Easy Desk Workouts That Work!

If you have a smartwatch you may have wondered about the little buzz you feel, reminding you to move at least once per hour. In studies done by the Mayo Clinic, being sedentary all day is compared to smoking and even if you exercise later in the day, there are risks similar to those in people struggling with weight issues. How can you combat that? There are actually many ways! There are desk exercises, desk or office workouts, hourly purposeful movement, and other tactics. Let’s discuss the possibilities!

Seated Desk Exercises

desk chair exercises

It is not always feasible to get up and move during the workday. Maybe you’re on a tight deadline, or perhaps you are in a maze of cubicles and it isn’t convenient for you to move. Don’t lose hope! There are exercises you can do from a seated position to get a desk workout in!

✓ The Shoulder Shrug

office exercise shoulder shrug

This one is good for relieving tension from your body. Simply raise your shoulders up toward your ears, hold for 15 seconds, then lower them again.

You can even keep some light weights in a drawer to add some extra challenge to this move!

✓ Desk Chair Swivel

If you are lucky enough to have a wheeled chair, the desk swivel will work core and obliques. Sit upright, engaging your core, with your feet off the ground. Grip your desk right in front of you. Use your core to move your chair to “swivel” back and forth. Do this for :30 seconds, rest :30, repeat 3 times. Work your way up to :60 second intervals.

✓ Desk Chair “Whee!”

Similar to the swivel move, put yourself into position with good posture and an engaged core, with your feet slightly off the floor. Gripping your desk, move your chair forward and back 12-18 inches. Try this for 10-12 repetitions, 3-5 sets.

✓ F-AB-ulous Squeeze

Every hour, fix your posture, engage your abs and “squeeze” your abdominal muscles in tight. Hold for 30 seconds. This would be a good time to stand and get some movement in, if you are able to do so.

✓ Leg Lifts

While sitting at your desk, raise one leg so it is extended fully. Hold for :30 seconds. Raise the other leg for the same time. Alternate legs. This is one you can do without anyone noticing!

✓ Stability Ball Chair

office stability ball

Consider swapping your chair out for a stability ball, which requires you to keep your core engaged in order to sit on it! This is a quick, easy and inexpensive component!

✓ Under Desk Ellipticals

Under Desk Ellipticals

You can purchase an under-desk elliptical to keep your legs moving while seated. According to a source close to me, they are remarkably quiet. The more sophisticated models track mileage and calories burned.

Standing Exercises

Do you find yourself standing by the copier? Are you in frequent Zoom meetings? Are you working from home? There are excellent opportunities to do some standing exercises.

✓ Calf Raises


Calf raises are as simple as they sound. Just go up onto your toes, pause to hold for a few seconds, then drop back down. Repeat in a set of 10-12.

✓ Office Squats

office squats

Perhaps best done in the privacy of an office, you can get some quick squats in! A good squat has your feet shoulder-width apart. You just sit back and down as if you were about to sit in a chair, then stand back up.

Be warned: if you have not been doing them, even bodyweight squats will cause some soreness! Do not attempt squats in high heels! Squats should also be done while wearing pants in a flexible fabric.

Jacking Things Up a Bit!

If you have the privacy of an office where you can shut the door, and also can dress fairly comfortably at work, there are things you can do to increase the intensity a little.

✓ Wall Sits

Wall Sits

Remember wall sits from high school basketball?? Just put your back to a wall and sit down. Start with :30 seconds and work your way up!

✓ Dips

office chair dips

Another great exercise, give chair dips a try! Note of caution if you have a rolling chair, push the chair up to a wall before trying dips. Even doing that, be careful! The chair still may rotate side to side when you dip.

Things You Can Do With Hand Weights

Anything you can do in your home gym you can do in the privacy of your office without taxing yourself too much. Who wants to step into their next meeting sweating? Not me…

If you have hand weights try upper body lifts such as:

  • Bicep curls
  • Chest press
  • Shoulder press
  • Tricep drop

You can also add weights to any of the lower body movements such as squats and lunges!

Set Hourly Reminders!

If you own a smartwatch, set it to go off every hour and pick a task for yourself. Whether it is to stand up and walk across the office, take a set of stairs to fill your water bottle or to engage your abs while you sit, an hourly reminder is a great tool!

working out office stairs

If you don’t have a smartwatch, your phone can be set to remind you hourly, or your computer may have a convenient reminder feature!

What Can You Do Each Hour?

Sure, maybe you can’t do one of these every hour, but pick a few to try to get in each day.

  • At the very least, stand up. Stretch. Shrug your shoulders a few times.
  • Dance! Take a one-minute dance break! Work in a cubical? Consider asking your office mates if they want to dance for one minute every hour. Energy is contagious!
  • Take a quick dash up a flight of stairs!
  • Do a lap around the interior of the building.
  • Can you step outside to walk around the exterior of the building?

Other Tips For Remaining Active At Work

Instead of taking a lunch break, consider taking a brisk walk with a colleague. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of sending a colleague an email or making a phone call, take two minutes to walk to their office instead.

Wear a step tracker and try to set a step goal every day. Every bit of movement counts so make opportunities, not excuses!

Sneaking In Exercise That Counts!

Sneaking in an exercise that counts does not have to be work! You can get desk exercises and/or office workouts in fairly easily without too much effort on your part.


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