6 Desk Exercises You Can Easily Do At Work

Pain Management

Whether you’ve now returned to the office, are working hybrid or have adapted to full-time work from home, you’ll likely be aware that the majority of the working day is spent sat down. In fact, the average Brit spends upwards of 67 hours a week sat down [1]!

Assuming you get a full 8 hours of sleep each night, a third more of your time is spent sat down than asleep so, as you can imagine, amassing that many ‘seated hours’ can gradually lead to poor posture and a plethora of knock-on back and neck problems. 

First and foremost, you should register for an ergonomic workstation assessment, which can be booked easily with West 1. How our working environment is set up plays a massive part in our physical health - and even more so when we’re sitting for such long periods. In fact, ergonomics are so imperative that workstation assessments and solutions are now a Health and Safety requirement for all employers in the UK. 

The ‘simple solution’ and one that if often recommended, is to get up as frequently as possible during the day to stretch your legs, reset and break up the time sat still. But for some, that’s easier said than done.

Getting circa 10,000 steps in during the work day can be hard unless you make frequent trips to make a cup of tea, and subsequently a lot of trips to the loo. Meetings and a busy work schedule often consume the day, leaving you largely sedentary and often pressed for time to squeeze in a workout or some kind of physical movement before you finally clock off. 

So, to help combat inactivity, we’ve pulled together some simple exercises you can do over the course of the day to help keep fit and improve mobility without having to leave your desk! 

Desk Exercises For Upper Body & Core:

Tricep Dips | x 20

  1. If your desk chair has arms, bring your hips forward to the edge of the seat and grip the arms either side. 
  2. Move your feet out in front of you so your knees form a right angle, allowing enough room to lower your upper body to perform the movement.
  3. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your torso toward the ground to perform the tricep dip. Remember to keep your core engaged and your back straight at you do this.
  4. Lower yourself until your bottom is a couple of inches from the ground and your elbows have formed a right angle. Be sure to tuck the elbows towards your shoulder blades to prevent excess strain on your joints.
  5. Once you’ve reached this position, push yourself back up until the arms are fully extended as they were in step one. Repeat this 20 times.

Note: If your chair does not have armrests, you can also do this exercise on the edge of a sofa, sturdy coffee table or any surface that will allow you to firmly plant your hands and feet to create a right angle and dip as above.

L-Sits | x 5 for 10-15 seconds each

  1. As with the previous exercise, grip the arms of your chair but sit back in the seat with your back straight and elbows bent / relaxed.
  2. To perform the L-Sit, push up so your arms are extended and your torso is elevated above the seat, before extending the legs out at a right angle in front of you.
  3. This exercise is somewhat advanced and will be dependent on your core strength. If full extension of the legs is too challenging, you can instead raise the legs at a right angle with your feet facing the ground.
  4. Once elevated, aim to hold the position for 10-15 seconds before lowering your body back down to the seat.
  5. Aim to repeat this 5 times, resting for 1 minute in between sets.

Note: As before, you can use other furniture to do this exercise, just ensure there’s room for you to elevate your legs above the ground and that the furniture is sturdy enough to support you / won’t topple!

Desk Push Ups | x 20

  1. Take a few steps back from your desk and place your hands on the edge of your desk, shoulder-width apart. The body should form about a 45° angle from the desk to the floor.
  2. As you would with an ordinary push up, lower your chest towards the desk, angling your elbows back towards your shoulder blades rather than outwards to the side. This will ensure the weight is distributed through your scapula than putting too much strain on your shoulders. 
  3. Bring the chest as close as you can to the desk before extending the arms and pushing back up. Be sure to straighten the arms but not to hyperextend or lock the arms out.

Note: To make this more challenging, move the feet further away from the desk or use a surface that is lower to the ground. If you don’t have a sturdy enough desk, you can also use a windowsill. 

Desk Exercises For Lower Body:

Pistol Squats | x 5 (each side)

  1. Sit back in your chair and raise one leg off the ground and extend it straight out in front of you.
  2. Without using your hands as leverage or to support your weight, simply stand up on the one leg that is planted on the ground.
  3. Once stood, keep the raised leg elevated and then slowly return to a seated position before switching legs and repeating.

Calf Raises | x 20

You can do this one stood behind your desk chair or as you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. 

  1. Place your hands on the back of your chair or flat on a counter top. Hands should only be used to help balance, not for any weight to go through.
  2. Once balanced, slowly raise your heels and go up on to your tip toes.
  3. Hold for a second or two before slowly lowering back down.
  4. Repeat this 20 times (or for as long as it takes for that kettle to boil)

Tempo Squats | 3-2-1 (3 seconds down, 2 second pause, 1 second up) 

  1. First and foremost, make sure your chair doesn’t roll - if it has wheels, make sure these are locked or held in place. 
  2. Stand in front of your chair with your feet hip-width apart, with your spine straight, slowly bend your knees and sink your hips back towards the ground into a squat, counting to three.
  3. On three, lightly tap the chair with your bottom and hold the position for two seconds.
  4. Then drive the hips back up into a standing position for one second before repeating.

We know that sometimes a busy schedule can get in the way of making it to a gym or that spin class you signed up for but taking just a few minutes each day to complete desk exercises is better than nothing, and will make all the difference. And don’t forget, you can always add things like ankle weights - which can be worn quite subtly under a pair of trousers or a long dress - to make the exercises more of a challenge and get an extra burn!

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