Move While You Sit: Exercise at Your Office Desk

Whether you work from home or are back in the office, long days at your desk or sitting just about anywhere with your computer can take a toll on your body. Not only does being sedentary for prolonged periods make you stiff, tired, and sometimes sore, it can elevate your risk of chronic illness over time. Luckily, you can exercise without equipment while you work, and even incorporate exercises while sitting.

If you’re willing to make a small investment, there are many pieces of small, lightweight equipment that you can incorporate into your “workout at your desk” routine.

Worried about your coworkers’ judgment? Don’t be. We’ll teach you exercises you can do discreetly, and what you can say to colleagues with questions. 

The Benefits of Desk Exercises

Like regular exercise at home or in the gym, exercises at your desk offer many benefits and help combat lifestyle risks that can lead to chronic disease in the long term. Working out at your desk is a smart way to help maintain balance, flexibility, and strength, and can help you focus better throughout the workday. Best of all, there are tons of exercises you can do at your desk, including exercises sitting in a chair.

Maintaining flexibility and mobility is important for protecting the joints, as well as maintaining agility (the ability to quickly change direction) and good posture. Ignoring flexibility and mobility training can lead to stiffness and weakness through different areas of your body. 

Your body works to become more and more efficient at what you repeatedly do. So if you are often sitting all day at work, you might begin to feel tightness and stiffness in the hip flexors, low back, or even the hands and wrists. Flexibility-focused exercises are easy, do not require equipment, and can help you feel less stiff, tight, or sore.  

Building strength is another great benefit of the office workout and can also be achieved without equipment of any kind. Whether you’re a gym junkie outside of the office, or want to maximize the value of your time by getting a workout throughout the work day, strength training exercises can be simple and effective.

There are also numerous cognitive benefits to your workout at your desk. These include better memory retention, better focus, better decision making abilities and better problem solving abilities, to name some. There are many benefits to working out during the workday, which is why some companies are now paying employees to workout on the clock.

Desk Exercises You Can Try Today

There are dozens of fun ways to exercise at your desk or in your cubicle space! Here are some of our favorites:

Consider listing the exercises you can do at your desk before you approach your office workout, Research exercises you don’t know before you intend to begin. Make sure your chair, desk, or other pieces of furniture/equipment are strong and stable. Make a note of exercises you enjoy, and use those to create a workout that you’ll look forward to.

Incorporating Inexpensive Desk Exercise Equipment

If you’re willing to make a small investment into your in-office fitness routine, there are a variety of reasonably priced items that can help augment or supplement your office workouts. 

Using an exercise ball as an office chair is a great way to challenge your stability and build strength in the supporting muscles of the core. It can also be more comfortable to maintain good posture on an exercise ball, and exercise balls encourage other types of movement, like the ankle flexibility and mobility movements mentioned above. 

Grip strengtheners like this one can be a cheap way to invest in your wrist, forearm and grip strength. They can be great for addressing stiffness and weakness in the hands from typing, and they can better prepare you for other strength training exercises at home or in the gym. The benefits translate from the grip you have on your golf club or tennis racket to the amount of weight you can add to your deadlift or pull-up.

One great way to incorporate simple movement and a small investment into your overall health involves a single tennis ball (or a similar size and density ball). If you have foot pain, stiffness or soreness, some of that can be alleviated with simple self myofascial release (SMR). This involves rolling your tennis ball underneath your bare or socked foot, applying slow, gentle pressure to trigger points. You can also use this exercise to move the foot more freely than it would move inside your shoe all day. These types of movement help your body eliminate some of the soreness and stiffness that builds up from repetitive, prolonged positioning of the foot. 

How To Handle Judgy Coworkers 

One factor that might stop many of us from moving our bodies in our workspaces is the judgment we expect we’ll receive from our coworkers. 

The truth is, many of you coworkers will probably admire your creativity and prioritization of your health, even at work. You might inspire some to find their own type of manageable workspace movement throughout the day, or to be more mindful about their health in general. 

Those that have comments about your new love of exercise are likely just trying to start a conversation. Here are some things you can say to coworkers or colleagues that want to talk about your workout habits:

  1. “Moving throughout the day helps me re-energize and re-focus on deep work.”
  2. “I am trying to be more mindful about my longevity and overall health however I can.”
  3. “I’m trying new ways to stay flexible and mobile, even though we sit most of the day.”

Tips If You’re New To Exercise, Or Revisiting Exercise After a Long Time 

Remember that anytime you’re exercising, you should warm up first. Warm-ups should not include static hold (non-moving) stretches, because doing these types of stretches before exercise can increase risk of injury. Instead, use dynamic movement that mimics the exercises you intend to perform. 

Make sure that you’re drinking enough water before, during and after exercise. Always consult with a doctor before beginning a new fitness program or making dietary changes. 

Understand that your overall fitness and health are associated with behavioral patterns that you’ve built over time. Creating new patterns also takes time, so don’t expect immediate changes in your health metrics. Be patient, consistent, and try to appreciate the other immediate benefits of exercise, like better cognitive function and elevated mood. Enjoy those post-exercise endorphins and be proud of your decision to prioritize your health!