Deskercise Habit: 30 Office Exercises to Stay Healthy at Work
By now, we are all well aware that living a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a wide range of diseases and an early death.
People who work typical desk jobs are prone to having higher amounts of daily total sitting time that is associated with a greater risk of overall morbidity.
Prolonged sitting that becomes a habit is not healthy for one's heart or body, and can take a huge toll on overall health in the long run.
Not only is sitting all day harmful, but standing can actually provide you with health benefits such as reducing the risk of weight gain, reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, reducing the risk of cancer, and reducing chronic back pain.
Standing can also help keep you in a good mood all day, and boost productivity while also working your muscles.
If you make a conscious effort, you can increase the amount of standing you do while you are at work. Here are 24 office exercises you can keep in mind while you are at work to help stay healthy and stave off chronic diseases.
Doing breathing exercises can help you quickly relieve stress and achieve a sense of calmness. If you are able to practice conscious breathing, you can relax better throughout the day.
Because breathing is something that you are able to control and regulate, it is a great tool to help you achieve a clear state of mind.
1. The Stimulating Breath
The Stimulating Breath is a modified version of yogic breathing techniques. It helps to increase energy and a sense of alertness.
To do this exercise, breathe in and out quickly through your nose with your mouth closed. Keep your breaths even but short. Aim to complete three in-and-out breath cycles each second, and breathe normally following each cycle.
Start this exercise by just doing 15 seconds worth of stimulated breathing. You can increase your time with practice for up to one minute. This will help you feel invigorated, similar to the sense of awareness that you have after a good workout. Try this breathing exercise if you are starting to hit a slump and feel sleepy and need a quick way to boost your energy.
2. The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a simple and quick exercise that can be done anywhere. Simply sit up with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and keep it there for the duration of the exercise.
Exhale completely through your mouth and around your tongue. Then, close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose for four seconds, and hold it in for seven seconds. Exhale through your mouth to a count of eight. Repeat this process three times so you have taken a total of four breaths.
For this exercise, make sure that you are inhaling quietly through your nose and exhaling loudly through your mouth, and that you are keeping the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth the whole time. Make sure to maintain the ratio of 4-7-8 throughout the entire exercise.
This technique naturally calms the nervous system. Unlike drugs, which can lose their effectiveness over time, this breathing exercise gets more effective the more you do it. This technique can be a very useful tool for diminishing anxiety. Use it when you feel stressed, or even to help you fall asleep.
3. Breath Counting
This simple breathing technique is often used in Zen practice. To do this, sit with your spine straight and your head tilted slightly forward. Close your eyes and breathe naturally.
To start this breathing technique, say “one” to yourself while exhaling. Then, say "two" during your next exhale. Keep doing this until you get to five. Start a new cycle and count to five again.
Repeat this for 10 minutes.
Neck and Shoulder Exercises
You put a lot of pressure on your joints over time, which causes them to eventually break down and become sore. This can be alleviated by doing basic exercises at home. Keeping your neck still while it hurts will not help relieve the pain, but doing stretching exercises will help keep your neck flexible.
4. Neck Drop and Raise
To increase your flexibility in the front and back of your neck, straighten your spine and slowly lower your head forward with your chin nearing your chest. Stay still for up to 10 seconds before lifting your head back up. Then, tilt your head back slightly and hold it there for up to 10 seconds before returning to your original position. Repeat this process five times.
5. