Desk Exercises at Work: Staying Fit While Beating Deadlines

Jay Pagkatotohan

Jay Pagkatotohan

Last updated January 26, 2023

According to a survey by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), around 27 million Filipinos are overweight and obese. Among the likely culprits behind this huge number are poor lifestyle choices, from unhealthy food to a lack of physical activity.

Obesity comes with various health complications, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, among others. Knowing this, it’s only right to start building healthy habits. After all, maintaining good health can prevent you from touching your piggy bank due to unexpected medical expenses.

If you’ve already started making wise food choices, complement them with exercises. Yes, having a hectic schedule at work sometimes gets in the way. But all you need is a little bit of creativity to get your heart pumping and your body sweating. Here are some desk exercises at work to try.

Desk Exercises at Work

Tied to your office desk? These desk exercises at work are simple and easy to do. They’re all applicable to both office workers and work-from-home employees.

💪 Work Standing Up

desk exercises at work - work standing up

Many of us spend almost the whole day just sitting in front of our computers at work, which contributes to our expanding waistlines. Take your laptop, prop it up on top of a tall table, and try working while standing up for 30 minutes. If you have a budget, get a height-adjustable standing desk, so you can work standing up whenever you feel like it.

Some say working while standing up helps them be more productive so that’s an added benefit. Instead of being stationary, try the following standing desk exercises at work:

  • Do some side lunges while reading reports.
  • March in place while checking your spreadsheets.
  • If you don’t want to disturb your co-workers, do some gluteal squeezes. Just contract your butt muscles for a few seconds, relax, and then contract them again.

💪 Work Out Your Arms

There are two ways to get a quick arm workout. First, use small dumbbells. If it’s not possible to bring them to the office, a full two-liter soda bottle or water jug will do. Do some overhead presses, biceps curls, or hammer curls.

You can also use resistance bands. Your muscles can grow if they’re conditioned to resist certain forces.

💪 Desk Push-ups

easy desk exercises - desk push ups

One of the classic desk exercises at work, desk push-ups increase your upper body strength and improve your posture. Before you get down to business, make sure that your desk is positioned against the wall or can actually bear your weight. Then, do the usual moves. Challenge yourself by placing your chest as close to the desk as possible. Repeat for at least 10 to 15 reps.

💪 Oblique Twists

Oblique twists, one of the best exercises while sitting at a desk, can help strengthen your oblique muscles, core, and even spine. They’re usually a floor-based routine, but since you’re in the office, you can turn them into desk exercises at work.

Use your swivel chair to facilitate the twisting movements. Spin yourself toward both sides while holding onto your desk. This office exercise while sitting will work if you move your core properly.

💪 Triceps Dips

desk exercises at work - triceps dips

Triceps dips are designed to strengthen your arms, shoulders, and chest. They make great desk exercises at work because all they require is a chair.

Get an ordinary chair. Make sure it’s not wheeled and can actually bear your weight. Then place yourself in front of it. Put your palms on the seat, lower yourself down to the ground, and get back up. Repeat these movements at least 10 to 15 times.

💪 Calf Raises

Don’t overlook your calves, as they’re important for other forms of workouts, such as running[2] and jumping rope. If you want to strengthen these parts of your body, try doing calf raises.

Calf raises are among the simplest standing desk exercises at work. All you need is your chair or your standing desk. Stand up behind your chosen piece of office furniture. Hold on to them for support while you raise your heels until you find yourself standing on your toes. Lower yourself back to the floor and repeat the process.

💪 Planks

Break away from your screen for a while and do a one-minute plank. This workout will strengthen your core, which in turn will help you do more physically demanding exercises. Not sure if you’re doing planks correctly? Here's what you need to look at:

  • Your wrists should be aligned with your shoulders
  • Your face should be looking down at the floor.
  • Your back should be straight, not arched.
  • Your hips shouldn’t be sinking.

Read more: Get Out, Work Out: Find the Cheapest Gym Memberships in the Philippines

💪 Burpees

Burpees can give you a total body workout without the need for any equipment. You don’t even need shoes! Get on the floor in a raised push-up position then hop your knees up to your chest position without lifting your hands from the floor. Then stand up and jump while raising your hands. Reverse the steps when you land until you get back to the raised push-up position.

If you find the entire routine rather challenging, you’re free to skip some steps, such as the push-up or the jump. Only add these steps when your body is already comfortable with the streamlined routine.

💪 Jumping Jacks

Remember when you did jumping jacks as a kid? Try them again and get a good cardio exercise in as short as five minutes. You can even do it while listening to your coworker’s presentation—it’s one of the most accessible desk exercises at work.

While jumping jacks are relatively easy to do, you can still do a few things to optimize your session:

  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Make sure that the surface you’re jumping on is smooth and even.
  • Maintain a manageable speed or pace. Only increase it when your body is already well-adjusted.

💪 Jumping Rope

While one of the easiest standing desk exercises at work, jumping rope can actually give you a full-body workout. It strengthens various muscles in your body and aids in increasing bone density.[3] 

Borrow your kid’s jumping rope and have fun jumping while counting or singing ABCs. If you’re looking for some challenge, get yourself a weighted rope. In case you have a small workout area, use a cordless jump rope.

Avoiding Injuries While Doing Desk Exercises at Work

desk exercises at work - avoiding injuries

Whether you’re trying out an easy office stretching exercise or a relaxed office exercise while sitting, you need to be careful to keep injuries at bay. Take note of these handy tips:

  • Prepare your body by warming up. Otherwise, you may experience muscle or tendon injuries during your routine.
  • Practice proper form to maintain balance and avoid muscular pains. Moreover, a good form will efficiently and effectively target the right muscles.
  • Wear a good pair of shoes, especially when doing high-impact workouts in the office. This will help you avoid foot injuries. Use an exercise mat for an extra layer of safety.
  • Avoid overexertion. While some desk exercises at work are fairly simple, they can cause strains and injuries if you go beyond what is recommended. If you start feeling pain or discomfort, stop at once and cool down.
  • Take a break. Give your body some time to recover. You may even pamper yourself when you’re not working out.

Final Thoughts

Working out while working? That sounds challenging at first, but it’s actually possible.

Throughout your day, there are intervals during which you can squeeze in some desk exercises at work. You just have to be committed and serious about your health. After all, your physical health affects your mental health,[4] which in turn can affect your work performance.

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Jay is a marketing communications professional who specializes in short-form and long-form content. He has written ads for TV, radio, print, and digital. He has also produced corporate blogs, magazine features, white papers, product listings, reviews, and press releases for clients here and abroad. When he’s not writing, Jay plays the piano or takes pictures for his visual diary. Follow Jay on LinkedIn.


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