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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: June 7th, 2023

Exercising at your desk is easier and more effective than you might realize. Have you ever exercised at your desk before? If not, why? Exercise is not limited to running on a treadmill or lifting weights at a gym. You can do quick workouts anywhere and still reap the benefits of an active lifestyle.

These exercises are great for the executive who utilizes gym workouts but, also for those who never exercise at all. They will complement your workout routine or kickstart one!

By adding some quick and effective exercises at work it will boost your brain power and allow you to work more efficiently.

In fact, exercising at your desk makes a lot of sense and its effectiveness has been confirmed by a few studies. According to research done by the Mayo Clinic, nonexercised activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is an important factor in aiding those with sedentary work environments to exercise at their desk. NEAT translates into our common daily activities that we do, usually while sitting. Fidgeting, walking, standing, and pacing are all considered NEAT activities.

Other research has shown that the use of NEAT movements can increase your metabolic rate by 17.6%, as opposed to 7% for normal sedentary behavior.

While NEAT is a great starting point for exercising at your desk, there are so many more effective ways to do this. In this post, we will give you excellent tips on how to perform workouts at your office and exercise at your desk.

Exercise at Your Desk? Yes! 22 Simple and Effective Ways to Step-Up Your Productivity at Work. CLICK TO TWEET

Stretching Before Exercising- Desk Stretches

Before doing any desk exercises, stretch first! Sitting at a desk all day forces the muscles to be still and stagnant. Stretching is a must if you plan to exercise at your desk. For some examples and ideas please read our post about Office Stretches.

20 Simple Stretching Exercises To Boost Your Productivity!

Silent Exercises To Do at Your Desk

1. Under-Desk Cardio Workout

exercise at your desk

Under-desk cardio is a great option to exercise at your desk. You can keep moving even when you have to sit all day! Keep your heart pumping while using an under-desk elliptical or cycle.

 To start, try using the under-desk cardio for 2-3 minutes at a time and gradually working your way up. Start slow so that your legs don’t get too tired right away and/or so you don’t break a sweat. Work your way up to 10 to 15-minute increments for a calorie burning workout without leaving your desk!

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water during this! Even though you might not feel like your working up a sweat, your body is still working and using energy.

Drinking water will help you recover faster and avoid dehydration.

Bonus- drinking water also helps increase productivity!

5 Science-Based Benefits of Drinking Water To Conquer the Work Day

2. Ab Squeeze

exercise at your desk

While we sit, we tend to slouch. For assistance on your core and proper posture, try doing an ab squeeze. You can do this while walking or seated in a meeting or on a call.

To perform, take a deep breath and tighten your abdominal muscles. Slowly bring them in towards your spine as you exhale. Keep your abs tight for 5-10 seconds and then release. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times. Remember to breath normal!

If you’re having trouble visualizing what to do think of tensing your abs and bringing your belly button toward your spine. This should feel intense like you’re doing a sit-up or ab crunch.


3. Hip Adduction Exercises

exercise at your desk

With too much sitting and not enough exercise, you may lose muscle strength and endurance in your legs. Seated hip adduction exercises are great for inner thigh toning and slimming!

You can do these exercises at your desk while you’re on a call or reading reports, nothing too involved as you’ll need your upper body as well.

Sit in your chair with knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor, keeping knees hip-width apart and place your palms on the inside of your knees/thigh area. Press palms away as you squeeze thighs together, creating resistance. Squeeze hard enough for your hand to touch and then return to start. Repeat 15- 20 times.

Remember to sit upright and engage your core the whole time and to breathe continuously.

4. Hip Abduction

exercise at your desk

Another exercise to do at your desk that is great for your thighs!

This exercise works the outer thighs and is the opposite movement as hip adduction.

While seated place hands on the outside parts of the thigh, creating resistance try and press thighs/knees away from each other. Press until knees are hip-width apart then return to start. Repeat 15-20 times.

You can also use elastic exercise bands for hip adduction and abduction instead of your hands!

5. Seated Leg Raise

exercise at your desk

A seated leg raise is perfect for an easy quad and lower ab workout. Just make sure you’re practicing good posture while doing this move or else you’ll put unwanted stress on your back.

Sit tall with feet flat on the floor, and abs pulled in. Straighten right leg and lift it, so your foot is in a straight line with your knee. Breath. Hold for two breaths and release. Repeat on the left leg. Perform 10 times on each leg.

