How to Sneak in Exercise at Your Desk for 9-5 Workers

Desk jobs have increased quite a bit over the years, and whether the job is remote or at another location there is still one prominent issue — not moving for hours in a day. We need to move to keep our bodies strong and loose, but we also need to be at our desk for our jobs. There is a way to exercise at your desk though. With targeted exercises, small gadgets, and stretches, you can keep your body limber and your mind happy at any desk job. Check out how to fit in exercise at your desk job down below.

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Why Is Exercise Important?

According to the CDC, “physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.” Not only does exercise strengthen bones and muscles, but it can help you manage your weight and help you complete daily activities. As you get older it becomes even more important to keep your muscles limber to stay moving, and it’s best to start when you are younger.

Physical activity also can improve brain health, reduce risk of disease, and improve your daily mood. You can get through a long workday just by doing some of these small exercises at your desk.

Easy Desk Exercises

Credit: Jason Strull

10. Oblique Twist

If you have a swivel chair, this exercise will be super useful. Start by sitting upright and have your feet hovering over the floor, and grab onto the edge of your desk. Then use your arms to swivel the chair back and forth 15 times. If you don’t have a swivel chair, just have your feet planted onto the floor and twist side to side with your arms free.

9. Desk Pushups

Before you attempt this exercise, make sure that your desk can support your body weight. Take a few steps away from your desk and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the desk. Lower yourself down like your doing a push up, making sure that your core is tight. Then push back up and you’ve completed one push up. Try to do twenty reps for this exercise.

8. Desk Planks

Similar to the desk pushups, take a few steps back and put your arms on the desk. You’re going to want to hold this position for as long as possible, and complete a couple reps of this to get a thorough workout. You can even do normal planks if you have a free minute to spare.

7. Seated Leg Extensions

While sitting in your chair, make sure your thighs are parallel to the ground. Keep your arms to your sides and back straight as you slowly extend your right leg. Make sure to keep your foot flexed and not to lock your knee. Raise your leg as high as you can and then return to the starting position. Switch legs and repeat on the left, and try to complete ten reps on each side.

6. Calf Raises

This exercise is best completed when you are standing, so you can either do this while working at a standing desk or taking a few minutes to stand behind your chair and hold on for support. With feet solid on the ground, lift your heels off the floor until you are standing on your toes. Lower yourself back down and repeat the motion for three sets of ten.

5. Chair Squats

I love doing squats normally in a workout, and integrating them into a exercise at your desk routine is even better. These are super quick and can be completed between meetings or just to take a break from typing. All you need to do is stand up and lower your body back down slowly, stopping before your butt hits the chair. Make sure to keep your weight in your heels, and then stand back up again. You can repeat this motion for ten total reps.

CHECK OUT: 7 Best Pull Exercises with Dumbbells

4. Tricep Dips

This exercise can be a little more challenging, and should only be completed with a stationary chair. Scoot to the front of the chair with your palms flat on the chair facing forward. Bend your elbows as you lower yourself down several inches off the chair, making sure to keep your back as close to the chair as possible. Straighten your arms to get back to the starting position, and complete a total of twenty dips.

3. Pistol Squats

This is a fun variation of the regular squat but can be more difficult, so just be aware of your limits. Start in a sitting position with one foot flat on the floor and the other leg extended straight out. Then stand up on the foot that’s pressed onto the floor and keep that opposite leg extended. Lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat at least five times on each side.

2. Lunges

This exercise will be completed away from the chair in an open space next to your desk. Start standing up and step forward with your right leg, bending at the knee until it becomes a ninety degree angle. You can place your hands on your bent leg for balance. Your left leg should be nearly touching the ground at the full extent of the movement. Once you are there, slowly bring yourself back up to the starting position and do the same with your left leg stepping forward. Repeat this for a total of 10 reps on each leg.

1. Seated Bicycle Crunches

These are a fun variation of the traditional bicycle crunches that you would complete on the floor. Start sitting in your chair with both feet flat on the floor. Place both hands behind your head and lift one knee towards the opposite elbow, making sure to twist your body so they nearly touch. Then return both leg and arm to the starting position and switch to the other side. Complete fifteen twists for each side, for a total of thirty.

Great Desk Gadgets for Exercise

5. Under Desk Elliptical

If you enjoy using an elliptical, try getting the Stamina Inmotion Compact Strider for under your desk. With a weight limit of 250 lbs, you can use this elliptical sitting or standing. Its compact design makes it easier to move around, and since it is app-compatible, you can see exactly how many calories you are burning. This specific elliptical has 4.4 stars and 14,128 ratings, and costs $110.

