Deskercise: The Best Ways to Workout at the Office


Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’re stuck at a desk all day. And you miss another workout because you’re on deadline and can’t get out of the office. This isn’t good because you also know lack of exercise and sitting for long periods are bad for your health. But, do you know exactly how bad? And, what in the world can you do about it when you’re stuck behind your desk all day and can’t get away for a workout?

Is sitting really downright dangerous?

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes! Here’s why sitting for extended periods is so bad for your health. Studies show sitting can increase your risk factors for the following:

  1. General risk of a disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Heart attack and cardiovascular issues
  4. Metabolic syndrome
  5. Obesity
  6. High cholesterol
  7. High blood sugar
  8. High blood pressure

It sounds like you may need to deskercise…

Deskercise: How to Get in Exercise While at Work?

But what can you do? You like your job. You need your job. And it’s a desk job where at times it feels like you’re almost molded to your chair, and your cheeks start to go a little numb.

Plus, it’s been established that sitting is bad for your health in a variety of ways. So now what? Is it possible to get exercise during the day to reduce your risk factors even if you work a desk job?

We’re so glad you asked. Because the answer is yes: you absolutely can!

Welcome to the world of deskercise: the exercises and stretches you can easily do throughout your day while on the job. Even while seated discreetly at your desk, in your office environment. Here are a few suggestions:

Workout at the office

Covert Deskercise Activities

Butt squeeze (yes, that’s the “official” name)—while seated in your chair, sit up strait, and squeeze your buttock muscles for a count of five and release. To ramp up this deskercise, place a stress ball between your knees (discreetly under your desk, of course), and hold by squeezing your knees together simultaneously with your butt squeezed tightly. Go ahead and give it a try. No one’s watching.

Neck and shoulders—bring your shoulders up toward your ears and squeeze for a count of five. Then squeeze your shoulders down and draw your shoulder blades together for another count of five. Release and enjoy the feeling of pent up stress held in your neck and shoulders leaving your body. You can also take a moment to roll your shoulders in gentle circles (say, five in each direction) for an added stretch.

Abdominals—while sitting in your chair, gently and calmly blow out your breath (remember, you’re being discreet) while contracting your abdominal muscles. Hold for a count of five. To intensify this exercise, you can lift one leg off the floor at a time and suspend it for a count of five while contracting your abdominal muscles. Or, if you’re advanced, try holding the armrests of your chair and lifting both legs off the ground for a count of five.

Office-Worthy Deskercises (that aren’t so discreet)

Triceps dip—using the edge of your desk or a bench or couch in the breakroom (just not on a rolling office chair, please), sit on your chosen surface and place your hands on the edge, palms down with your fingers wrapped around the front edge. Slide your torso forward so you’re supporting your body weight with just your arms. Now, bend your elbows and lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Using your triceps, bring your body back up to starting position. To make the deskercise easier, keep your knees bent. If you want a bit more of a challenge, you can straighten your legs. Repeat for 10 – 15 repetitions.

Body Squats—these can easily be done anywhere in the office. Begin by standing up strait with your arms straight in front of you. Slowly, and in control, bend your knees as you lower your rear end back and toward the ground until your thighs are about parallel with the ground.

Lunges—here’s a great idea for the stairs or any open area at work. Start by standing. Step your right leg out about three feet in front of you with your foot and knee facing forward—either onto a step or just on the flat ground in front of you. With your hands on your hips, slowly bend your knees, lifting the heel of your back foot as you lower your body. Lower until the thigh on the leg of your forward foot is parallel with the ground with your knee at a 90-degree angle. Hold for one second and push off from your front foot, returning it so it’s next to your other foot as you return to the standing position. From there, step forward with the opposite leg and repeat. If your steps are wide and deep enough, you can also lunge up an entire flight, alternating legs.

Biceps—yes, you can curl anything with a little bit of heft, like a bottle of water or even a stapler. Or, keep a small dumbbell at your desk. When you have a few minutes, or while you’re on the phone, hold the dumbbell in one hand with your arm straight down, palms forward. Slowly bend at your elbow while keeping your wrist straight and lift the weight until it touches your biceps. Hold for a count of two, and lower in a controlled manner back to the starting point. Repeat 12 – 15 times for each arm.

Deskercise Exercises

More Work-able Exercises

Metabolic Age Quiz

Now, if you have some space and you can bring your sneakers to work (or wear some comfortable shoes) and can escape your desk for a few, you can try some of the following deskercises to get in a little extra calorie burning:

  • Jog in place
  • Walk laps around the building
  • Body squats
  • Jumping jacks

Practical Tips for Extra Calorie Burning at the Office

Lastly, here are some practical tips you can use to burn extra calories and stay fit while at work with deskercise:

  • Get a standing or walking desk if at all possible
  • Take a break every hour. This also helps mental focus and will allow you to clear your head and get back to work feeling reenergized. (Plus, you’ll be walking around!)
  • Park far away
  • Take the stairs
  • Be inefficient: for example, print one page at a time and get up from your desk to retrieve each piece of paper from the printer across the room or take the scenic route around the office

Fitness Apps for the Office

Yes, there is an app for everything (including deskercise). You can even find apps to help you remember to get up from your desk and take a break, such as StretchClock, Office Exercise & Stretch, and Activity Reminders, most of which are free to a minimal monthly investment. Or, if you’re on the unpaid version of Pandora, you can always just get up and move or stretch every time the music stops and the alert shows up saying, “Are you still listening?”

It’s Time to Deskercise

Every little bit counts. By incorporating just a few of these simple deskercises into your workday, you can boost your health, trim your waist, and get back to work with a clear head—improving your productivity for you and your boss. So, get your blood flowing, burn off a few calories, and get back to the task at hand feeling reenergized and refreshed.