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Exercising at Work: Moves You Can Do At Your Desk

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Exercising at Work: Moves You Can Do At Your Desk Exercising at Work: Moves You Can Do At Your Desk www.runnerclick.com

Let’s face it – sometimes, hitting the gym after work or rising with your early morning alarm to squeeze in a run before the day starts just doesn’t happen. We are busy adults, and we juggle hectic schedules all week long. And while, for the most part, our runs and workouts are the last thing we want to take a back seat, sometimes they are the first things that have to get erased from the to-do list because life happens and other priorities arise. If you find yourself in the midst of a chaotic day at work, trying to keep up with the meetings, projects, events, and after work extracurriculars without being able to squeeze in some much needed “me time” during a run, resort to our list of simple at-the-desk exercises that you can easily incorporate into your day. And while they probably won’t replace your beloved long run, they will at least help take the edge off of your nerves, get your blood flowing and heart rate up a bit, and leave you feeling the endorphin increase you need to successfully tackle the rest of your afternoon!

Exercises You Can Do at Work

Leg Exercises

Sitting at a desk for 8 to 10 hours a day can be excruciating, in more ways than one! Your legs are basically getting zero movement during that time, save the few trips to the bathroom and to refill your coffee mug. Studies show that even minimal movement throughout the hour can return big benefits mentally and physically (which is exactly why the Apple Watch reminds you to get up and move if it senses you have been idle for too long).

One of the easiest ways to stretch the legs and work them out a little is to simply invest in a stand-up desk. Not only does it help you change views, but it can be extremely beneficial to your overall productivity at the office to stand while you are working at your computer. These can sometimes be a bit pricey, so check with your employer before you buy one yourself, because many companies and offices will purchase a stand-up desk for their employees, if it will help improve work efficiency and the overall work environment (aka your mood!). If you want to go the extra mile for some serious cardio for those legs, they make treadmill desks too!

Otherwise, the “power” leg moves that you crush at the gym translate to the office space too (with much less sweat, barbells, and plates involved usually). Set a timer on your phone for every thirty minutes, to once an hour. When the timer goes off, get up and do ten to twenty squats, and ten reverse lunges (right there at your desk!) You can also make it a point to do squats every time you stand up and sit down. So, for instance, instead of sitting all the way down and staying seated, squat back up to a standing position before you squat back down to sit. (Then apply the same principles to standing).

If you have space, store some ankle weights in your desk drawer. These can be especially useful if you do have a stand-up desk because you can simply strap them onto your legs while you are standing at your desk and do a ton of different weighted movements. (Hip abductor and adductor lifts, glute squeezes with the leg extended out behind you, and calf raises are great options with leg weights.) And if you really want to keep things on the down low, you can do some glute squeezes at any time throughout your work day!

Upper Body Exercises

Getting an upper body workout in while at the office might be a little bit more difficult and less intuitive than a lower body workout, but with a little planning and prioritizing, it is certainly doable. If you have enough storage space in your office or around your desk, it certainly would not hurt to invest in a lighter pair of dumbbells or resistance bands to get your muscles working and heart rate up just a bit more. But if that is not a possibility, you can always just use your body weight as well.

During conference calls that you can put on speaker or use a hands-free headset device so that you do not have to use a keyboard or mouse, get in some simple bicep curls, overhead shoulder presses, lateral and frontal shoulder flyes, and tricep extensions. (These exercises also work great for a brainstorming session when you need to get up, walk around, and get in some movement to get those brain juices flowing!).

If you have space (and the privacy), push-ups are an excellent bodyweight exercise option, not to mention a great “bang for your buck,” since they really get your heart rate going, pump up your metabolism, and increase oxygen flow. You can also do tricep dips using just your chair and your body weight. Simply place your palms behind you on the seat of your desk chair, and dip down until your elbows are bent at a full 90-degree angle, before pushing back up. 

Planks are an easy but effective move for your entire body (not just the upper body) because they engage your quads and glutes. You can also keep things extremely simple by doing strength holds, such as holding your arms out to the sides with palms facing the ceiling for as long as you can, then move your extended arms out in front of you to target a different part of the shoulder and delt area.

Once you are bored with those, throw in some arm circles in both forward and backward directions. This is a great option because you do not even have to stand up or leave your desk. Targeting your back might be a little harder while at work, but it can be done! Sit or stand up straight and extend your arms straight out behind you, palms facing each other. Then pulse your arms inward toward each other.

And be sure to always keep good posture in mind, whether you are seated or standing. This is one that you can work on all the time but is excellent for strengthening your back and your core – as well helping you avoid neck or back pain that could get serious overtime if you do not correct it.


  1. Carrie Rezabek, Get Rid of Job-Related Jiggle, Fitness Magazine article

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