To modify and help with any lower back or knee pain, try bending the knee slightly when lifting the leg. This keeps stress on the body to a minimum, and you can work up to keeping legs straight.


6. Standing

exercise at your desk

This falls into a category that’s not technically an exercise, but it helps to combat all the sitting executives do.

By standing more throughout the day, you can discreetly strengthen your legs and abdomen by exerting more energy and working the muscles instead of relaxing and sitting.

 You can add movement by using a balance board or standing on one leg and then the other. A  standing desk is a great option for this! For more ideas read our article here- Stand Up and Feel More Energetic Today!

7. Squeeze the Buttocks

exercise at your deskYou spend long hours sitting at your desk. To tone and firm the bum, try squeezing the buttocks while sitting.

You can easily implement this exercise into your work routine as you sit at your desk. It takes no equipment and really no brainpower. You just need to do it.

Squeeze the muscle in your buttocks and hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat 15- 20 times.  This shouldn’t be a strenuous exercise, but you will feel this after a few repetitions.


8. Foot Drills

exercise at your desk

To get a little more movement while staying seated, practice foot drills.

This simple exercise at your desk may reduce the impact of your sedentary life by increasing blood flow.

Similarly to when football players practice agility and speed and tap their feet continuously, you can do the same at your desk. Staying seated, tap your feet for at least 30 seconds. 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest for five minutes total. Once you’ve mastered that, try upping the time to 45 seconds or a minute.

Don’t forget your seated posture while doing this. You’ll be engaging your core as well so no slouching!

9. Make Your Feet Dance

exercise at your desk

For an easy exercise at your desk, try making your feet dance. Ankle strength and flexibility are important for balance and lower leg strength.

While seated slowly flex, point and rotate the ankle by drawing circles with your big toe. Doing this slow and steady will help reinforce the joint and prevent any injuries.

For more impact do one ankle at a time. This will allow you to focus on one ankle and notice any pain or weaknesses in the joint.


10. Wrist

exercise at your desk

To counteract typing and writing all day long, don’t neglect your wrists!

Being proactive about wrist health can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, which is common among people who work at computers daily.

Stand at your desk and flip your palms face up so that your fingers are pointing towards you. Gently put pressure on the back of your palms pressing them into the desk. Take a few deep breaths, relax, and then repeat 1-2 more times.

If there is any pain when you do this stretch, just be gentler and put less pressure on your wrists during the stretch.

Want to be more active in the office? Get in some movement and activity that can easily be added to your daily work routine.

These 11 workouts are simple and you can do them in any office setting with minimal equipment.

Get Moving and Start Working Out at Work!

Moderate Exercises at Your Desk

1. Treadmill Desk

exercise at your deskUtilizing a treadmill desk is a great option to really move while working. This piece of equipment is a bit of an investment, but it’s worth it for the executive who has to stay planted at the desk for most of the day.

The treadmill desk is great to exercise at your desk because, well, it is your desk!

While you are preparing a presentation or a report, you can get in some cardio with a treadmill desk while also strengthening your legs.

Start out slowly with this one as working while walking may take some getting used to.


2. Cycling Desk

exercise at your deskA cycling desk is another great option for exercising while sitting at your desk. Again, this can be a bit of an investment, but it’s a great option for executives.

Using a cycle desk is another great option to burn calories, develop improved muscle strength, and increase cardiovascular fitness.

Try a cycle desk as it allows you to work from your laptop- great for at work or home.

Pedal Your Way To Productivity Today!

3. Chair Squats

exercise at your deskYou can do chair squats easily at your work station and engage most major muscle groups.

Squats are great for strengthening the legs.  The extra muscle activation can also help stimulate your body for more brain power throughout the workday.

 Stand with your feet hip-width apart, keep abs engaged and torso tall. Slowly bend your knees towards a 90-degree angle until your buttocks just touch your chair. Then straighten the knees to return to standing. Repeat 10-15 times.

Take note of your clothes and shoes before attempting this exercise. Pants or skirts that are too tight can restrict the movement. Heels are not recommended so slip off your shoes for this quick exercise at your desk.

4. Desk Pushups

exercise at your deskThese pushups are a great option for some upper-body work at your desk.

Push-ups create a strong upper-body and engage your core for a very effective exercise.

First, check the sturdiness of your desk. You want it to stay in place when pushed lightly. Place hands on the edge of the desk and take a few steps back, far enough that your body is slightly diagonal with arms straight. With core engaged bend the elbows to a 90-degree angle and then press into hands to return to starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.

