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Desk-Side Exercises That Can Have a Lasting Effect on Your Health

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on March 2, 2019 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in General Wellbeing

Office jobs are extremely prevalent in today’s world, and if you have one, you likely spend eight or more hours each day sitting at a desk. Even if you love your job, the long-term effects of sedentary lifestyles cannot be ignored. Studies show that limited movement throughout the day can lead to dangerous health conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes and more, reducing your quality of life (and potentially your lifespan).

In order to combat these health problems, employees should aim to get up and moving throughout the day—but how much can really be accomplished inside a cubicle?

You may be surprised to know that there are a lot of brief exercises you can do next to your desk or around the office that will get your blood pumping and have positive effects on your health.

The benefits of desk-ercise

So, you know that you can do desk-side exercises, but why? Isn’t it enough to hit the gym after you clock out? As it turns out, it’s usually not. Here are some of the major benefits of movement throughout the work day.

  • Reduces risk of health problems: Studies show that moving for even two minutes each hour can have lasting effects on your physical health by reducing your risk for major health conditions. Regular light exercise throughout the day may even be more beneficial than longer, more intense workouts when it comes to reducing the effects of sedentary lifestyles (although you should do both to improve strength and endurance!).
  • Improves mental health: Exercise can have a big impact on your mental health and your mood. Sitting for long periods of time can make you feel tired and moody, while even light exercise can release endorphins that make you feel happy and combat stress (which is even more important in the workplace).
  • Helps you focus and stay alert: Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can make you feel sluggish, sleepy and unfocused. Just a few minutes of exercise can clear brain fog and get you refocused on your work.

Try these tips for moving throughout the work day

In-office exercises don’t have to be obvious or disruptive. There are plenty of discrete exercises you can do to get up, get your blood pumping and help strengthen your body. Some of these exercises can be done inside a cubicle or small office, while others use your office building itself.

  • Jumping jacks: Classic jumping jacks don’t take much time at all and don’t require a lot of space to complete. Simply push your desk chair out of the way and get jumping. Every hour, aim to do a set of 20-30 or as many as you can in 30-60 seconds.
  • Jump squats: Jump squats are similar to jumping jacks but activate your legs a little more. Lower your body into a squat with feet hip-width apart. Then, push upwards into a jump, landing and lowering into a squat again, then repeat. Do 10-20 jump squats each hour before getting back to work.
  • Jog in place: You don’t need to run through the office to get cardio in! Jog in place for one minute next to your desk. Lift your knees if you want a little more of a challenge. This exercise is perfect for when you’re stuck listening to a conference call.
  • Heel raises: Want to activate your calves in a quiet, calm way? Stand up and slowly lift up on your toes, then lower yourself to the floor. Repeat this exercise for 30 seconds to a minute. And, you can continue to work while doing this if you have a standing desk.
  • Under-the-desk leg raises: To activate your abs and legs, sit at your desk chair and slowly straighten one leg out in front of you. Hold it for a few seconds, then lower it to the ground without touching the floor before repeating. Switch sides after doing a few repetitions. This exercise is perfect for people in co-working spaces since it can be concealed under the desk.
  • Short yoga flows: Create a mini sanctuary in your cubicle by doing a short yoga flow. There’s no need for a mat—just focus on stretches and controlled movements that you have the space for. Yoga, in particular, is great for stress relief and refocusing.
  • Take the stairs: Outside of your cubicle, you can get a little cardio in by taking the stairs instead of the elevator when changing floors. This is a super easy way to incorporate an exercise habit each and every day without drawing attention.
  • Short walks: Another “sneaky” exercise can be accomplished by walking around your office floor. Every hour, aim to take around 250 steps (or more) by walking to the bathroom a little farther away, refilling your water more often or visiting a coworker to ask them a question.

Incorporating brief exercises throughout your workday is sure to have a positive effect on your wellbeing through a combination of stress relief, clearing the mind and getting your body moving instead of sitting. Set a reminder for yourself each hour until it becomes a daily habit.

Read also: Shut Up Fitbit! Why It’s Important to Move Every Hour

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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