Short Exercises You Can Sneak in During Your Workday

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Working from home or being able to do your work behind a computer screen can seem cushy. However, there are some drawbacks to sitting for several hours a day—effortless weight gain, stiff neck and back, loss of muscle tone, and risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

You don’t need to join a gym. Incorporating a little movement here and there can combat the adverse effects of a stationary workday. The key is to work smart, not hard, and that’s with little exercise breaks here and there. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Sitting at Your Desk

Photo by Darina Belonogova on

Lower-ab leg lifts. This is perhaps one of the most straightforward exercises to do at any time.

  • Sit straight up and start with feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift each leg up, one at a time, keeping your core tight.
  • Lift both legs at the same time for more of a workout.
  • 20 reps

Oblique twists. This one is excellent if you’re sitting in a swivel chair. 

  • Adjust your chair so that your feet don’t touch the floor, and sit up straight.
  • While facing your desk or table, grab the edge. 
  • Keep your core tight and swivel your chair from side to side.
  • 15 reps on each side

Cycle ab crunches. You don’t have to get on the floor for this ab workout.

  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor, keeping your back straight.
  • Place your hands behind your head.
  • Lift your left knee to your right elbow while twisting your body.
  • Repeat with the right knee toward your left elbow.
  • 15 reps each side

Knee lifts. Make sure your chair is stable for this one.

  • In your chair, raise your legs straight in front.
  • While holding the bottom of the chair, pull your knees to your chest; pause a moment.
  • Extend legs back out.
  • 10 reps

Shoulder press. Make sure you sit tall if you’re doing this in your chair.

  • With one hand, hold an easy-to-grip dumbbell, full water bottle, or heavy object near your shoulder.
  • Raise the object until you fully extend your arm; briefly pause.
  • Lower the object to eye level.
  • 10 reps for each arm

Tricep dips. Do this in a stationary chair only—no wheels!

  • Stand in front of your chair, facing away from it.
  • Place hands flat on the seat.
  • Lower yourself carefully by bending your elbows back.
  • Go down as far as you feel comfortable, staying as close as possible to the chair.
  • Bring yourself back up by straightening your arms.

Standing at Your Desk

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Arm circles. You can also do this in your seat.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-length apart.
  • Extend arms to your sides at shoulder height.
  • Move your arms forward in small circular motions.
  • Reverse direction and do backward circles.
  • 20 reps for each direction

Arm pulses. These do double-duty for your shoulders and triceps. Try these with hand weights.

  • With your arms at your sides, face your palms to the back.
  • Keep your arms straight and move them backward in short pulses.
  • 20 seconds per rep

Calf raises. A sure-fire way to get those defined calves.

  • Stand behind a chair or next to a desk so that you can hold onto it for support.
  • Lift your heels to stand on your toes.
  • Lower your heels until they touch the floor.
  • You can do this with both feet or one at a time.
  • 10 reps per set

Desk push-ups. This exercise requires a desk or table that can support your weight.

  • Facing your desk or table, take a few steps back.
  • Keeping your feet where they are, put your hands flat on the surface in front of you, slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
  • With your hands on the desk, lower yourself down, keeping a solid core. 
  • Push back up until arms are straight but not locked.
  • 20 reps

Side lunges. A great lower-body exercise for your hamstrings, quads, and inner and outer thighs.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • With one foot, take a wide side-step.
  • Squat down until your thigh is about parallel to the ground (or according to your ability).
  • Bring your foot back to your original position.
  • 10 times each side

SquatsTry this with hand weights.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a wheelless chair.
  • With your hands out in front, squat down until you’re almost sitting on the chair, keeping your knees aligned with your toes.
  • Stand back up to your starting position.
  • 10 reps

Standing glute pulses. For all you barre veterans, this is for you.

  • While holding the edge of your desk or table, bend one leg behind you and flex your foot.
  • Raise your heel so that your knee is bent at a right angle.
  • Pulse or press your foot back a few inches.
  • 20 reps each foot

When You’re Away from Your Desk

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Lunge down the hall. You can also do this at your desk to get in some quick lower-body sculpting.

  • Step forward with one leg.
  • Lower the knee of the other leg toward the floor. The lower you go, the better the workout.
  • Step forward and repeat with the other leg.
  • 10 reps each leg

Wall push-ups. Make this one routine if you don’t like the way your arms jiggle.

  • Place yourself a few steps away from the wall.
  • Lean toward it and place your hands a little wider than your shoulders.
  • Keep your abs tight and lower your torso toward the wall.
  • Bring yourself back up until your arms are straight but not locked.
  • 20 reps

Wall sits. This will strengthen your quadriceps.

  • Put your back against the wall and slide down until your knees are bent at a right angle.
  • Hold your position for 30-60 seconds and then release.
  • 15 reps

Your cushy desk job doesn’t have to undermine your health. Let me know which of these are your favorites. Also, comment on exercises I’ve overlooked.

Watch for my next post, which will present ideas for no-workout workouts. In the meantime, get active and have fun!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

6 Comments Add yours

  1. cathyishappy says:

    Thank you for these! Will definitely try and give some a go. I am desk bound most of the time but try to get up and march on the spot every 30 minutes or so. It’s only a small thing but it all adds up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly does. Sounds like you’ve set a routine. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. purpleslob says:

    Whoa!! That’s some serious workouts going on!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I guess the list is pretty ambitious. I certainly don’t do all of these, but hopefully, there’s something for everyone. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. purpleslob says:

        My pleasure. I always try to comment, after all, you went to all the trouble to write!

        Liked by 1 person

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