Doing simple exercises at your desk every day can help to burn fat and improve flexibility, and you won’t even have to break a sweat.
If you find yourself spending eight hours a day sat at a computer desk, you can’t be surprised if you start to gain weight or feel unhealthy. With 32% of people attributing a poor working environment as a reason for changing jobs, you must take ownership of your own work day and make the most of your surroundings.
In fact, a new study has shown that the risk of heart diseases increases by 0.2% for every additional hour spent a day sitting down after five hours — this includes at work, at home, and travelling. With the risk of long-term health issues attached to desk jobs, you have to be sure to stay active while at work, even when you’re still sitting at your desk.
One thing you should start with right away is stretching, as shown by Denise Austen:
And here are 10 easy office exercises you can do to help snap that desk jockey bod in shape:
1. Eagle claws
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This might come across as a weird exercise, because you’re not moving much. However, it is very effective, AND a way to exercise without attracting too much attention 🙂
Begin by planting your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-length apart, and digging your toes into the ground like a bird. Without moving your feet, try to pull them together so as to create tension in your calves; continue this tension up your legs by engaging each muscle, including your glutes. If done correctly, you should already feel the burn in the bottom half of your body.
Now you have nailed the eagle claws, you can perform any upper body exercise you like while still engaging your bottom half. Working upper- and lower-body muscles at the same time will help you raise your heart rate and enter your cardio zone, which allows you to burn fat.
2. Grab the ball
Extend your arms far out in front of you, creating tension in your arm, shoulder, and back muscles. Spread your fingers wide, feel them stretching, and maintain that tension as if you were holding a ball out in front of you. Keep your back straight and your eyes level, rolling your shoulders back to stretch out your spine.
Ninja tip: Alternative Chairs for Office Fitness
Exercise breaks during work can make a big difference. But changing the actual way you sit…will have a huge effect. And speaking of balls, here are some popular choices to replace that flat office chair (and get rid of that flat booty):
A Sitting Ball vs. Chair
Unlike a chair, a sitting ball promotes dynamic sitting. Instead of freezing in a static posture, your body is continually adjusting. This may sound like a bad thing for your concentration, but moving a little has shown to actually improve your focus.
Sitting on an office chair can cause tension to grow in your body, lock your joints and restrict your blood flow. You can also start sagging through your lower back. A ball keeps your back straight with a slight lumbar curve, and won’t cut off your legs. It will also help strengthen your core.
I use a ball myself, and whenever I sit in a normal chair again, it feels like my whole body is sagging and everything starts to hurt. So for me, the ball is the bomb! Make sure you get the right size, not just go by your height, but also the height of your desk. You might need a bigger ball than your height indicates, and a foot stool to compensate. You can find many sizes, colors and materials on Amazon right here.
Ball Chair with Back Support
So you might not look forward to the wobbly feeling a sitting ball provides. In that case, a ball chair with back support as well as a base is a better option.
This ball chair definitely looks more “office”, but still is a huge improvement on a static chair. This particular chair is produced by Gaiam, and available here, on Amazon.
Like when you grabbed the ball, this time extend your arms out high above your head, spreading your fingers wide and holding the tension. Tilt your head and roll your shoulders back, feeling your vertebrae adjust as you stretch your back.
4. Controlled punches
Start with your left arm extended out in front of you, making a fist with your hand. Have your right hand by the side of your body, making a fist with your palm faced upwards. Now slowly extend your right arm, rotating your hand so your palm faces downwards, like you’re throwing a slow, controlled punch. While you’re doing this, pull your left arm in so it’s in the same position as your right arm once was.
5. Knee pull-ins
This is a great move for your abs, and to increase the hip mobility. You might have knee problems from sitting too long, and often these come from decreased hip mobility. Sit on the edge of your chair, with your hands flat on the seat for support. Lift your feet off the ground and try to pull your knees up to your chest. If that is too difficult, try one knee at a time.
And if you feel you need it, here’s a complete office workout for the abs:
Place your hands flat on the seat for support and extend your legs far out in front of the chair, balancing on your heels. Dip down in front of your chair, favouring a steady, controlled motion as opposed to a quick jerking movement. Dip until your bottom hovers close to the ground, before lifting yourself back up. Don’t do this using a chair with wheels.
Watch this to make sure you have the right form while doing chair dips:
7. Raised legs
Raise your legs and extend them out in front of you, pushing your heels out and turning your toes up towards you. Try to sit at a right angle—you will soon feel the burn in your calves and hamstrings.
Before you focus on getting your leg higher, make sure you get the details right by checking this instruction video:
Sit up straight, put your left feet up on the upper part of the other leg. Let your left knee gently fall to the side by opening up that leg. Twist your upper body to the right. Make sure you turn your head as well to get the full benefit of the stretch. Do not crank your neck or back to reach further, but just deep breathly and relax into it. You should feel your hips opening, which is hugely beneficial for flexibility.
Yoga has some wonderful poses and moves that can reverse the negative effects from long-term sitting. Here’s a yoga version of the Chair Twist:
This is another abdominal kicker, and to insert a little HIIT energy in your work day. Just lean back in your chair and make a pedaling motion with your feet. You won’t be able to do this for long, so do it for ten second bursts every 30 seconds or so.
10. Bicep curls
Use dynamic resistance to simulate bicep curls. Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms facing upwards. Make fists and create tension in your arm and shoulder muscles before pulling your hands up to your shoulders, alternating each arm movement. Despite the lack of weight, you should still feel your arm muscles working.
While these exercises won’t give you the same workout as intense cardio or lifting weights, doing them daily should help you tone your muscles and burn all-important extra calories. You will also begin to feel improved flexibility very soon, relieving tension and discomfort while at work.
Ninja tip: Working and Working out at the Same Time!
As it turns out, moving in a consistent fashion can actually help with concentration and your energy level. So if you’re ready to take working out at the office to the next level, there is some great office workout equipment available. A great example is an under-the-desk trainer:
Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer
You can shove this trainer under your desk, and use it whenever you feel like moving. You can choose various intensity levels, and even use it in reverse. It is quiet so fine for making phone calls or with colleagues. It tracks your strides and calories burned, as well as your workout progress over time. Find it on Amazon here. You might find these and other fitness machines second hand as well here.