Remember the days when “work” meant manual labor with a side of blood, sweat, and tears? Neither do we. These days it seems we’re more likely to log hour after idle hour with our bums glued to our seats. And while you may be an Excel champ by day and gym rat by night, recent research suggests that the recommended 30 minutes of cardio five times per week may not undo the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle .
So what’s a worker chained to his or her desk to do? Luckily short bouts of aerobics, strength exercises, and stretching in between conference calls and Gchats can help improve fitness levels and heart health . While these deskercises, or desk exercises for the cubicle-bound, won’t promise Olympic mile times or six-pack abs, they might just improve strength and burn a few extra calories to boot. So whether it’s Powerpoint, Photoshop, or emails on that to-do list, we’ve got 33 sneaky exercises for a healthier (and happier!) workday.
1. The Twinkle Toe
Tap into your inner Fred Astaire by speedily tapping those toes on the floor under your desk. Or graduate to a harder (and less inconspicuous) move: Stand in front of a small trashcan and lift up those legs to tap the toes on its edge, alternating feet, in soccer-drill fashion.
2. The Stair Master
Want to avoid elevator small talk in favor of elevating the heart rate? Take the stairs! Accelerate on the straight-aways and take two at a time every other flight for a real leg burn.
3. The Slog, Then Jog
Instead of slogging away for hours nonstop, take a mini break for a stationary jog. Pop up from your chair (admire the butt imprint left behind!) and jog in place. Willing to huff and puff a little more? Pick up those knees! Continue for one minute, return to spreadsheets, and repeat.
4. The Celebratory Split Squat Jumps
Win over a new client? Figure out how to un-jam the printer? Is it finally Friday?! Celebrate with the split squat jump. With feet hip-width apart, step the left leg back two feet and balance on the ball of the foot. Next, lower into a lunge, and then accelerate upwards in an explosion of celebration. While in the air, switch feet so that the left foot is planted firmly in front and the right leg is now behind. Repeat 10-12 times on each side.
5. The Cubicle Wanderer
Walking during work is totally underrated . Take a stroll down the hall to catch up with coworkers or welcome a new employee. Or, instead of dialing extensions and sending lazy emails to the manager two doors down, put in some face time. Just beware of tempting candy jars when making the rounds.
6. The Mover and Shaker
Release stress and spark some energy with a quick bout of seated dancing when no one is looking! Salsa anyone?
Legs and Butt
7. The Wall (Street) Sit
Wall sits are great for building strength and endurance. Standing with your back against the wall, bend the knees and slide your back down the wall until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Sit and holdfor 30-60 seconds (or up to 12 hours, the world record!), while browsing the Wall Street Journal (or Buzzfeed). For some extra burn, try crossing the right ankle over the left knee, hold for 15 seconds, then switch!
8. The Last Man Standing
Sure, standing around isn’t exactly traditional exercise, but research shows it’s got more than a leg up on sitting. After all, long periods of sitting are linked to increased risk for diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, whereas standing significantly increases your daily caloric expenditure . Stand whenever you can, and consider roping in other coworkers to have standing meetings too!
9. The Patient Printer
The boss lady just requested that a 200-page presentation be printed “perfectly.” Why lackadaisically stand by the printing pages when you could be sculpting your calves with calf raises? Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, press up onto the tippy toes, pause at the top, then lower back down. Repeat for three sets of 12-15 reps, or until the printing, faxing, or scanning is done. Ready to level up? Try raising only one leg at a time.
inRead invented by Teads
10. The Silent Seat Squeeze
Believe it or not, some deskercises can be kept under wraps, and this isometric glutes exercise is one of them. To start toning, simply squeeze the buttocks, hold for 5-10 seconds, and release. Repeat until the agenda wraps up or the glutes tire. The results will be uplifting in more ways than one.
11. The Seated Leg Raiser
When pay raises are nowhere to be seen, consider the leg raise. (Bonus: they’re hardly noticeable underneath the desk!) While seated, straighten one or both legs and hold in place for five or more seconds. Then lower the leg(s) back to the ground without letting the feet touch the floor. Repeat (alternating legs if raising them separately) for 15 reps. Underwhelmed? Loop a purse or briefcase strap over the ankle for added weight, or for more of an abs workout, add a crunch.
12. The Desk Squat
Mastered the art of standing around? Add a squat! Start standing with feet together (and the desk chair pushed out of the way). Bend the knees slightly so the thighs are almost parallel to the ground, as if sitting in a chair. As you bend, raise the arms straight up or towards the computer screen. Keep the knees together and aligned. Hold for 15 seconds and release. Repeat for 4-6 reps.
13. The Lunch Break Hammy
Strengthen the hamstrings with this standing leg curl. Stand behind your chair and hold onto it for support. Gently kick one foot back, aiming the heel for the top of your thigh. Lower the foot back down and repeat exercise with the other leg. Do 10 reps, take a bite of your lunchtime sandwich, and then do 10 more.
14. The Grim Reamer
Scope out the office for a ream of paper, or a sealed package of printing paper. While seated, place the stack in between the knees and press legs inward, engaging the inner thighs. Continue squeezing the paper ream in place for 30-60 seconds while sorting through the morning’s flood of emails. (Now that’s multitasking!)
Shoulders and Arms
15. The Cubicle Dip
Triceps dips can be done almost anywhere, including a cubicle. Using a sturdy desk or a non-rolling chair, sit at the very edge and place hands on either side of the body while gripping the chair’s edge. With the feet planted on the floor a step or two away from the desk or chair, straighten up the arms to lift up the body. Next, bend the arms to reach a 90-degree angle so that your body dips down, hold, and re-straighten while keeping the body raised above the chair. Complete 8-10 reps.
16. The Stapler Curl
Trusty staplers are always guarded closely, especially the red ones. Seated or standing, take the stapler in one hand with the palm facing upwards. Starting at the thighs, bend the elbow and curl the arm up towards the chest, just like a regular dumbbell biceps curl. Pause momentarily and then lower the stapler back down. Continue for 12-15 reps, then switch. Don’t have a weighty stapler? Try using a filled water bottle or a heavy change purse (the ven