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17 Easy Workouts You Can Do at Your Desk

Did you know that two major contributing factors to the obesity epidemic in the United States are a lack of physical activity and sitting too much?1

In order to maintain or improve your health, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week—or at least 30 minutes on all or most days of the week. Moderate activities are ones that you can talk—but not sing—while doing, such as brisk walking or dancing. These activities speed up your heart rate and breathing.2

Office workout

Get ready for an office workout if you don’t have time for a yoga class or can’t afford a gym membership. There are many desk exercises, chair squats, and chair cardio options that you can do at the office, before or after work, during lunch, or on a break. The average person spends at least 40 hours a week at work, giving you plenty of time to incorporate an office workout routine for your physical activity.

1. Arm pulses

Arm pulses don’t require a ton of energy – making it an easy workout to do while you are on a call or in between meetings. This office workout targets your triceps and helps stretch out your shoulders. Start by standing in front of your desk and place your arms by your sides, palms facing behind. Pulse your arms backward for 20 seconds, keeping them as long and straight as possible.3

2. Bicycle crunch

The bicycle crunch is an easy office workout for your core that reaches your deep abs and obliques. A strong core will help you maintain good posture and help you with your daily tasks.

Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground and your knees bent. Your feet should be on the floor, and your hands are behind your head. Contract your core muscles, drawing in your abdomen to stabilize your spine. With your hands gently holding your head, pull your shoulder blades back and slowly raise your knees to about a 90-degree angle, lifting your feet from the floor.

Exhale and slowly, at first, go through a bicycle pedal motion, bringing one knee up towards your armpit while straightening the other leg, keeping both elevated higher than your hips.
Rotate your torso so you can touch your elbow to the opposite knee as it comes up. Alternate to twist to the other side while drawing that knee towards your armpit and the other leg extended until your elbow touches the alternate knee. Aim for 12 to 20 repetitions and three sets.4

Graphic demonstrating a bicycle crunch

3. Seated leg extensions

Seated leg extensions are a great desk exercise you can do on a call (as long as you still pay attention.) And the best part? They target your quadriceps (the front of your thighs), hamstrings (the back of your thighs), and glutes (the butt) to give you a killer lower body workout without even having to stand up!

Start this easy workout by sitting upright in your office chair. Straighten your left leg and lift it parallel to the floor (keep your right foot on the ground.) Hold your left leg in the air for ten seconds and then set it back down. Now, do the same thing with the opposite leg and perform at least fifteen repetitions on each leg. Once you build up enough strength, you can add weight to this office workout by looping your purse or briefcase around your legs while you do the raises.6

Introduction to chair squats

Chair squats are the perfect beginner-friendly exercise. They don’t require any equipment other than a chair and can easily be scaled with weights as you get stronger. Chair squats also have the benefit of working several different muscle groups: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and your core. You can perform any of the below chair squat variations between meetings, on a call, any time.

4. Basic chair squat

Graphic demonstrating a chair squat
(Picture from www.trainhardteam.com)7

The basic chair squat is an easy workout, even if this is your first time exercising. To begin the basic chair squat, stand up straight, keeping your core tight, with feet hip-width apart and a chair behind you. Slowly squat down towards the seat of the chair without actually sitting down by bending your knees and driving your hips back. Be sure to tighten your abdominals and keep your core contracted to help support your back. Knees should never be allowed to go beyond your toes. Then, slowly rise back to the starting position while pressing your feet into the floor. This completes one rep. If you are doing chair squats for the first time, start with one set of eight to ten reps. As your hip and leg muscles get stronger, you can gradually increase the number of reps and sets you do overtime.8

5. Single-leg chair squat

The single-leg chair squat is a slightly more advanced office workout compared to the basic chair squat. To begin the single-leg chair squat, place one foot onto a chair or other solid surface behind you. Stand with the heel of your other foot about 2 feet away from the chair. Lower yourself until your back knee almost touches the ground, and your front knee is over your toes. Return to the starting position and repeat the single-leg chair squat at least five times on each side.9

6. Pistol chair squat

Like the single-leg chair squat, the pistol chair squat is also a slightly more advanced office workout than the basic chair squat. To begin the pistol chair squat, sit with good posture in your chair, with one foot flat on the ground, and the other leg extended straight out. Standup on the foot that’s flat on the ground and keep your opposite leg extended out in front of you. Repeat the pistol chair squat at least five times on each side.10

7. Bicep curls

The bicep curl is an easy workout the targets – you guessed it – the biceps. The bicep curl is the ideal exercise for your office workout routine because you can use standard office supplies to make the exercise harder or easier, depending on your strength and skill level. If you are new to exercising, keep the bicep curl as an easy workout and focus on perfecting your form before adding in any weight. As you progress, you could consider incorporating a water bottle, heavy stapler, or three-hole puncher.

