6 Desk Exercises That Will Improve Your Workday

Exercise is important for good health, and it also helps you concentrate and deal with stress. Of course you should be doing it at work!
Publish date:
July 31, 2014
health, posture, wellness, fitness, exercise, desk exercises, planks, push ups, spine twist, stretching

Your desk chair is not your friend. It pretends to be a supportive companion, adorably trying to hug you all day long with its short arms, allowing you to sink in, lean back, or hunch forward. "Whatever your pleasure," the chair says. "I got you," it whispers. Lies!

Desk chairs are the arsenic of the cubicle generation. The sedentary work life that many of us are accustomed to is taking a toll on our health, slowly increasing our chances of heart disease, stress, and depression. UGH.

But just because you sit at a desk all day doesn't mean you have to sit at a desk all day. It's totally possible to get in some desk exercise without taking your eyes off of your email.

To learn about proper form and execution of desk exercises, I spoke with Betina Gozo, certified personal trainer and overall rock star. Her desk exercises--which range from extremely easy to awkward-but-doable--can be incorporated into your workday to improve posture, joints, mood, and health.

First and foremost, this is how you should sit in your office chair when you're at rest.

Cross Body Triceps Stretch

You can do this unbeknownst to any colleagues while sitting quietly at your desk. Keep your feet flat on the ground, sit up straight, and activate your core while extending your right arm over your chest. Next, bend your left arm to cradle your right arm and apply pressure to intensify the stretch. Repeat with your left arm extended and your right arm bent. Standing up will increase the exercise in this movement. In addition to helping improve blood circulation, this stretch can help with upper back strain.

Spine Twist

Keep your feet flat on the ground with your knees in line above your ankles, shoulders relaxed, crown of your head lifted to face the ceiling, and your chin in line with the middle of your chest. Imagine a long string pulling you up, starting from the end of your tailbone through top of your head.

Now, keeping your chin in line with your chest, rotate your rib cage to the left. Take a breath and, as you exhale, twist your rib cage a bit further. Pause, exhale, and twist a little deeper into the stretch.

This exercise stretches out your lower back muscles and gives your organs a break from being all jammed up in your bod (which is a result of regular sitting).

Calf Raises

Time to stretch those legs out! Sitting at a desk for hours and hours every day can cause some of your body's largest muscles to go into "shutdown mode." Simply standing up in between prolonged sedentary phases can improve overall health.

For this movement, stand up and rest your hands on the end of your desk. Then raise your heels until you’re balancing your body weight on the balls of your feet. Hold for a beat and slowly lower yourself back down to the ground and lift your body back up again. Not only does this get your blood flowing, it also helps you build killer calves.

Chair Dips

With your body lowered as shown above--both hands on the ends of your chair, feet flat on the ground, hips distance apart--bend your elbows to about 90 degrees. Then, in a slow and deliberate motion, straighten your arms and lift your body back up. Try not to let the momentum do all the work--activate your muscle strength.

Desk Push-Ups

This exercise strengthens your chest, shoulders, and biceps. Stand up from your chair and move it off to the side. Face your desk and place your hands shoulder width apart, keeping your core active, and walk your feet back away from your desk. While maintaining a braced core and a straight back, lower yourself until your chest nears the desk and then push yourself back up. Repeat for 30 seconds or at least 15 times.

In-Office Planks

Planks are great for increasing balance, strength, and core muscles. You can do these in your office by finding a quiet room and bringing your yoga mat (or antibacterial to clean your hands afterward).

Get on the ground in plank position, keeping your elbows beneath your shoulders and your chin lifted up off of your chest. Next, brace your stomach and activate your core to create a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Hold this for 60 seconds. You'll immediately feel stronger, taller, and completely up for challenges.

These six simple exercises will fill your body with oxygen, endorphins, and a real sense of well-being. All of this helps you focus on your work and deal with stress better.

Do you all take office walks? Office planks? Tell me how you stay active at your nine to five.

Photos by Oliver Aldape