To modify this exercise, keep feet closer to the desk and bend more at the waist as your elbows bend toward 90-degrees. To make this more intense, do regular push-ups on the floor, if possible.

5. Chair or Desk Dips

exercise at your desk

These exercises are other upper-body exercises that work the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Chair or desk dips can counterbalance the constant computer work executives must do daily.

 Again, check your desk or a chair to see if it is sturdy enough to hold your weight. Stand with your back to the desk and place your hands on the edge with fingers wrapped around the edge and elbows straight back. Step feet out as far as comfortable, engage the core and lower bending elbows to 90-degrees. Repeat 10-15 times.

This exercise is more challenging because it involves strength and chest flexibility. To modify, keep feet closer to the desk or bend knees slightly when doing the dip.

6. Side Lunge

exercise at your desk

Another effective lower body strengthener is the side lunge. This is great for the quads and hamstrings as well as the inner and outer thighs.

Start with feet together, press into the left foot while lifting the right and slowly stepping it out to the right creating a wide stance. Once the right foot is firmly on the ground start to bend the right knee towards 90 degrees while keeping the left leg straight. Press into the right foot to straighten the leg and then return to starting position. Repeat 15-20 times on each leg.

This is a more advanced exercise, so if you have any knee or hip issues omit this one. To modify, place your hands on your desk or something sturdy to help with balance.

7. Side Leg Raises

exercise at your desk

With too much sitting in the office, you may lose muscle strength in your legs. Side leg raises target the outer thighs and help with balance.

 Stand upright with hands placed on the desk or something sturdy. Press into the left foot, lift the right foot, and keep ankle flexed. Keeping right leg straight lift the leg as high as you can while still keeping your torso upright and then slowly return to start. Try doing 20-25 repetitions on each side.

Want to test your balance? Try doing this without holding onto anything!

8. Knee Pull-ins/Knee Pull-ups

exercise at your desk

These exercises are great for core work!

Knee pull-ins and ups at your desk may also increase your blood flow and reduce the negative impact of your sedentary life on your heart and health.

 Sit up tall on your desk chair with abs engaged. Lift both feet off the floor and pull knees in towards the chest, straighten legs back out so feet aren’t touching the floor. Repeat 10-15 times.

If this puts too much pressure on your back try lifting knees up then tapping feet back on the floor.

9. Standing Hamstring Curls

exercise at your desk

Standing hamstring curls help to work the buttocks and create a strong backside.

Stand up tall with hands on the back of a chair. Slowly lift one leg kicking it back behind you while bending your knee bringing the heel towards buttocks. Straighten the knee and return to start. Do 10-15 repetitions on each side.

Remember to keep your core engaged, don’t lean forward, and breathe deeply.

10. Bicep Curl

exercise at your desk

For an easy arm exercise at your desk try a bicep curl. To keep this office-friendly use a full water bottle or heavy object.

Place a water bottle in one hand and slowly bend elbow bringing hand towards the shoulder. Slowly return back to straight arms. Repeat this for 10-15 repetitions on each arm.

11. Lunges

exercise at your desk

Lunges are an easy exercise to execute at your desk during the workday.

Step right foot forward as if you’re taking a long step. Once your foot hits the ground bend your right knee so you’re in a lunge position. Straighten leg and return back to start. Repeat on the left side. Continue until you’ve completed 10 repetitions on each side.

12. Wall Sit

exercise at your desk

A low impact lower body exercise that won’t make you break a sweat is a wall sit!

Sitting often increases our chances of back problems that you can solve with this exercise at your desk.

Stand with back against the wall and bring feet 6-12 inches away from the wall. Squat down until knees are at 90 degrees and back it flat against the wall. Stay here for 20 seconds. If you need more of a challenge, try staying for 1 minute!

Remember to keep core engaged by pulling navel back towards your spine. Pants or skirts that are too tight can also restrict the movement. Heels are not recommended so slip off your shoes.

Extra Bonus: What Not To Do

exercise at your desk

Don’t sit on a stability ball at your desk! This may seem like a good idea, but your posture will suffer as we tend to slouch when sitting on them.

Do you have any back pain? There are many benefits to correcting posture and combating slouching.

Get 5 Simple Ways for How To Stop Slouching!

You can exercise at your desk and now you have some examples to follow!

What exercises at your desk have you tried? Do you have any suggestions for other executives? Please leave them in the comments below!


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