15 Office Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

By Robert Half on February 3, 2016 at 5:42pm

When you’ve already got too many things on your to-do list, getting to the gym after work is often wishful thinking for busy administrative professionals. So why not integrate office exercises into your daily routine to stay healthy at work? There are many exercises at your desk that you can do. 

Research has shown that regular exercise helps control your weight and combats a litany of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Office exercises can also relieve stress, boost your energy and increase your focus, regardless of your age or physical ability. 

We’ve compiled this guide to exercises at your desk for busy admins who want to try an office workout, with ratings for difficulty and how much of a sweat you’ll work up. (Always consult your doctor before engaging in a new exercise regimen.)


= easy peasy

= moderate

= intense


= no sweat

= “glowing”

= better towel off

Stretching-related office exercises

Stretching-related office exercises

Warming up your muscles is advisable before any office workout, and they just happen to be the least obtrusive form of office exercise. 

1. Neck rolls

While sitting up straight with your shoulders back, slowly and gently roll your head clockwise five times and then counterclockwise five times. Then, move your head to look up, holding your head there for five breaths, and look down for five breaths.

2. Extend your arms

Inhale as you bring your arms up over your head while seated or standing and hold them there for five breaths. Then, lean to the right and hold for five breaths, return to the center and then lean to the left for five breaths.

3. Stretch your legs

While standing, bend forward and try to reach your toes. Stay in this positions for five breaths and then slowly return to standing straight up. This gives you a deep hamstring stretch and loosens up your spine.

4. Spinal twist

While seated, put your right knee over your left knee, and put your left hand on your right knee as you twist towards your right hand, which remains on the armrest. Look to the right as you stay in this position for five breaths and then release and do the other side.

5. Low-impact lunges

With your hands on your desk or cubicle wall if you need the support, stand with your feet about 3 feet apart, pointing them forward. While keeping your back straight up, lower yourself, flexing one knee, resting here to get a good stretch, and then raising yourself, and lowering yourself to flex the other knee. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Strength training exercises at your desk

Strength training exercises at your desk

It might be awkward to keep dumbbells at your desk, but you don’t need any equipment at all for isometric office exercises. Just remember to breathe!

6. Seated leg raises

There are a number of office chair exercises you can do. While sitting in your chair, for example, lift one leg straight out with the foot flexed and toes pointing up and hold it for a few seconds, then lower it. Repeat with the other leg. Do 10 reps on each side. For a more intense office workout, lift both legs at once.

7. Bicep ‘curls’

While sitting, place your hands palms up on the underside of your desk with your elbows at 90 degrees and push up as if you’re trying to flip the desk for 10 seconds. Repeat five to 10 times with a 10 second rest in between reps. (Make sure your desk is firmly rooted to the ground, or you could be in for a surprise!)

8. Desk pushups

Just like normal pushups but without the risk of being spotted on the office floor. Grasping the edge of a solid, sturdy desk, move your feet back as far as is comfortable for you. Keeping your feet together, lower yourself toward the desk and exhale as you raise yourself fully. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

9. Tricep dips

Sit on a sturdy chair (one with no wheels!) and grip the edge of the seat with the heels of your hand. Slide your rear and legs forward so you’re in front of the chair. Lower yourself slowly, keeping your back straight, until your arms are bent to 90 degrees, and then raise yourself back to the start. Try two sets of 10 for a serious approach to office chair exercises.

10. Wall sitting

Lean back against a wall with your feet planted shoulder width apart. Slowly slide down the wall until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle. (If you’re a beginner, you can rest a little higher or use an exercise ball for a little assistance.) Hold this position for up to 2 minutes to really feel the burn in your quadriceps. Aim for 30 seconds to start — it’s harder than it seems!

Cardio office exercises at your desk

Cardio office exercises at your desk

The following office exercises are for when you really need a workout or you feel an afternoon slump coming on.

11. Marching in place

Get your feet moving while moving your arms like you’re running. March or jog in place for 1 minute whenever you need to get your blood pumping, and increase the speed when you need the extra challenge.

12. Office-appropriate jumping jacks

Raise your right arm and extend your left foot to the side at the same time while keeping your right foot on the floor and your left arm down. Then switch to the other side and repeat for 1 minute. You might look like you’re disco dancing, but it’s going to get your heart rate up.

13. Shadowboxing

While standing or sitting with your back straight, clench your hands in fists and punch the air in front of you, giving each arm equal reps. Try 20 reps to the front followed by 20 reps to the sky. It’s an easy office workout and a great stress reliever, too!

14. High-knee stepping

While standing in place, bring one knee to 90 degrees or higher, and lower it. Repeat with the other leg, doing as many reps as you can in 1 minute. For a tougher workout, put some power behind the knee, bringing down your arms for leverage with each raise.

15. Toe taps

These are just like the soccer drill where you quickly tap your toes alternately on a ball in front of you. Absent a ball, stand in front of a small box on the floor, then bring each leg up to tap it gently and quickly like you’re jogging in place. Seeing the video link in the first sentence here makes this much easier to visualize.

Every office — and office culture — is different. Choose the exercises from this guide that are most appropriate in your workplace. Good luck on moving from “easy peasy/no sweat” to “intense/better towel off”! And, again, be sure to consult a doctor before engaging in a new exercise regimen.

Doing office exercises is a great way to keep your energy level high. But if they’re not doing the trick, it could be that motivation for your job is waning. We’ve got five quick motivation tips to help you out.

Get Motivation Tips

More From the Blog...