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7 great exercises you can do at your desk

Sitting after a long day on your feet can be one of the most relaxing feelings in the world. However, sitting after a long day of, well, more sitting can wreak havoc on your body. Remaining sedentary can tighten muscles and stiffen joints, bringing discomfort and even leading to chronic pain. As a result, you might feel sore, have difficulty walking, and experience lower back pain, poor posture, and balance issues.

These issues present a pretty big problem if sitting at a desk is part of your job. You may not be able to divorce yourself from that office chair, but you can do a few simple things to reduce your risk of aches and pains. One simple tweak is taking short breaks throughout the day to perform exercises that stretch out your muscles and ensure you’re not in one position for too long.

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Upper body moves to try

Hunching over and carrying a bag to work every day can do a number on your upper body. Brush off the cobwebs with these few exercises.

Shoulder shrugs

You don’t even need to get out of your chair for this discreet move.

  • Sit up straight and tall.
  • Bring shoulder to ears.
  • Roll forward and repeat 10 times.
  • Bring shoulders back to ears.
  • Roll backward and repeat 10 circles.

Upper trapezius stretch

Like the shoulder stretches, give your neck some TLC with a subtle exercise that won’t turn heads at the office.

  • Look straight ahead.
  • Slightly tilt your chin toward the neck.
  • Tilt ear toward the shoulder, being careful not to move the shoulder toward the ear.
  • Hold for 15 seconds and repeat five times. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Tip: Lightly place your hand on the side of your head to push your ear toward your shoulder. Alternatively, prevent your shoulder from shrugging toward your ear by putting your hand underneath your chair to hold the arm steady.

Tricep dips

Turn your chair into a bench for a desk exercise that will strengthen your arms and make it easier to lug a bag around.

  • Stand with your back to the chair and feet hip-width apart.
  • Squat into a chair pose and place hands on the edge of the chair with fingers facing toward your back. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle.
  • Lift your body by pressing down into your palms.
  • Lower your body to starting position so your arms are once again at a 90-degree angle.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Desk pushups

Instead of dropping and giving anyone 20, use your desk for pushups. The incline will engage the shoulders more than traditional pushups.

  • Stand two feet from the desk.
  • Lean forward so you can put both hands on the edge of your desk, fingers facing your computer.
  • Do a pushup, keeping elbows close to your sides.

Lower body and core desk exercises

Moving your legs around can ensure they don’t get stiff and will keep your blood circulating where it needs to. You can also prevent further back issues with some exercises that strengthen your core and improve posture.

Chair squats

Use your chair as a barometer for how far you need to squat to work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

  • Stand a couple of inches from your chair.
  • Keep legs together and bend like you are going to sit in your chair, stopping just short of touching the seat.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Stand, squeezing your glutes on the way up.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Calf raises

We need our calf muscles for proper lower-body mobility, and exercising them is easy to do at work, whether you’re waiting at the printer or in line for the microwave.

  • Stand straight, keeping gaze forward.
  • Stand onto your tip-toes.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Release, letting the heels back down to the floor.
  • Repeat 20 times.

Oblique twist

Swivel chairs aren’t just great for allowing us to turn easily — they can also work your oblique muscles.

  • Sit straight with feet hovering just over the floor.
  • Hold the edge of your desk.
  • Engage your abs and use them to twirl yourself and the chair from side to side.
  • Repeat 30 times on both sides.

The negative effects of sitting too long at work can lead to chronic back and neck pain and even impact your blood circulation. Moving a little every hour can prevent these issues and also ensure you’re taking the time to take your eyes off the blue light of the computer screen. While taking a walk throughout the workday is ideal, these quick desk exercises are perfect for when you just can’t pull yourself away from that to-do list.

The work doesn’t end here — even when you aren’t exercising, focus on keeping good posture throughout the day to keep your body well-aligned. Sit straight with feet flat on the floor, using a footrest if needed. Place your computer so you can keep your arms at a 90-degree angle. To prevent a sore neck and shoulders, keep screens at eye level, including your phone. Give yourself a break each day by adding these exercises to your daily routine, and your body will surely thank you for it.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
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