8 Exercises you can do from your desk

Did you know you can raise your heart rate and earn some PAI right from your workspace? Doing short exercises in between tasks can be a great way to refresh your mind and combat the negative impacts of prolonged sitting. With this in mind, we've collected a few quick and easy exercises you can do right from your desk, home office, or living room.

1. Straight leg stretch

This simple stretch is also sometimes called the "Wooden Leg" stretch. While sitting, stretch one leg out. Then gradually lift that leg until it is parallel to the ground - you can extend your leg higher if your flexibility permits. Hold that pose for 2-5 seconds, and then switch to your other leg. Aim to do this stretch 10-15 times per side.

2. Wrist and forearm stretch

In the past you may have experienced pain or discomfort in your forearms and wrists, especially from typing and clicking for long periods of time. This stretch can help relieve this tension. First, stand up facing your desk. Next, place the palms of your hands on the desk with your fingers pointed towards your body. Lean your body forward gently, ensuring you're feeling the stretch (you don't necessarily have to lean forward too far - just enough that you feel a stretch in your forearms). Hold this position for about 15 seconds.

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3. Seated bicycle crunches

Start off sitting at the end of your seat, with both feet flat on the floor and hands behind your ears. Twist your torso so that your left elbow goes down as your right knee comes up. Try to lead this movement with your core, not your neck! Then repeat, twisting your right elbow down to meet your left knee. Do this rotation 15 times per side. Once you have the movements down, try doing this exercise faster to get your heart rate up!

4. Foot drill

If you've ever played soccer/football, this should be pretty familiar! While sitting down, start with both feet flat on the ground. Then, alternatively tap your feet as if there was a ball or cone in front of them for 30 seconds. Rest for 5-10 seconds and then repeat. There are many variations you can try with this exercise such as raising your knees higher, tapping your feet faster / slower, or doing longer intervals.

5. Glute squeeze

This exercise is fairly straightforward. As you sit, tense your glutes (aka your bottom) for 10 seconds. Pause and relax, then squeeze your muscles again. Repeat this 10-15 times.

6. Chair dips

For this exercise, ensure you pick a chair that will stay in place - so if it has wheels, make sure you lock them. To start off, while sitting in the chair place both hands right next to your hips. Then, extend your legs out in front of you - your fingers should be gripping the edge of your chair while your lower body hovers above the ground. While keeping your legs extended and your core tight, raise your body up using your arms until your arms are fully extended. Then slowly lower your body back down until your arms are at a 90 degree angle, still keeping your lower body hovering above the ground.  Repeat these dips 15 times.

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7. Water bottle weights

Water bottles or closed coffee thermoses can make great weights while your at your desk! A standard bottle (500 mL / 16 oz) weighs about 0.5 kilograms, or 1 pound, so can be a great starting point for some simple exercise like bicep curls or overhead presses.

For a bicep curl, start with your bottle in your hand with your arm fully extended in front of you. Then slowly 'curl' the weight towards you until your forearm is at a 90 degree angle to your bicep. Even with a lighter weight, if you do this exercise slow and controlled you will be working your muscles.

For an overhead press, start with your bottle in your hand and your arm raised to the side of you, with your forearm parallel to the ground in a reverse L-shape. Then as you exhale, raise your arm straight up overhead.

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If available to you, you can work your way up to lifting a gallon of water (3.7 L) above you, which is about 3.7 kilograms / 8.3 pounds.

8. Ab tensors

While sitting, tense your abs / core so that your belly button is sucked in. Slowly exhale your breath and hold this position for a few seconds. Repeat this a few times to strengthen your core.

If you have a swivelling chair you can also add some variations where you keep your hands gently on your desk while turning your chair back and forth. Then add the ab tensor breathing technique as you swivel to really activate your core.

9. Bonus tip — low impact jumping jacks

This is a great exercise to get your heart rate up! Especially if you're working from home, you can quickly do a few of these jumping jacks to break up your day. This low impact version is a bit easier on the knees than traditional jumping jacks, and focuses on one side at a time. First raise your right arm while tapping your left foot out to the side. Then switch to raising your left arm while tapping your right foot. You can turn this into a little dance routine and go quicker, or slow it down and really concentrate on each movement.

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