What kind of exercises could I do while at my desk?

Mr. Donovan Green
Athletic Training
Isometric exercises and stretching exercises are great ways to stay active while you are seated at a desk all day. In this video, fitness specialist Donovan Green explains why there are no excuses for staying sedentary, even if you sit all day.

There are some very simple exercises you can do while sitting at your desk which will improve your posture and strengthen your core and arm muscles, while increasing your flexibility and creating more comfort and mobility.

Pull in - Sit upright in your chair about arms distance from your desk. Take a deep breath in, and as you do pull your stomach muscles inward, drawing your belly in as if you are trying to touch your navel to your spine. While drawing your stomach muscles in, be careful not to hold your breath. On your out breath, slowly release your core, pushing your belly out as far as possible, just using your stomach muscles - do not arch your back.

Repeat this 10-12 times.

Pelvic tilt - Sit upright in your seat. Place your hands on your hips and cup the tops of your pelvic bones between your thumb and forefinger. Imagine your pelvis is a vessel filled with water. Sitting upright, keeping your torso stable, slowly tilt your pelvis forward without bending your torso. Imagine you are pouring water out the front of the water vessel. Slowly return your pelvis to center. Next slowly tilt your pelvis backward, still keeping your back and torso in the upright position - just tilting your pelvis. Again, return slowly to center.

Repeat this 10-12 times.

With these first two exercises it's important to do them very slowly, really engaging the muscles and making them work. If you do them quickly you'll finish faster, but you won't be giving your muscles the full benefit of the exercise.

Triceps - Using a stationary chair, sit upright and hold onto the edge of the chair with your hands. While holding onto the chair, step your feet forward and slide your buttocks off the chair, keeping your knees bent at a ninety degree angle as if you were still sitting. Slowly, with control, lower your hips toward the ground, bending your elbows as you lower yourself down. Before actually reaching the floor, push up with your hands and feet so that you bring your hips back up to chair level, straightening your elbows, repeat.

Repeat 10-12 times

Stretches for Your Wrists and Arms

Wrist Stretch: Extend arm in front, palm up and grab the fingers with other hand. Gently pull the fingers towards you to stretch the forearm, holding for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Wrist & Forearm: Press hands together in front of chest, elbows bent and parallel to the floor. Gently bend wrists to the right and left for 10 reps.

Lower Body Exercises

Hip Flexion: Sit tall with the abs in and lift the left foot off the floor a few inches, knee bent. Hold for 2 seconds, lower and repeat for 16 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Inner Thigh: Place towel, firm water bottle or an empty coffee cup between the knees as you sit up tall with the abs in. Squeeze the bottle or cup, release halfway and squeeze again, completing 16 reps of slow pulses.

Chair Exercises

Chair Squat: While sitting, lift up until your hips are just hovering over the chair, arms out for balance. Hold for 2-3 seconds, stand all the way up and repeat for 16 reps. 

Dips: Make sure chair is stable and place hands next to hips. Move hips in front of chair and bend the elbows, lowering the body until the elbows are at 90 degrees. Push back up and repeat for 16 reps.

Upper Body Exercises

Front Raise to Triceps Press: Sit tall with the abs in and hold a full water bottle in the left hand. Lift the bottle up to shoulder level, pause, and then continue lifting all the way up over the head. When the arm is next to the ear, bend the elbow, taking the water bottle behind you and contracting the triceps. Straighten the arm and lower down, repeating for 12 reps on each arm. 

Ab Exercises

Side Bends: Hold a water bottle with both hands and stretch it up over the head, arms straight. Gently bend towards the left as far as you can, contracting the abs. Come back to center and repeat to the right. Complete 10 reps (bending to the right and left is one rep).

Ab Twists: Hold the water bottle at chest level and, keeping the knees and hips forward, gently twist to the left as far as you comfortably can, feeling the abs contract. Twist back to center and move to the left for a total of 10 reps. Don't force it or you may end up with a back injury.

You may spend most of your day at a desk so it's nice to know there are exercise moves you can do while you're sitting there. Various stretching exercises are a wonderful way to keep you limber, especially since sitting in a chair all day can cause tension. Stretches for your fingers, hands, wrists and back can be especially helpful for people that are desk-bound. Keeping a pair of dumbbells in your desk drawer can be a handy way to get a little resistance training in. There are a number of lifting exercises such as biceps curls or triceps extensions that can be done while seated. Seated leg lifts, arm circles and shoulder rolls are other things you can do. Any extra movement will be to your benefit so get moving!

Here are a few unique exercises to do at your desk throughout the day to increase your activity levels. Depending on your workspace you may be able to implement all or only some of these but remember that every little bit counts.

Seated Exercises
Abdominal Draw-In:
Sit up tall with your back off your chair. Suck your belly-button in towards your spine about 1" and hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat for 20 reps. This exercise targets your lower abs.

Seated Marching:
Sit up tall in on the edge of your chair and lift up each foot from the floor as if you are marching in place.

Seated Isometric Bicep Curls:
Sit in your chair and place your forearms under your deck with elbows bent 90 degrees. Try and perform a bicep curl against the resistance of you desk. You arms won't move but puching against a solid object will get your muscles to work in what is termed an isometric contraction. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 15 times.

Standing Exercises
Chair Squats:
Stand with yor feet shouder width apart in front of your chair as if you are going to sit down in it. Bend you knees as and begin to sit down as if sitting into the chair. Right before you touch the seat, 1 - 2 inches above, stop and stand back up. Perform 15 reps.

Balance and Shift:
A great exercise to do when talking on the phone at your desk. Stand on one leg for 5 seconds and then shift all your weight to the other leg and balance for 5 seconds.

Swap your chair for a stability ball once a week, keep some resistance bands in your desk drawer and pull them out on your break/ work different body parts each day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.