4. Under Desk Exercise Bike

exercise at your desk

Similar to the elliptical, the under desk exercise bike is also a great choice to get those legs moving while still working at a desk. We recommend the Himaly Mini Exercise Bike to best suit your exercise needs. You can do arm or leg exercise with this machine, it is lightweight and portable, and has an LCD display that shows time, calories, and distance for each workout you complete. For just $49, it’s no wonder this bike has 4.1 stars and 12,300 ratings.

3. Standing Desk

The best way to get the blood moving is by standing while working, and this also helps your blood flow. Purchasing a standing desk or standing attachment may be a great idea so you can switch between sitting and standing during the day. I bought myself a standing attachment a couple weeks ago, and love the ability to stand or sit as I please while working. In terms of a full-on standing desk, we recommend the Claiks Electric Standing Desk. Labeled as Amazon’s Choice, this 4.5 star desk can go from 28.3″ tall to 46.5″ and is made from industrial-grade steel, making a sturdy choice for your next desk.

ALSO READ: 5 Best Under-the-Desk Treadmills in 2023

2. Chair Balance Disk

If you want to strengthen your core while still sitting in your office chair, try getting a chair balance disk. Basically half a yoga ball, when you sit on the inflated surface you have to engage your core in order to stay balanced on the disk. This is a great way to be mindful of your posture without too much distraction. Our choice for the balance disk is the Gaiam Balance Disc that fits perfectly in your desk chair. It costs $22, and has 4.1 stars and 13,541 ratings.

1. Under Desk Treadmill

Probably the most common desk exercise equipment is the under desk treadmill. There has been a huge trend of using these in order to stay fit while working, and strutting to all the current pop hits. These can be a little more expensive than the other exercise options, but if you’re dedicated to staying active while working, this might be the best option. One of the best treadmills on Amazon is the Sperax Treadmill-Walking Pad, which has 4.6 stars and 10,874 ratings. The treadmill itself costs $500, but is on sale currently for $299.99.

Simple Desk Stretches

exercise at your desk
Credit: Dane Wetton

In addition to workouts, you should also try to add in some stretches during the day to keep those muscles loose.

5. Neck Rolls

This is one of my favorite stretches to do in the morning, as it gets my neck loose for the day and wakes me up at the same time. The best way to do this stretch is to relax and lean your head forward. Slowly roll your head around in a circle on one side for ten seconds, and then repeat in the other side. Do this three times in each direction.

4. Shoulder Stretch

Shoulders are one of the most common muscle groups to get tight while at an office job, or just whenever you are stressed. Try keeping those muscles a little looser with the shoulder stretch. All you need to do is clasp your hands together above your head with palms towards the ceiling. Push your arms upwards, feeling the stretch, and hold for two to three deep breaths.

3. Torso Twist

Get the whole torso moving with this sitting version of the trunk twist. Place your feet firmly on the floor and put one hand on the back of your chair. As you exhale, twist the upper body towards the arm on the chair back, using the other hand to press against your leg for leverage. Hold this position for two to three deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

2. Hamstring Stretch

You can do this stretch either standing or sitting. If you’re doing the sitting version, start with both feet on the ground and extend one leg forward. Then reach towards your toes and you should feel a pull in your hamstring. Hold this position for two to three deep breaths and then repeat on the other leg. I especially enjoy this stretch as my hamstrings can get quite tight throughout the day.

1. Wrist and Fingers Stretch (Exercise at Your Desk)

Hand and wrist stretches are the most important for desk jobs, as we are constantly typing and doing little movements with our fingers and wrists. Start this stretch by standing at your desk with palms face down on the table, fingertips facing your body. To intensify the stretch, lean forward and hold the stretch until you feel the tension release.

Does exercising at your desk work?

Spending just five to ten minutes exercising at your desk can stimulate some blood flow in order to get through the midday slump, and power into the rest of your day.

Are under desk exercisers worth it?

Exercise at your desk is important, and though desk exercisers can help they cannot replace actually going to the gym. Under desk exercisers can keep bigger muscle groups moving throughout the day, and lessen the stiffness you might have. You can also burn some calories by moving your legs, but some people may find this difficult to focus on pedaling as well as their work on the screen.

Why is it important to exercise at your desk?

There are many benefits to exercising at your desk, including feeling more relaxed, boosting motivation, building strength, and reducing stress. Our bodies were built to move, so it only makes sense that exercising will bring energy and positive endorphins.

Just because you are working at a desk all day does not mean you can’t work out at the same time. Try some of these exercises or treat yourself to a desk workout machine to keep that blood flowing and your joints loose.