Exercise At Your Desk -Staying Active

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You’ve been asked to work on some important presentation, you have a deadline but you were supposed to be going to the gym at lunchtime and now you won’t be able to! It’s a scenario that’s happened to me more times than I’d like to have, that’s for sure. I enjoy exercising and would look forward to that “me” time when all I had to worry about was how many reps I was doing or how much further I could get on the cross trainer!

But work is priority, even during the pandemic, there’s been days when I had planned to do one of my exercise routines (check my favourites out HERE) only for some important work to come in. So, is there a way to do both, can you exercise at your desk while working to avoid just not doing anything at all?

What’s Your Style?

So if you’re working in an open-plan office, and Let’s face it, most of us are these days (when we’re not working from home during a pandemic) you don’t want to be up, out of your desk doing forty star jumps so I’ve split these into two groups – the discreet ones and the not so discreet, it’s up to you!

Some of these are simple stretches that you should be performing at your desk anyway if you work long hours. The important thing is to incorporate them into a routine and to repeat on a daily basis to ensure you’re not stiffening up or getting neck or back pain.

Discretion is the Better Part of Valour

So here is a quick run down of a few exercises you can do discreetly at your desk while working away and unless someone is sitting staring at you should be able to get away with these with no one noticing.

Clenches – the ultimate “secret” exercise and simple enough to perform – just clench your buttocks tightly for ten seconds then release. Repeat this a few times – you could begin by doing three sets of five reps – so that’s do five repetitions of the exercise, have a short break of a couple of minutes then do another five reps, another break, then another set of five reps – so three sets in total. That will really help to tone those muscle.

at desk

Leg Planks – for this exercise, sit at the edge of your seat with your knees at a 90 degree angle, with your feet firmly on the floor. Slowly extend your right leg out until it is straight out parallel to the floor. Hold it there for the count of ten then return to the starting position. Then repeat this for the left leg. Again start off with three sets of five reps (for each leg) but aim to increase the length of time you are extending your leg for each time you repeat the exercise – even if just for a second each time. You could also increase the number of reps or the number of sets once you get proficient at them.

Inner Thigh Workout – an easy way to work out those inner thigh muscles is to begin by sitting up straight at your desk with your feet on the floor and your knees at 90 degrees. Place a small stress ball or similar in-between your knees and lightly squeeze to hold the ball in place. Keep your abs tight too, and then squeeze your knees together as hard as you can to the count of ten, then release. Repeat this ten times and do three sets, so thirty in all.

Ankle Rotation – simply by rotating your ankles you will prevent stiffness and strengthen the flexibility of them. Rotate your ankle in all directions for a few seconds then repeat with the other ankle. Doing this two or three times a day will make a big difference.

Neck Rotations – sitting in the same position all day won’t be helping your neck and shoulders so add a few neck rotations to your “desk workout”. Just turn your head to the right and try looking over your shoulder until you can feel it stretching a little and hold for a few seconds, then repeat to the left. After that drop your chin to your chest and rolling your neck from side to side. After that raise your chin up and bend your neck to the right then the left. I always hear the little cracking noise when I’m doing that (which I’m guessing is good!) Repeat this a few times to really get those muscles stretched.

Look At Me!

OK, now I’ll move on to a few exercises you can do at, or close by, to your desk, which may get a few people looking over – if you’re bothered! Otherwise, just go for it – you’ll be the flexible one at the end of the day!

Arm Stretches – this one is easy enough to do, and a staple exercise for warm-ups and cool downs in the gym – just stretch your right arm as far to the left as you can pull it in (but not too much) with your left arm close in to your chest. Hold it there for thirty seconds or so and then repeat with the other arm.

Chair Squats – stand up just in front of your chair with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms bent in front of your body. Then squat down, keeping your abs tight, bending your knees as if you are going to sit down. Just make slight contact against the chair with your bottom and immediately stand up again, making sure your feet are firmly on the floor (not just the toes). Repeat as much as you can, recommend starting at three sets or ten reps and see how you get on – too easy, then increase!

Wall Sits – this one is quite difficult to begin with, as I found out! find a quiet place spot with a wall and rest your back against it. Move your feet away until you are more or less sitting against the wall, with your knees at 90 degrees and your feet squarely on the floor. Keep this position as long as you possibly can. You should be able to see progress quickly enough and you will be able to stay in the same position for increasingly longer times.

Desk Push-Ups – after making sure your desk is up to the task and is able to support your body weight, take a few paces back from your desk and then place your hands flat on your desk just a little less that shoulder width apart. Now lower yourself down towards your desk, remembering to keep your abs tight, as if you are doing a push up. Once you get your chest down to the desk, or as far down as you are comfortable to, push back up until you are back in the starting position. Repeat as before doing three sets of five reps, increasing as you find them easier.

So there we have it. An easy enough set of exercises to incorporate into your daily routine, or to use as a substitute when you can’t get to the gym. Even if you can get to the gym, incorporating some desk stretches into your day will benefit you greatly especially if you are spending long hours sitting at your desk.

I hope you enjoyed this article – I would love to hear from you if you manage to fit in a gym visit during your work day – I have tried to stick to a specific time when I go to the gym (or exercise whilst working from home) so that everyone I work with is aware that that’s my “gym time”.

I look forward to hearing from you, just make a note in the comments below.

Take care,


Simple wfh

6 thoughts on “Exercise At Your Desk -Staying Active”

  1. Hello Dave – this is great! My days working from home NEVER go according to plan and my planned lunchtime walk rarely happens!! Will give this a go!

  2. Hi Dave, this is very beneficial not only for people working from home or at the office. This is also beneficial for children sitting for long periods doing school work or working on a project. This pandemic has affected so many people all over the world and i am sure this post will help somebody somewhere who is even not able to get to a gym for any reason. 

    • Hi Donna,

      Yes, thank you that’s a great idea. We forget sometimes that children who are homeschooling at the moment will have been up and walking between classes or doing PE so its equally (if not more) important that they are getting some exercise too. 

      Take care,


  3. With so many people working from home, it is even more important than before to stay active, so this is great to find exercises that you can do at you desk. I found myself immediately starting to do the discreet exercises while I was reading the post, and they are very easy to incorporate into your daily routine, evn if you do work in an open plan office.

    With so many companies having a more relaxed outlook, I am sure that even the more “visible” exercises can be done in an office. This is a great post. 

    • Hi, 

      yes I completely agree, when we’re working from home its all too easy to either forget to take a break or choose to work through which is very detrimental. A few exercises even when sitting at your desk will help immensely.

      If you have some music on in the background (always recommend anyway) then you can get a nice little routine going and no-one will ever see you (unless you’re in a zoom meeting!) 

      Take care,



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