5 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk

business man stretches at work
Mens Health Image Gallery Think you can't get a workout just because you're working? We have five exercises you can do without leaving your desk. See more mens health pictures.

If you invented a medication that could reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, lower blood pressure, lower the risk for osteoporosis and mitigate pain from arthritis, you would likely be hailed a hero. However, that ship has already sailed. The medication already exists and it's the best form of low-cost health care anyone could wish for: It's called exercise.

That may be well and good, but how can you access your free daily dose of this prescription when your everyday life gets in the way? After all, you have daily responsibilities -- family, school, work, laundry, grocery shopping, hobbies, etc. Not everyone can budget time (or money, for that matter) for a regular trip to the gym.


Why not consider using one of those daily responsibilities to your advantage? If you pick activities that fit into your life, you'll be more likely to keep them up. So, if you find yourself working away at your desk all day, make your desk also work for you. Get moving through the rest of this article to learn five exercises you can do while still on the job.

5: Desk Push-ups

According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training helps burn calories, reduce body fat, strengthen bones and increase stamina [source: Mayo Clinic]. And the good news is that you can use your own body weight to sneak in some strength training.

For example, according to Michael Roussell for Shape Up America!, you can try desk pushups. While standing, position yourself a few feet from your desk. Keep your feet together. Then, put your palms on the edge of your desk, about a shoulder width away from each other. Lower down to the edge of the desk, and push back to the starting position. As you increase your strength, see if you can do 15 reps in a row [source: Roussell].


Need another option? You can turn it around to work your triceps, as described by Courtney Myers for Forbes.com. Put your palms on the desk behind you. Again, keep your feet together. Start with your buttocks touching the desk, but then as you bend your elbows, come forward a bit. You are now in position. Dip down until your upper arms are parallel with the ground and then push back to the starting position [source: Myers].

4: Straight Leg Lifts

You just learned a couple exercises for building up the strength in your arms. However, don't forget to work your legs and buttocks, too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests incorporating squats into your strength regimen. This will help your buttocks, thighs and hips, which, in turn, will make it easier to climb the stairs or even just walk [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. To perform a squat in your office:


  • Stand in front of your chair.
  • Put your feet a little farther apart than shoulder-width.
  • Keep in mind throughout this exercise that your knees shouldn't pass your toes, but be positioned over your ankles. Your back should be straight.
  • Now, lower down slowly until you are almost sitting in your chair. Hold the position for a moment and then come back up.
  • Try two sets of 10 with a couple minutes of rest in between.

Now, keep that chair handy. You'll need it for the next exercise on our list.

3: Chair Lift

If you're looking to work the abdomen portion of your core, you don't have to plop down on the floor of your office to fit in a stomach workout. (Who knows what lingers down there anyway?) Instead, look no further than your own desk chair.

Here's how it works. Sit down nice and tall in your chair -- make it a sturdy one without wheels, if possible. Push your shoulders back as if you are trying to appear as "professional" as possible. Move to your chair's edge and place your hands on the sides of the chair or on the armrests.


You are now in position. While keeping your back straight, lift your knees. Bring them up to your chest and then back down. You can let your legs go all the way to the floor during the exercise, or not allow them to touch the ground between reps to make it even more challenging. According to Erin Kurdyla for Self.com, one option is to try two sets of 12 [source: Gallo].

2: Jump-rope Simulation

So far, you've learned some exercises to build strength. However, you can also get your heart pumping in your work space with a nice dose of aerobic exercise. Just make sure you have enough open space to not harm yourself. You may also want to wait until your cube mates step away, unless you welcome questions about what you are doing on the other side of the wall. Or, take the opposite approach and invite them to join in.

Jean Lawrence for WebMD suggests incorporating jump-rope simulation into your workday. This exercise is performed just as you would suspect -- pretend to jump-rope [source: Lawrence]. Clasp the imaginary ends of your rope and start jumping. You can jump from one foot to another, or hop with both legs at the same time.


Keep up your imaginary play and try some shadow boxing, which is pretending to box. Or go old-school with some tried-and-true jumping jacks.

1: Arms-behind-your-head Stretch

For some reason, stretching seems to fall off of the radar. Maybe it just needs a new PR person to spread the word on why the exercise is so important. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, stretching not only helps your circulation, range of motion and flexibility, but it also has the power to relieve stress [source: Mayo Clinic]. That's why you should also add some stretching exercises into your day.

So what better stretching exercise to do at work than one that makes you look like an executive? Try the arms-behind-your-head stretch, or executive stretch, as described by the National Institutes of Health Office of Research Services Division of Occupational Health and Safety. Here's how to do it:


  • Sit down in your chair.
  • Put your hands behind your head.
  • Interlock your fingers.
  • Move your elbows toward each other.
  • Lean back into the stretch.
  • Breathe in, and hold for 20 seconds.
  • Breathe out.
  • Do it all again.

Want to know more? There lots more information on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Growing Stronger -- Strength Training for Older Adults." May 10, 2010. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/exercises/stage1.html
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight." Jan. 4, 2011. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html
  • Gallo, Amy. "Sneaky Stomach Slimmers." Self.com. http://www.self.com/body/fitness/2012/01/sneaky-stomach-slimmers-slideshow/
  • Health.com. "What Does It Mean to Work Your Core?" Nov. 21, 2008. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20411422,00.html
  • Johnson, Tory. "Tricks for Staying Fit at Work." Jan. 9, 2006. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/TakeControlOfYourLife/story?id=1479392
  • Lawrence, Jean. "Exercise at Your Desk." WebMD. Feb. 27, 2004. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/exercise-at-your-desk
  • Mayo Clinic. "Office Exercise: How to burn calories at work." Sept. 24, 2009. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/office-exercise/SM00115
  • Mayo Clinic. "Stretching: Focus on flexibility." Feb. 21, 2009. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/HQ01447
  • Mayo Clinic. "Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier." June 30, 2010. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710
  • Myers, Courtney. "Best Exercises To Do At Your Desk." Forbes.com. Sept. 9, 2008. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.forbes.com/2008/09/10/health-office-exercise-forbeslife-cx_cm_0910exercise.html
  • Myers, Courtney. "In Depth: Best Exercises To Do At Your Desk." Forbes.com. Sept. 9, 2008. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.forbes.com/2008/09/10/health-office-exercise-forbeslife-cx_cm_0910exercise_slide_2.html
  • National Institutes of Health Office of Research Services Division of Occupational Health and Safety. "Ergonomics for Computer Workstations." (Feb. 1, 2011)http://dohs.ors.od.nih.gov/ergo_computers.htm
  • Roussell, Michael. "Fitting Fitness In." Shape Up America!. Oct. 2006. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.shapeup.org/about/arch_news/nl1006.html
  • Shape Up America! "Fitting Fitness In." (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.shapeup.org/about/arch_news/nl1006.html
  • University of California. "Deskercise." Jan. 5, 2011. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://uclivingwell.ucop.edu/deskercise/welcome.html
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans." Oct. 17, 2008. (Feb. 1, 2011)http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/factSheetAdults.aspx