10 Office Exercises You Can Do Secretly

exercise ball
Sitting on exercise ball all day is one way to get some secret exercise.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

You absolutely love your job! It's interesting, rewarding and challenging. It also might be hazardous to your health.

Office spaces are set up to require little movement, making it easy to gain weight. Before you know it, you've added 50 pounds (22.6 kilograms) on your frame. Besides increasing weight, desk jobs also increase the strain on your back, wrists, eyes and neck, and can result in a general loss of muscle tone.


Stress is another disadvantage of office work. A survey by Yale University shows that 29 percent of workers feel "quite a bit or extremely stressed at work." [source: CDC]. This can lead to depression, cardiovascular disease, a lack of energy and other health issues.

To combat the adverse effects of the 9-to-5 routine, it's important to exercise. But when can you find the time? Workplace workouts can help you make the most of your limited hours. With a little creativity, you can take advantage of the few minutes you have between pending deadlines and learn to exercise while you work.

For your company's benefit, squeezing in a little exercise improves concentration and actually makes you more productive. But just in case others aren't convinced (or you don't want to be conspicuous), here are some exercises you can do secretly.

10: Start-up Meeting Stretches

Ankle stretches
Neck and ankle stretches.

Your department start-up meeting is a great way to prepare for the workday. It's also a great time to get your muscles ready for your office workout with some stretches.

Stretch from head to toe, beginning with the neck.


  • Slowly tilt head toward shoulder.
  • Hold for ten seconds.
  • Alternate sides.

Next loosen up your shoulders to get rid of the ache, increase flexibility and add strength.

  • Roll both shoulders forward in a circular motion.
  • Roll both shoulders backward in a circular motion.
  • Repeat ten times.

Stretch your wrists to get ready for computer work.

  • Stretch arm out with palm down.
  • With other hand, pull fingers down.
  • Hold for three seconds.
  • Then pull up on fingers.
  • Hold for three seconds.
  • Repeat, alternating three times.

Relieve the tired and lethargic feeling you get in your legs with ankle and calf stretches.

  • Hold one foot off the floor with your leg straight.
  • Flex your ankle pointing your toes up.
  • Extend you ankle pointing your toes down.
  • Do ten times and repeat with other leg.
  • Next, draw a circle with your toes, moving one foot clockwise and then counter-clockwise.
  • Change feet.

9: Copy Machine Calisthenics

Leg lifts and swings.
Leg lifts and swings.

Time spent watching copies spew out of the copy machine can be rather unproductive. Make use of these precious minutes with some leg toning and strengthening exercises.

With leg lifts and swings you use the muscles in the leg you are moving and also use the weight of your body to strengthen the leg you are standing on for support. It's best to hold onto the copy machine for balance. If you hear someone approaching, you can quickly stop.


  • Lift one leg to the back or side, keeping it straight.
  • Slowly lower it.
  • Change sides.
  • In the same position, bend your right knee.
  • Swing leg forward and back for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat with left leg.

Glute kicks and calf raises will stretch out your hamstrings and calves.

  • Stand with one leg straight.
  • Try to kick your buttocks with the heel of your other leg.
  • Repeat ten times with each leg.
  • Next, raise your heels off the floor.
  • Slowly lower them.
  • Repeat ten times.


8: Under Desk Dynamics

Leg toners.
Leg toners.

Your co-workers will see you intently reading the report from yesterday's meeting, but they won't see you strengthening your abs and relieving your tired leg muscles.

  • Start with feet flat on floor.
  • Sit tall at your desk.
  • Hold your abdominal muscles tight.
  • Extend one leg until it is level with your hip.
  • Hold for ten seconds.
  • Slowly lower leg.
  • Repeat 15 times.
  • Change legs.

Chair squats are an effective body-strengthening exercise. Sneak a few in every time you get up from your chair and sit back down.


  • Stand tall.
  • Keep back straight.
  • Lower to one inch of chair, pretending you are sitting down.
  • Hold for ten seconds.
  • Lift back up to standing position.

You don't need a resistance band to get great leg toning.

  • With legs straight, cross one on top of the other.
  • Raise them off the floor.
  • Press top leg down and resist with bottom leg.
  • Do until muscles are tired.
  • Repeat with opposite legs top and bottom.

7: High Profile Aerobics

man, woman, warehouse
Keep your projects -- and your body -- moving by visiting colleagues rather than e-mailing them.

It's good for your career to be seen around the office. These aerobic exercises will help to keep your weight down and your profile high.

  • To keep your projects and your body moving, visit colleagues rather than e-mailing them.
  • Drink a lot of water. Research suggests that drinking water can aid in your weight loss efforts [source: Jampolis]. Plus, the more trips to the restroom, the more calories you'll burn. To increase the calorie count, visit a restroom further away from your desk. You might also run into some new people along the way.
  • Always walk fast without running. It'll get your heart beating faster and make it look like you have somewhere important to be.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible instead of elevator. For a better workout, take the steps two at a time.


