10 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk

By Andrew Wolf, M.S. ED. Exercise Physiologist

As creatures that evolved in an environment that obligated constant movement the notion of sitting at a desk for 8-12 hours a day is totally unhealthy and foreign.  Unfortunately, the last time I checked no one is really excited to pay me to go on monster hikes and epic bike rides 5 days a week.  So I spend a fair amount of time in front of a computer just like most of you.  However, being in front of a computer does not mean that you do not have to move at all, you can engineer sneaky ways to move even in the modern work space. 


First things first let’s not let our computer time wreck our posture.  I always suggest that people get their screen up higher.  Have a colleague come over while you put spacers under your screen.  You are looking for the center of your screen to be at least at eye height when you are sitting up straight.  This will keep the muscles of your neck and back engaged in a balanced manner that helps fight neck and back pain from sitting.


You can also work on your legs even if you are sitting.  Reach down and place an open palm on the outside of each knee with your knees together.  Spread your knees apart while resisting with hand pressure.  Do this 10-20 times.


You can also do  the opposite muscles by using as simple as a cheap playground ball.  Simply place the ball between your knees and squish it 10-20 times.  That way you will also have a ball at work when the office gets playful.


If you do enough computer work you can look like the hunchback of Notre Dame.  To combat this you need strong rhomboid muscles (the ones that pinch your shoulder blades together).  Sitting at your desk reach out to either side of your with straight arms such that you make a T out of yourself.  Rotate your hands so your thumbs are pointing behind you.  Then pinch your shoulder blades together by trying to move your hands even further behind you.  This will look like the opposite of doing chest flys.


If you trust the structural integrity of your chair you can grasp each armrest and lift your pelvis off the chair, count to 5 and let yourself back down.  Not only does this work your triceps but it decompresses the lower spine.


Speaking of the lower back we do much more forward bending that back bending and this can be detrimental.  By simply scooting forward in your chair, placing your thumbs on the bony part of your lower back and then bending backwards you can even the score a bit.


If you can afford to get up and find an uninhabited corner of the office you can do my favorite.  The snow angel in the corner.  Face a corner with about 1-4 feet between your toes and the corner.  Straighten your arms and reach out to each wall with locked elbows.  Now keeping your fingers on the wall make a snow angel.  If you have to bend your elbows you are too close to the corner.  If it feels to easy get further into the corner.


If you must have powerful pecs you can always do a simple isometric move that is proven to keep muscle tone.  While sitting at your desk with exemplary posture place the palms of your hands together at the height of your solar plexus.  Push your hands together with all you have for 5-10 seconds, pause and do it again.


The other thing you can do are simple squats.  Push back from your desk, sit on the edge of your chair and then look up at a slight angle.  With your arms at your side stand up and sit back down.  Make sure your chair is not rolling away as you do this because it could be embarrassing.  Do 2-4 sets of 12 throughout the day.


If you happen to be employed in an enlightened work place think about lobbying for tread desks.  If you spend 3 hours answering emails or crunching excel spreadsheets all while walking at 2 miles per hour it will never seem hard and you will not sweat.  However, 3 hours at 2 miles per hour is 600 calories that you will never burn just sitting there.

Learn more about Andrew's offerings at Miraval >

Read previous blogs from Andrew Wolf >


  1. Thank you to Andrew and Miraval for posting these exercises.

    I especially like #9 and have printed this out for all ideas.
    Time just seems to go by so quickly and if I don’t tell myself to get up and move and
    drink water throughout the day then I certainly pay for it later on. – Donna

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *