erect in order to decrease your chance of hunching forward, which can cause spasms in the back and neck and lead to headaches.”

Have you been practising any other fitness regimes while at work? If so drop us a comment in the box below and let us know what works for you…