6: Office Chair Abdominals

Exercise ball.
Exercise ball.

Replace your office chair with an exercise ball for all-day abdominal toning and strengthening. Sitting on an exercise ball forces you to use your abs to hold yourself in position. It improves your balance, tones your core muscles and takes stress off your lower back. Some people even find that it focuses their concentration.

  • Sit on the ball and find your balance.
  • Pull your navel in.
  • Pull you shoulders back (no slouching).
  • Place feet hip width apart.

Sitting on an exercise ball isn't easy. You might want to try it at home first to see how long you can last.


5: Bottom Line Lifters


While you are helping your company to increase its bottom line, you can also lift your own. Try these exercises to tighten and strengthen your gluteus muscles, as well as relieve back pain.

  • Lift one glute up and almost off the chair.
  • Perform in a side-to-side rocking motion for 30 seconds.
  • Next, squeeze your gluteus muscles.
  • Hold for ten seconds.
  • Release.

Although originally intended for dancers, arabesque circle exercises performed while you are talking on the phone can be an effective glute and hamstring toner. This is best performed if you have a private office.


  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Shift weight to left leg.
  • Lift right leg behind you.
  • Hold on to your desk or chair for balance.
  • Slowly circle your left leg clockwise 25 times and counter-clockwise 25 times.
  • Switch legs.

4: Water Bottle Workouts

Front raises and twists.
Front raises and twists.

Who needs weights? A full water bottle makes an excellent substitute for a dumbbell. If anyone interrupts, you can simply take a drink. Begin with bicep curls to tone and strengthen your arms.

  • Sit tall with abs pulled in.
  • Hold water bottle in right hand and curl it up towards your shoulder.
  • Repeat 15 times.
  • Change arms.

You can also use your water bottle to do front arm raises and overhead presses.


  • Hold water bottle in right hand.
  • Bend elbow.
  • Extend arm overhead.
  • Repeat other side.

Water bottle twists are a great way to work your waistline.

  • Hold water bottle at chest level.
  • Twist to the right as far as you can.
  • Twist back to center.
  • Twist to the left.
  • Repeat 10 times.

3: Conference Table Toners

Leg lifts.
Leg lifts.

Just because you are sitting still during meetings, doesn't mean you can't be exercising. You can use the conference room table to do a variety of toning and strengthening exercises.

  • First try to lift the table.
  • Put your hand under the table.
  • Press up against the table.
  • Continue until your muscles are tired.
  • Do this one hand at a time or both together.

Next, push the table into the floor.


  • Put hand on table, palm down.
  • Press down as strongly as you can.
  • Stop when your muscles are tired.
  • You can do this one hand at a time or both together if it looks more natural.

Using a shoulder shrug when answering, "I don't know" allows you to work in this exercise.

  • Raise the top of your shoulders toward ears.
  • Hold for three to five seconds.
  • Relax.

You'll appear attentive, while exercising your whole body with this move.

  • Sit on the edge of chair.
  • Press down on table with both hands.
  • At same time lift legs as high as you can.

2: Innovative Isometrics

Calf raises.
Calf raises.

Isometric exercises are also sometimes known as static strength training. With no visible movement of the joint, these exercises can be performed unnoticed.

If you spend a lot of time on your computer, hand squeezes will offer some relief to your fingers. You can do these with or without a stress ball.


  • Make a fist.
  • Squeeze.
  • Hold and release.
  • Stretch fingers.
  • Repeat ten times

Strengthen your calves and ankles while you read, listen to a web cast or talk on the phone.

  • Stand and hold onto your chair.
  • Rest your left foot on back of your right calf.
  • Raise up on your toes.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat three times.
  • Change legs.

Kegel exercises help prevent or control urinary incontinence by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. You can do them discreetly while performing any routine task.

  • Contract your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Relax.
  • Repeat five times, three times a day.

You can use this squeeze, hold and release technique to strengthen just about any muscle.

1: No-sweat Calorie Burners

Laughing tightens stomach muscles.
Laughing tightens stomach muscles.

Sometimes the best way to burn calories isn't by exercising at all. Following are a few non-exercise ways to shed some weight.

  • Stand whenever you can. You'll burn more calories than sitting, as many as 50 more an hour for a 155-pound person [source: Platkin].
  • Fidgeting can burn an extra 350 calories a day. Rapidly tapping your feet, talking with your hands, and chewing gum, all count. While the calorie burn for each movement is minimal, fidgeting could add up to a loss of up to 36 pounds (16.3 kilograms) a year [source: Platkin].
  • Good posture is an effective core strengthening measure. It requires you to use muscles to keep your tummy tight and your back straight. Do it continually to build abdominal strength, alleviate lower back pain and help you feel more confident.
  • Deep breathing helps you relax and lowers heart rate. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Laugh often. It tightens your stomach muscles, exercises your diaphragm, works your heart, relieves stress and gives you a better outlook on life.

By making exercise part of your everyday work routine, you'll be healthier, happier and more productive. But let's keep that our little secret.

Lots More Information

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