Deskercise: 17 Exercises You Can Do At or Near Your Desk

desk exercises

For the average small business owner, long hours at work means long hours at the desk until it’s time to stagger, hunched over, to the door and then try to stretch out on your way home.

The medical community recommends high cardiovascular workouts for a half-hour, three to five times a week. But who has the time or inclination to go to a gym after a hard day of work? And who reading here has forked out money for a year of gym membership, only to go twice and then quit? And who has expensive exercise equipment serving as a clothes rack in the corner?

Okay, you should really make an effort to perform blood-pumping exercise, but a recent study by Leeds University in the U.K. has found that this is not quite enough to counteract hours of sedentary behavior. This study also found that fidgeting, a near constant state of moving muscles a little bit, can go a long way toward lowering the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

“Deskercise” Desk Exercises

1. Fidget

Building a habit of fidgeting can be hard. But you can wiggle or jog your knee or elbow when you think of it. Do whatever fits with what you’re doing. There are many exercises you can do as you talk on the phone or read spreadsheets.

2. TMJ Exercise

One of the worse things that job stress can cause is TMJ, or jaw pain, which can work its way to the temples, the back of the neck and into the ears. When you notice your jaw tightening, yawning can be helpful to temporarily relieve tightness. But working the jaw daily can help much better in the long run. Move your jaw from side to side, left to right, six times. And repeat this several times throughout your work day.

3. Bruxism Exercise

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can be a symptom of TMJ. It’s painful, distracting and creates constant discomfort. To relieve pressure on your teeth, thrust your jaw forward until your bottom teeth are in front of the top teeth. Hold this position for four seconds and then relax. Repeat this five times throughout your work day.

4. Active Arm Stretches

Reach above your head and stretch your arms straight up reaching for the ceiling for at least 10 seconds (pictured below). Next, stretch your right arm higher, then the left.

desk ecercises deskercise

5. Shoulder and Neck Stretches

Sit facing forward and then turn your head to the left while turning your torso to the right. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat as necessary.

6. Back Workout

Lower back pain is a classic side effect of setting much of the day. So sit up straight. Shrug your shoulders lifting them up, trying to touch your ears with them. Hold the position for five seconds and then push your shoulders down while holding your head straight. Hold for five seconds and repeat five times.

7. Wall Sits

Place your back against the wall of your office (or sneak away to a quiet hallway, stairwell or conference room). Bend your knees and slide down the wall, keeping your back up against it. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor and you’ve reached a “sit” position, hold it for 30 seconds.  If you get good at this, kick it up a notch by crossing one leg over the other and holding the position for 15 seconds.

8. Seated Bicycle Pedal

Work out those abs. While seated, scoot to the edge of your chair. Hold onto the arm rests and start bringing each knee up to your chest, pretending to be riding a bicycle. Focus on smooth pedaling at a steady pace.

9. Spider Push-ups

Try the old “spider on a mirror doing push-ups” routine. Place your hands palms together with your fingers lined up. Then push your hands off and away from each other keeping your fingertips touching. Bring your hands back together and then push away again. Repeat this 10 times.

10. Shake it Up

Shake your hands as though you’ve just washed them and have no towels. Do this for a minute or so every hour.

11. Wrist Stretches

Stretch one arm straight in front of you with hands facing palm up. Reach with your other hand and pull the hand straight down at the wrist (pictured at top of article). Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with other arm. Do this for each hand 3 times.

12. Butt Crunches

Repeated clenching of the gluteus maximus as you sit can help strengthen the muscles. Done properly, you should feel like you are rising up an inch or so. Do this 10 times.

13. Calf Stretches

Push your chair back and stretch your legs in front of you, feet on the floor. Point your toes straight up and pull them toward your knees as far as you can. Then point them down away from you. Repeat 10 times.

14. Deep Knee Bends

Push your chair back a little to keep from bumping your desk. Stand up just a little and hold yourself a few inches above your seat. Stay there and hold the position for 5 seconds and then sit back down. Repeat this 10 times.

15. Jumping Jacks

On your next break, get your heart rate up and do jumping jacks for a minute if it’s possible. Another option is to run in place at your desk for a minute. And then there’s always pretending to jump rope for a minute.

desk exercises deskercise 2

16. Shadow Boxing

Go to an empty conference room, bathroom or break room and try shadow boxing for 5 minutes, punching randomly at the air. This can also be a great stress reliever.

17. Windmills

A conference room is a good place to do windmills as well. Moving your arms back and forth vigorously enough can raise your heart rate as well as running does. It also strengthens and works your shoulder blade muscles. Hold both of your arms up and out, extended away from your body (facing outward to your left and right). Bring your arms up and start making big circles to the left and right of your body, above the head and down to the knees.

Lastly, work movement into every part of your day. This can be as simply as choosing the furthest parking spot away from the door. Or if you lunch at a restaurant, choose a parking spot far away, but within walking distance. Cease emailing your coworker three cubicles down from you and instead, walk and talk to them in person.

Do everything as energetically as you can – and don’t be embarrassed to work out a little at your desk. You never know, it could catch on and be an exciting, fun part of everyone’s work day.

Hands, Stretch, Boxing Images via Shutterstock

JoAnn McFarland JoAnn McFarland is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers breaking news such as new product announcements, government policy, acquisitions and other industry developments. She is a published author and comes from a family-business background.