To begin the bicep curl while seated (or standing, if you want), take the stapler (interchangeable weight) in one hand and hold it with your palm facing upwards. Starting at your thighs, bend your elbow and curl your arm up towards the chest as if it was a dumbbell. Pause, then lower the stapler back down. Do 15 reps of this office workout and then switch sides.11

Introduction to chair cardio

Chair cardio is a popular type of cardio done while sitting in a chair. Sounds ironic, right?

8. Chair cardio: Knee lifts

Chair cardio knee lifts strengthen your quadriceps, which you use in nearly everything you do. To begin the chair cardio knee lifts, sit up straight with your feet flat. Slowly lift your right knee toward your chest, and then lower your foot back to the floor. Repeat with your left leg. Perform ten repetitions per leg, for a total of twenty reps. For an added challenge, pause for a five-count at the top of the movement. As you build strength, consider enhancing this office workout by using ankle weights for added resistance.12

9. Chair cardio: Step-ups

Chair cardio step-ups work by targeting your quadriceps, core, glutes, and hamstrings. To begin chair cardio step-ups, make sure the chair or surface you’re using is stable to avoid injury. Then, put one foot on a sturdy chair or stair that’s no higher than your knees. Push that foot down into the chair and step up. Lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat the chair cardio step-ups at least ten times on each side.13

10. Chair cardio with an under-desk exerciser

Chair cardio with an under-desk exerciser is perhaps the definition of an office workout. As its name suggests, the chair cardio exerciser fits compactly under your desk. You could choose an under-desk elliptical, under-desk exercise bike, or under-desk stepper. And while this version of chair cardio does require you to purchase equipment, it offers the flexibility of performing your favorite cardio exercises from the ease and comfort of a chair.

under desk bike for exercise while you work
(Picture from Self.com and features the Vive Desk Bike Cycle)14

When shopping for an under-desk exerciser, you should consider the price, size, features, and sound. The smaller it is, the more features it has, and the quieter it is, the more expensive. You need to do your research and figure out what characteristics matter most to you.  This article features a diverse array of options that range from $38 to $899.

11. Wall sits

A wall sit is the perfect office workout to improve your strength and endurance all around the office. You can do it in your office or the office kitchen while you wait to heat your lunch. Begin by standing with your back against the wall. Bend your knees and slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold the move for 60 seconds or as long as you can. To make it more challenging, try crossing your right ankle over your left knee for a one-legged wall sit. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch.15

12. Calf raises

Depending on what you are doing in your workday, a standing and sitting variation of calf raises can be a great addition to your office workout. Both variations of the calf raise mention holding a weight of some sort to make it harder. But like we have mentioned in other exercises, if you are new to working out, keep it an easy workout in the beginning without weights to focus on perfecting your form.

If you want to perform your calf raises standing, begin by holding a pair of staplers, water bottles, or other interchangeable weight at your sides with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. Rise onto the balls of your feet as high as you can, squeezing your calf muscles at the top of the move. Pause, then lower your heels back down in a slow, controlled motion. (Go too fast, and your Achilles tendon will do more work than your calf muscles.) Repeat as desired, maintaining that slow tempo.16

As another variation of this popular office workout, if you to perform your calf raises sitting down, begin by sitting tall on a bench or chair with your feet flat on the ground, holding two weights on top of your knees. (Position the weights on top of your muscle and not your bone.) Keeping your core engaged, lift your heels off the ground as high as possible. Slowly lower your heels back down to the ground and repeat.17

13. Seated shoulder press

The seated shoulder press is another easy workout to do on a call as long as you don’t have to take notes. And, as its name suggests, this exercise works the shoulders. To begin, sit tall in your chair. In one hand, hold a dumbbell or other heavy object that’s easy to grip, such as a water bottle. Hold it near your shoulder, with your elbow bent at about 90 degrees. Push the object upward until your arm is fully extended, pause for a moment, then slowly lower it back to eye level. Repeat this office workout at least ten times, then switch to the other side.18

Introduction to wrist stretches

Wrist stretches are a great desk exercise, especially if you do a lot of typing, writing, or texting. Failing to proactively stretch and strengthen the small muscles of your forearms, wrists, and hands can contribute to injuries and pain. So, any mobility limitations at the wrist have a ripple effect that you’ll feel up and down the arm. It can potentially cause more problems and pain in other areas. These stretches will improve your wrist strength and help you avoid aches and injuries.19

