Office Exercises

Office Exercises

So you’re stuck behind a desk for nine hours a day—how, you ask, are you supposed to be more active? You’ve also just read The Nudge to Budge and are thinking that your sedentary job is killing you in more ways than one. You’ve got the urge to move—but not the space. Here’s good news: You’re movable in your cubicle!

Related: Squeezing in Time to Get Fit

Work Out While You’re Working

Work Out While You're Working 

That’s right. There is no need to feel constrained by limited space or your office attire—there are still a myriad opportunities for a mini workout right where you are. You can get your blood circulating and maintain muscle tone without breaking a sweat.

It’s not hard either—exercise is easily incorporated into your usual work activities.

  • First, walk more. Remember: 10,000 steps.

    That’s the recommended number of steps you should take a day for better health. Get up for some face-to-face conversation with your colleagues on the other side of the office, instead of simply picking up the phone. Use the stairs instead of the lift. Walk to the pantry for a fresh cup of tea, instead of keeping a flask at your desk.

  • Stand more.

    You actually burn twice as many calories standing as when you sit. (Plus, if you are in a discussion, it gives you a psychological advantage over the other person—something to take note of when you ask for a raise!) Many people also think better on their feet. Try creating a make-shift standing desk using paper or cardboard boxes—get creative!

  • Multi-task.

    We’re not talking about diluting your mental productivity, but when you are on the telephone or if you have to read through a long document, you could use the time to train the rest of your body.

What’s good to know is that studies[1],[2], [3] have shown that exercise is “a critical and consistent element of modern effective stress reduction”, so you’re already on the right path to a healthier body and mind.

Related: No Time to Clock 10,000 Steps? No Problem!

Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

Stretching at Work Desk 

Who says that four-foot space isn’t good enough for some serious muscle-building? Okay, you won’t pass for Mr Universe, but if you try these toning exercises, you can say bye-bye to some flab in time. Best of all, these moves are so discreet, you won’t be attracting unwanted attention.

  • Seated Crunches

    Sit up straight, engage your abdominal muscles, and bring your knees up a couple of inches, either one at a time or together. You may need to grip your seat or arm-rests; otherwise this exercise can be done even as you type.

    For some variation, turn the opposite shoulder towards the lifted knee slightly, to work the oblique muscles.

  • Seated Stepping

    Use a low footstool for this. Starting with your feet on the floor on either side of the stool, step up and down while you are seated.

    Play with variations: left foot / right foot / alternate feet / both feet. If the radio is on you can even have your private dance party right there in the cube! This works your abs as well as your thighs.

  • Seated Push-Ups

    This exercise strengthens your arms. Grip your arm rests with both hands and lift your bottom off the seat, feet off the floor.

    Note: Please ensure chair is stable and arm rests are sturdy before proceeding with the exercise. It might be hard to explain why you just rolled backwards into your colleague’s cubicle.

  • Twists, Shrugs, and Stretches

    Unlock those cramped muscles! When you remain in one position for too long, you start to develop aches and pains from your neck down to your legs.

    Stretching releases stiffness, increases blood circulation, and minimises risk of injury through better flexibility. Try gentle neck stretches to the side (keep your shoulders down); also chin-to-chest and back tilts.

    Do some shoulder shrugs, backwards and forwards—just ensure you are seated nice and straight. Twist slowly to one side, starting from your waist, then moving through the shoulders, and turning your head last of all, until you can smile at the person in the cube behind.

    Use the chair’s arm-rests and back-rest as props. For men who tend to sit with one ankle over the opposite knee, you’re primed for a seated glute stretch. Simply lean forward and hold the stretch.

Big Moves

Exercise Ball Chair 

Show the office you mean business—when it comes to keeping fit. It’s more likely than not that you’ll inspire at least a couple of others around you, and before you know it, you’d have founded an office fitness group!

Step away from your desk for an exercise break instead of a tea break. If you’re too self-conscious to be swinging your arms in your cubicle, look for an empty meeting room.

  • Wall Push-Ups

    Step back from a wall and lean in with palms on the wall somewhat lower than shoulder height, elbows bent, body straight. Extend arms and push off from the wall slowly, keeping your body straight.

    After that, lower yourself back towards the wall. You can also use a strong table for a higher level of difficulty.

  • Resistance Band

    A nifty piece of exercise equipment that tucks away discreetly in your drawer. Whip it out for these six quick strength exercises.

  • Lift Weights

    No need for special equipment—just have handy a large bottle of water. Those with handles are especially easy to use. Train up those biceps and triceps so everyone can see you’re no pushover!

  • Stepping

    Bring out that footstool from under your desk and turn it into a cardio workout tool. Incorporate weights for an even bigger calorie burn!

  • Stretches

    We’re talking stretches with arms spread wide; deep waist bends—sideways, backwards, forwards; overhead reaches (try holding the top of the door frame).

    Pay particular attention to your hip flexors which are more likely to be tight with prolonged sitting. This can also lead to bad posture and lower back pain.

    Look for guides on stretching these and try the exercises out! You’ll feel much better for it.

So there you have it — a cubicle-dweller’s guide to keeping fit. All you have to do is get moving!

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  1. Moore, T. M. (1998, December). A Workplace Stretching Program. Physiologic and Perception Measurements. AAOHN Journal: Official Journal of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, 46(12), 563-568.
    Retrieved January, 2016 from

  2. Marangoni, A. H. (2010). Effects of intermittent stretching exercises at work on musculoskeletal pain associated with the use of a personal computer and the influence of media on outcomes. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation, 36(1), 27-37.
    Retrieved January, 2016 from
    doi: 10.3233/WOR-2010-1004

  3. Esch, T., Stefano, G. B. (2010, June). Endogenous reward mechanisms and their importance in stress reduction, exercise and the brain. Archives of Medical Science, 6(3), 447-455.
    Retrieved January, 2016 from
    doi: 10.5114/aoms.2010.14269

  4. Admin (2013, August 12). Psoas/Iliopsoas Stretches [Website Article].
    Retrieved January, 2016 from