Have a Heart: Sneak in a Workplace Workout at Your Desk

The phrase, “workplace workout” should become part of your daily office routine from now on. February is National Heart Month and, considering how many hours some people spend sitting at their desks for work, it’s time to stop taking the health of our hearts for granted. Many Americans put in six to eight hours a day behind a keyboard … sit again for an hour or more in the twice-daily commute to and from home … and then crash after dinner in front of the TV until bedtime.

Without some kind of a workplace workout, too much sitting increases the risk for obesity and the subsequent back pain, poor posture, leg cramps, sore necks and tension headaches. While more companies today are trying to get their employees up and about, with incentivized wellness programs and the like, the fact remains that a majority of workers don’t get nearly enough exercise.

Luckily, even if you have a job that keeps you at your desk all day every day, there are exercises you can do in your chair, cubicle, office or even in the stairwell that will give you an effective workplace workout and have a big impact on your health. Here are some of the best:


  1. Starting Off Right

If you don’t do any other exercise during the day, make sure you start your morning off with these stretching exercises to get your energy kick-started. Repeat them throughout the day whenever you feel the need.

To begin with, stretch from head to toe, beginning with the neck.

  • Slowly tilt head toward shoulder
  • Hold for 10 seconds
  • Alternate sides

Next, loosen up your shoulders.

  • Roll both shoulders forward in a circular motion
  • Roll both shoulders backward in a circular motion
  • Repeat 10 times

Spend a lot of time typing every day? Then you absolutely cannot skip this wrist exercise.

  • Stretch arm out with palm down
  • With other hand, pull fingers down
  • Hold for three seconds
  • Then pull up on fingers
  • Hold for three seconds
  • Repeat, alternating three times

Relieve leg fatigue with these ankle and calf stretches.

  • Hold one foot off the floor with your leg straight
  • Flex your ankle while pointing your toes up
  • Extend your ankle while pointing your toes down
  • Do 10times and repeat with other leg
  • Next, draw a circle with your toes, moving one foot clockwise and then counterclockwise
  • Change feet
  1. Thunder from Down Under

No, not the latest band from Australia, but leg and ab exercises you do under the table away from prying eyes. A fun game to play by yourself is doing a few sets of these during a meeting without anyone noticing. Hey … whatever it takes to make meetings fun, right?

  • Start with feet flat on floor
  • Sit tall at your desk
  • Hold your abdominal muscles tight
  • Extend one leg out and up until it is level with your hip
  • Hold for 10 seconds
  • Slowly lower leg
  • Repeat 15 times
  • Change legs
  1. Office Aerobics

Forget about your workplace workout for just one minute. Sometimes you just need to find reasons to get up and away from your desk. Not only will these tips get you up and around, but you’ll be seen around the office and the exposure never hurts.

  • To keep your projects (and your body) moving, visit colleagues rather than e-mailing them when it pertains to something that can be answered easily. Obviously, this can’t be used in every business situation (especially when you need to have a paper trail … just in case), but those eight emails you and your co-worker exchange about where to go to lunch can be done in 30 seconds or less face-to-face.
  • Drink a lot of water. While there might be discussion about exactly how much water a person should drink every day, the act of drinking water over sodas, energy drinks and even fruit juices is not in question. Another benefit of consuming more water is more trips to the bathroom, which gets you up and away from your desk. If possible, find a bathroom that is farther away from your desk to give yourself a few more steps to increase your aerobic workplace workout.
  • Increase your walking pace without running. It gets your heart beating faster and makes it look like you have somewhere important to be. 
  • Skip the elevator whenever possible and take the stairs. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you’ll start to have and how soon you’ll stop panting when going up two or more flights. For an even better workplace workout, take the steps two at a time.
  1. Speaking of Drinking More Water …

To be environmentally sound, you should be drinking your daily water supply from a reusable container like a cup or mug and not from a plastic bottle. However, having a full liter bottle of water at your desk gives you an impromptu hand weight to do the following workplace workout. Begin with bicep curls to tone and strengthen your arms.

  • Sit tall with abs pulled in
  • Hold water bottle in right hand and curl it up toward your shoulder
  • Repeat 15 times
  • Change arms

Next, move on to front arm raises and overhead presses.

  • Hold water bottle in right hand
  • Bend elbow
  • Extend arm overhead
  • Repeat other side

Finally, work on your abs and your waistline.

  • Hold water bottle at chest level
  • Twist to the right as far as you can
  • Then twist back to center
  • And then twist to the left
  • Repeat 10 times
  1. Give It a Squeeze

Isometric exercises are fantastic ones to do while working because there is little to no movement of your joints.

Hand squeezes provide relief if your digits are getting sore from spending a lot of time on your computer. You can do these with or without a stress ball.

  • Make a fist
  • Squeeze
  • Hold and release
  • Stretch fingers
  • Repeat ten times

Strengthen your calves and ankles while you read, listen to a Web cast or talk on the phone.

  • Stand and hold onto your chair
  • Rest your left foot on the back of your right calf
  • Raise up on your toes
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds
  • Repeat three times
  • Change legs

There are dozens more examples of workplace exercise you can do around the office to keep your joints and muscles limber, your mind fresher and your disposition sunnier. And, just because February is when we recognize heart health, it is something to concentrate on the other eleven months of the year as well.


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