17 Great Exercises to Do at Work

Man Stretching at Desk

With many people working upwards of 50 hours each week and managing equally busy lives outside the office, finding time to exercise seems impossible.

You could go to the gym at 6 am so you can work out and grab a shower before heading to the office. Or you can hit the gym before heading home to make dinner, take kids to swim practice.

Then there's the late night workout. After eating dinner and putting the kids to bed, you head to the gym to workout before going home and crashing.

The truth is, none of these seem like great options. So instead, we buy DVDs and workout programs to do at home. But the problem persists, when are you going to find the time?

Worst of all, we continue to spend most of our days sitting or standing in one place which has been proven to contribute to obesity, heart disease, and other serious health issues.

While you may not be able to break a big sweat at the office, there are exercises you can do at work to negate the effects of sitting or standing still all day.

Man Stretching at Desk

Stretches to alleviate the pain of sitting in that uncomfortable chair

  1. Shoulder Shrugs - Sitting down or standing, lift your shoulders towards your ears and hold them there for 10 seconds. Release and then repeat to remove some of the stress building up in your muscles.
  2. Torso Twist - While seated, take your right hand and reach under your left arm. Grab the back of your chair and pull your torso around. Hold it for a few seconds and then do the same on the opposite side to stretch out your back and core.
  3. Neck Stretch - Poor posture can create a lot of pain in our neck. To release some of it, tilt your head to towards your left shoulder until you feel the stretch on the other side. Hold that position and then tilt your head the other direction. Repeat occasionally throughout the day to relieve tension.
  4. Knee Hug - Pull one knee in towards your chest. You should feel some burn in your glutes and thigh. Keep it there for a few moments and then do the same with the opposite leg.
  5. Chest Opener - Take your hands and interlace your fingers behind your back. Pull away from your body, opening up your chest and stretching your pectorals.
  6. Toe Touch - While standing, bend forward stretching towards your toes. Even if you can't quite reach your feet, stretch until you feel some burn in your legs.

Exercises to do while seated

  1. Leg Raises - People won't even be able to tell you're working out. Sitting on the edge of your chair, lift both legs until they are straight out, parallel with the floor. Hold that position for 10 seconds and then lower your feet. This one is easy to do even if you're typing.
  2. Curls - Have a book that's sitting on your shelf gathering dust? Pick it up and do some curls. Hold your arm at a 90-degree angle with the book in your hand and slowly pull it to your shoulder. Switch arms after ten repetitions. Use a heavier item if you need more resistance.
  3. Shoulder Press - Take two books and hold them at your shoulders. Slowly extend your arms straight up in the air and lower them. Again, adjust how many you do and how heavy the books as necessary.
  4. Chair Swivels - You'll need a swivel chair for this one. Hold the desk with your thumb and forefinger. Lift your feet off the floor and swivel side to side using your core muscles.
  5. Chair Lifts - Make sure you're not in a rolling chair for this one. Sit on the edge of the chair and place your hands on the armrests. Slowly extend your arms lifting your body and holding for 5-10 seconds. Lower yourself slowly and repeat.
  6. Use a FitDesk product - Under-desk ellipticals and cycles allow you to stay active without leaving your desk or stopping what you're doing. Or get a full Bike Desk if you have room.


Exercises to do if you can leave your desk

If you're able to step away from your desk for a few minutes, try out these easy exercises:

  1. Walk - Get up, get out of your office and go for a walk. On a call but don't need your computer? Take a walk. Have a meeting with someone but don't have a lot of documents to go through? Walk and talk. Instead of sending an email or slack message? Step away from your desk, go to their office, and check in face-to-face. It might seem small, but getting in those steps throughout the day will add up.
  2. Calf Raises - Watching a webinar and realize you're not doing anything else? Stand up and merely push up onto your toes. Try to hold it for 5 or 10 seconds and then lower your heels back to the floor. Do these a few times, and you're sure to feel the burn.
  3. Wall Sit - All this requires is a flat surface. Place your back against the wall and walk your feet out, bending at the knees until it looks as if you're sitting in a chair. Except, you're not. You're using your core and leg muscles to hold up your body. See how long you can hold it.
  4. Squats - Stand up with your feet facing straight ahead, shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and lower yourself until your upper legs are parallel with the ground. Need more of a challenge. Hold something heavy just below your chin as you are squatting.
  5. Lunges - You might look crazy, but it's worth it to burn the calories. Standing up, step forward with one foot and try to get your knee as close as possible to the floor. Stand back up and repeat with the opposite leg. Ready to up the ante? Hold something heavy like a book in each hand and use your core to stay balanced.


Tips to get the most out of exercising at work.

  • Ideally, your workout should elevate your heart rate. If not, you may want to add resistance or increase try different exercises.
  • Try and get in at least 30-minutes of light exercise throughout the day. Just this much can help you lose weight, and avoid health risks associated with sitting.
  • If possible, get up and move once per hour, even if only for a minute or two.
  • Don't overdo it before a meeting. While most of these exercises won't get you too sweaty, you probably shouldn't do it just before you sit down with clients.
  • Looking for a more moderate workout? Bring weights in from home or resistance bands to make some of the exercises more difficult.
  • Don't overeat because you're doing these things. Often we overcompensate when we exercise and overeat. Most people require both activity and a healthy diet to stay fit.


How are you staying fit at work? Share your exercise secrets on social media and tag FitDesk to let us know!

Download our free guide, 5 Days to a Healthier Work Week for more tips on creating healthier habits in the workplace.