Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

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Are you stuck behind a computer most of the day? Research shows that sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. What’s even scarier is that even if you exercise regularly, a desk job minimizes the health benefits of your workouts.

Break Up Sitting Time

Here are five things you can do to get moving while working at your desk:

  1. Try standing when you are on the phone.
  2. Set a timer to get out of your chair every hour for a quick stretch or a walk across the office.
  3. Instead of emailing someone down the hall, walk over and speak to them.
  4. Meeting with just one or two people? Make it a walking meeting. Not only will this add some physical activity to your day, research shows it will also increase your focus, creativity and productivity.
  5. You can also modify your workspace. Standing desks and treadmill desks have been shown to improve health as well as productivity. Get instructions here.

Exercise on Your Break

Here are eight simple exercises you can do at your desk or workstation to improve muscle strength and increase your metabolism. Start out with one set of 10 repetitions if you are new to exercising. More experienced individuals can do three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise.

As a reminder, always consult your physician before starting any new exercise program.

Warm Up

Always start any workout with a warm-up to get your blood flowing and to prevent injury. Try jogging in place for a few minutes.

1. Quad Extensions

Sit tall in your chair and lift your foot to extend your leg. Hold for a second or two in the extension, then lower your leg back to the starting position. You can either do all the repetitions on one leg before moving on to the other leg, or you can alternate legs. Hold the last extension on each leg for 15 to 30 seconds for more of a challenge.

2. Calf Raises

Calf Raises
Stand with your feet hip width apart and your toes pointing forward. Keep your toes firmly planted and lift your heels off the floor as high as you can. Hold for a second or two and then lower the heels back to the floor.

3. Knee Pull-Ins

Sit tall in a chair and grasp the seat or handles of the chair with both hands for balance. Engage your abdominal muscles to protect your back and then extend both legs in front of you. Keep your feet together and bring both knees in toward your body, and make sure to keep your ab muscles engaged. For best results, try to avoid resting your back against the chair during the exercise.

4. Side Leg Lifts

Side Leg Lifts

Hold a chair, doorjamb or other steady object. With the weight on one leg, lift the other leg out to the side keeping it in line with the body. Keep your toes pointed forward and your torso upright. Repeat on each side.

5. Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly outward. With the weight on your heels, bend at the knees and hips as though you were going to sit on a chair. Keep your knees in line with your feet and over your ankles. Hold for a second or two then return to the starting position, tightening the muscles in your behind at the top of the exercise when the legs are completely straight.

6. Push-Ups

This variation is great for working out at the office, but make sure your desk is sturdy enough to hold your weight and stationary. Grasp the edge of your desk with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Walk your feet back so that your body forms a straight line from your feet to your shoulders with your arms fully extended. Keeping your abs tightened and your body in a straight line, bend your elbows to lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle then push back up to return to the starting position. Avoid sagging hips or an arched back.

7. Hamstring Curls

Hamstring Curls

While holding a chair for balance, stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes pointing forward. Engage your abdominal muscles as you transfer the weight to one leg and bend the knee to lift the heel of the other leg. To make this exercise more challenging, hold the last repetition on each leg for 10 to 30 seconds.

8. Desk Dips

Desk Dips
Stand with your back to your desk and grasp the edge with both hands slightly wider than your shoulders. You can also use a stable chair to perform this exercise.

Walk your feet forward a few steps and hold this position with the weight on your hands and heels. Keeping the weight on your heels, slowly lower your body by bending at the elbows. The elbows should point behind you, not out to the sides. Press into your hands to return to the starting position. The version shown in these photos is a beginner version. The farther out the feet are and the straighter you keep your body, the greater the intensity will be.

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