Exercising at Your Desk

Written by | Posted under Health and Wellness | 6 years ago

Gathering the Motivation to Exercise

Ever think that you don’t have time for exercise when you get home? Putting in an hour at the gym after putting in a 10 hour day at the office just doesn’t seem possible anymore, and the laundry and dishes you left in the kitchen sink are still sitting there. Before you get discouraged, let’s problem solve and find a way to work in these few exercises into your office life.
You will be doing your body a favor and preventing repetitive stress injuries. All you need to do is take a few minutes to revitalize and recharge yourself, and attack exercise while you sit at your desk!


Top 12 Desk Exercises

Desk Stretches

[Image from “Stretching” book by Bob Anderson]

From the image above, the shaded regions represent the muscles that are being targeted.

#1 Lean back and Stretch your wrists and shoulders. Interlock your fingers with your palms facing away from you to stretch your wrist flexors and shoulder protractors. If you have shoulder problems you may not want to bring the arms above shoulder height.

#2 Reach arms up overhead. You can do this sitting or standing and you can go right into #3.

#3 Side Bend. You can do this stretch sitting or in standing for a deeper stretch. With arms overhead, grasp elbows and lean to one open up one side, then the other.

#4 skip. It is the same as #2.

#5 Shoulder Shrugs. Just sitting at your desk, inhale and shrug your shoulders to your ears, hold, then exhale and release your tension and relax your shoulders down to neutral. Rest your arms down at your sides. If you can throw in a good squeeze between the shoulder blades, all the better!

#6 Behind the Back Shoulder Stretch. While sitting in your desk chair, lean forward slightly and reach your arms behind your back. Clasp you hands together and tilt your head to one side, then the other to stretch your upper traps.

#7 & #8 Wrist Stretches. Similar to #2. Place your palms together and press through your fingers as your bring your palms lower in front of your chest. Pivot your finger tips downward so that they are pointing towards the ground. This stretches your finger flexors which are constantly working to type and write.

#9 Sitting Swimmer Stretch. Reach one arm up and punch the sky, while reaching the opposite arm down and punch the floor. Switch, repeat. This works on shoulder strength and scapular elevation and depression.

#10 Seated Twist. Cross one leg over the other and sit up straight. Twist slowly to the opposite side and stretch your postural extensor muscles. Your back may crack, but do not look for this to occur. Inhale with twist, exhale as you lean into it and appreciate the stretch.

#11 Seated Pec Stretch. While seated, place both your hands on your hips with your thumbs facing forward. Push your elbows back and allow your chest to open. Your lower back may extend a little, but focus on opening your chest to counter all the forward reaching and typing activity.

#12 Shake out your Hands. Revitalize your hands by shaking them out and allowing new circulation to reach your fingertips. This exercise relieves the compression on your forearms and wrists and relaxes the hands. You can make fists by clenching and unclenching your fingers. Make small air circles with your wrists.

Other Desk Exercises and Activities to Try

  • Do an ergonomic assessment of your workspace
  • Stand up and sit down with no hands.
  • Knee extensions under your desk. Sit up tall to engage your abs and quads. Kick your leg out parallel to the floor and hold for 5 seconds. Point and flex your toes and ankles. Relax and repeat.
  • Get rid of your desk chair and substitute an exercise ball.
  • Sit on the edge of your chair (if it has wheels, wedge the chair against the desk or wall to make sure it does not roll). Put your feet together, flat on the floor. Lean over, chest to knees, letting your arms dangle loosely to the floor. Release your neck.
    Now bring your hands behind your legs, right hand grasping left wrist, forearm (or elbow if you can reach that far), left hand grasping the right. Feel the stretch in your back, shoulders and neck. Hold. Release. Repeat.
  • Substitute walks for emailing your coworkers.
  • Walk around or stand up while on the phone.
  • Don’t eat at your desk


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  1. Amy said,

    This article is great! I actually did some of it right now. Thanks!

    6 years ago
  2. Tina said,

    It really helps me feel more alert. I wouldn’t want to go to bed before my laundry’s done!

    6 years ago
  3. Thaya Kareeson said,

    Wow that felt great! Thanks Stephanie for the article!

    6 years ago


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