14. Desk exercises for your wrist: Fist to Fan

Clasp your hands tightly in a fist and then open them up as wide as you can. Spread your fingers as far away from each other as you can to stretch the hands when you fan the fingers. Repeat ten times.20

15. Desk exercises for your wrist: Desk Press

While seated, place your palms face up under a desk or table and press upwards against the bottom of the desk. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. This exercise builds strength in the muscles that run from your wrists to your inner elbows.21

16. Desk exercises for your wrist: Thumb Touches

On your right hand, touch your right thumb to your pinky finger, then release. Touch your thumb to your ring finger, then release. Repeat with your middle finger and index finger. Do the same with your left hand. Repeat this ten times and exaggerate the touch and release each time with each finger.22

17. Take the stairs at work

Taking the stairs at work is an easy workout that is free and requires no equipment. According to Duke University Human Resources, stair use is a simple, easy and effective way for employees to incorporate physical activity into their working day. There is a significantly lower risk of mortality when climbing more than 55 flights of stairs per week. Even climbing two flights of stairs every day as your office workout can lead to 6 pounds of weight loss over one year.23 Climbing the stairs can help you build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.

Desk exercise equipment

While you can do all of the above exercises without equipment, you might decide to invest in minimal equipment like small weights or resistance bands if you are ready to take your office workout routine to the next level.

You can even reach for standard office supplies like staplers or water bottles to add some extra weight to your office workout. A full 16-ounce water bottle weighs approximately 1 pound and can replace dumbbells during arm exercises. If a 16-ounce water bottle is too light for you, try performing a higher number of repetitions, such as 15 to 30. Gallon-sized water bottles can also be used and weigh approximately 8 pounds when full of water. If the bottle is filled with dirt or sand, the weight increases to about 13 pounds.24

The importance of staying active

Performing physical activities and limiting the amount of time you spend sitting down is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Woligo prioritizes healthy living, which is why we created this list of easy workouts that can be performed throughout your workday or as an alternative to sitting down.

If you have a chronic condition or disability, talk with your healthcare provider about what types and amounts of physical activity are suitable for you before making too many changes. But don’t wait! Get started today by simply sitting less and moving more, whatever that looks like for you.25

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Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription.

Sources:

  1. Reducing Sedentary Behavior - Sitting Less Moving More - Army Public Health Center
  2. Keep Active and Eat Healthy to Improve Well-being and Feel Great | NIDDK (nih.gov)
  3. 25 Office Exercises: Easy Desk-Friendly Ways to Get Fit in 2021 (snacknation.com)
  4. https://www.verywellfit.com/bicycle-crunch-exercise-3120058
  5. https://www.performancehealthacademy.com/articles/car-exercises-for-long-road-trips.html
  6. 13 Simple yet Effective Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk (tinypulse.com)
  7.  10 BEST STRENGTH-TRAINING MOVES FOR WOMEN OVER 40 - TrainHardTeam
  8. Chair Squat Exercise Guide - With Tips And Video (justfitnesshub.com)
  9. Office Exercises: 30 Exercises to Do at Your Desk (healthline.com)
  10. Office Exercises: 30 Exercises to Do at Your Desk (healthline.com)
  11. 8 Exercises You Can Do Discreetly at Your Desk (totalwellnesshealth.com)
  12. https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/chair-exercises-for-seniors
  13. Office Exercises: 30 Exercises to Do at Your Desk (healthline.com)
  14. 11 Best Under-Desk Treadmills, Ellipticals, & Bikes in 2021 | SELF
  15.  8 Exercises You Can Do Discreetly at Your Desk (totalwellnesshealth.com)
  16. How To Do Calf Raises and Variations | Openfit
  17. How To Do Calf Raises and Variations | Openfit
  18. Office Exercises: 30 Exercises to Do at Your Desk (healthline.com)
  19. 5 Wrist Stretches to Help Mobility and Prevent Wrist Pain (msn.com)
  20. Five stretches to help relieve wrist pain (nbcnews.com)
  21. 10 Stretches to Help Your Wrists and Hands (healthline.com)
  22. Five stretches to help relieve wrist pain (nbcnews.com)
  23. Benefits of Taking the Stairs | Human Resources (duke.edu)
  24. Can I Use Water Bottles as Dumbbells? (livestrong.com)
  25. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids | American Heart Association