Exercises for Office Workers

So you’re stuck behind a desk for nine hours a day. How are you going to be more active? You just read 7 Reasons to Stop Sitting for Long Periods and is thinking that your sedentary job is preventing you from getting active. You’ve got the urge to move—but not much space.

Here’s good news: You’re movable in your cubicle! Simply make a list of exercises to do in the office and do them regularly! Physical activity has plenty of health benefits which includes boosting your mental health!

Related: Here’s How To Exercise When You Have No Time

Work Out While You’re Working

There are ways you can incorporate regular physical activity while working in the office.

There is no need to feel constrained by the limited space or your office attire—there are still many opportunities for a mini-workout or strengthening activities 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.

    Clock your steps to achieve better health. Get up for some face-to-face conversations with your colleagues at the other side of the office, instead of communicating through the phone or messenger. Use the stairs instead of the lift. Walk to the pantry for a fresh cup of tea or to top up your water bottle.

  • Stand more

    Bid farewell to your food coma! Standing after a meal would help return your blood sugar level to normal more quickly. Furthermore, you actually burn more calories standing compared to sitting.

  • Multitask

    We’re not talking about diverting 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.

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 Exercise? No Problem!

4 Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

Straighten your arms and stretch at your work desk.

Who says that four-foot space isn’t good enough for some serious muscle-building? Try these muscle-strengthening activities to help you stay active and stay in shape. Best of all, these moves are so discreet, you won’t be attracting unwanted attention from other office workers.

  1. 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 hold on to your seat or arm-rests.

    For variations, turn the opposite shoulder towards the lifted knee slightly to work on the oblique muscles.

  2. 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. This works your abs as well as your thighs.

  3. Seated Push-Ups

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

    Note: Please ensure the chair is stable and armrests are sturdy before proceeding with the exercise.

  4. 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 the risk of injury through better flexibility.

    There are plenty of stretching exercises for office workers. Try gentle neck stretches from side to side (while keeping your shoulders down), from chin-to-chest and back tilts.

    Do some shoulder shrugs, backwards and forwards—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.

    Use the chair’s armrests and backrest as props. For those who sit on their chair cross-legged, simply lean forward and hold the stretch.

5 Higher Intensity Exercises for Office Workers

Use an exercise ball chair to activate your core and upper body.

Show the office you mean business when it comes to keeping fit. Your positive attitude could even inspire a couple of other office workers, and before you know it, you’d have founded an office fitness group to engage in regular physical activity!

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 or a conference room. Here are 5 higher intensity activities that will help you stay in shape!

  1. 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.

  2. Resistance Band

    A nifty piece of exercise equipment that tucks away discreetly in your drawer. Whip it out for quick strength exercises. You can even build some muscles at your triceps.

  3. Lift Weights

    No need for special equipment, you just need a handy large bottle of water. Those with handles are even easier to use. Train those biceps and triceps by lifting your water bottle just like how you would lift weights.

  4. Stepping

    Bring out that footstool from under your desk and turn it into a cardio workout tool by stepping up and down. Incorporate weights to burn more calories!

  5. Chair Squats

    A squat is a multi-component exercise that helps to strengthen your lower body muscles, lower the risk of injuries and even burn more calories.

    Simply stand up from your chair and lower your body back down as if you are going to sit down. Stop right before you sit back down and stand back up again.

    Up for a bigger challenge? Add some weights with your water bottles while doing the squats!

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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 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10025248
  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 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20555173
    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 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22371784
    doi: 10.5114/aoms.2010.14269
  4. For 'Bid farewell to your food coma! Standing after a meal would help return your blood sugar level to normal more quickly. Furthermore, you actually burn more calories standing compared to sitting.', include referece: Shmerling, R. H. (2016, September 23). The truth behind standing desks. Harvard Health. Retrieved June 2021  from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-truth-behind-standing-desks-2016092310264. 
  5. American College of Sports Medicine. (2016). ACSM Information On… Reducing Sedentary Behaviors: Sit Less and Move More. Retrieved June 2021 from https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/reducing-sedentary-behaviors-sit-less-and-move-more.pdf?sfvrsn=4da95909_2