How to Stay Active When You Work a Desk Job

Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day is not good for your body, mind or soul.

We all need some regular exercise – but it’s not always easy to achieve when your job requires you to park on your butt for most of the day.

Research suggests that a sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact bone health and contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

“The health benefits of exercise have been proven to increase longevity and quality of life,” says Amy Quirion, a certified personal trainer in Boulder, Colorado. “Daily exercise gives people more energy and helps control stress and weight.”

But when you’re stuck behind a desk all day, how do you make sure you’re getting enough activity?

Here are some tips for staying active while you’re at a desk job.

When you work from home, you can workout whenever you want.

Staying active when you work in an office is a bit tricky.

Chances are, your office dress code doesn’t include compression shorts and sneakers, and your boss probably won’t be cool with doing a set of burpees mid-meeting.

But there are a few ways to take movement breaks throughout the day without getting weird looks from your co-workers.

Ideally, you should aim to do this once an hour, even for a few minutes. Here are a few ways to increase your activity level when you’re sedentary.

walking break

Woman changing from high heels to sneakers

Wear comfortable shoes — or stash a pair of sneakers at your desk — and take a brisk walk around the building whenever you have a few minutes of downtime.

(You can also squeeze in extra steps throughout the day by parking in remote locations, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and asking your colleagues questions face-to-face instead of emailing them.)

Doorway Chest Stretch

Sitting at a desk for too long can affect your posture, but this stretch can help you slouch less.

Standing in a doorway, bring your right arm up to shoulder height and place your palm on the door frame with a 90-degree bend in your elbow and the inside of your forearm.

Gently lean into the stretch, opening your chest, holding it for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat with your left hand.

Lunch hour mini-workout

Devin Wiggins instructs the 600 Second Workout

You don’t have to spend your entire lunch hour — you can get an intense cardio workout in just 10 minutes and still have plenty of time to eat your lunch and decompress.

Don’t believe us?

Check out trainer Devin Wiggins’ 600 Seconds program, a series of 10-minute workouts that span multiple muscle groups and disciplines.

Stability ball chair

Woman sitting on stability ball chair at desk

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of a standing desk, but if that’s not an option for you, swap your chair for a stability ball.

Sitting on a stability ball can improve your core strength and prevent you from slouching, so you’re improving your overall fitness level even though you’re sitting still.

Wall Angels

Think snow angel, but against the wall. Stand against a wall away from it, making sure the back of your head and shoulders and the small of your back are touching the wall.

Now bring your arms up against the wall into a “round post position” (elbows bent 90 degrees, upper arms parallel to the floor).

This position begins.

Without losing contact with the wall, raise your arms above your head in a “Y” position.

Pause, and then return to the starting position. Your chest should feel a slight stretch. Repeat for 30 to 40 seconds.

Squats

How to find out your fitness level - squat

Squats are an easy move to do anywhere—like while you’re waiting for the copier or coffeemaker to do its job (or at your desk with your office shades painted).

To perform a proper squat, stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.

Engage your core, and then straighten your arms in front of your chest as you push your hips back and bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Pause, and then return to the starting position.

Do up to 50, split into 10-rep sets with a minute of rest between them.

Reverse Lunges

Woman walking home

You can pull off these lunges quite vaguely behind your desk: Standing with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips, step back with your right leg, lowering your body until both knees are bent at about 90 degrees.

Pause, and bring your right leg forward to return to standing position. Repeat equally on both legs.

Three sets of 10 repetitions (5 per leg) is a good place to start.

high knees

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, your hands in front of your chest with your elbows bent and your palms facing forward.

Raise your right knee to waist height and tap with your right palm.

Return to a standing position and repeat, this time raising your left knee and tapping it with your left palm.

Continue alternating sides. Do three sets of 20 repetitions (10 per side).

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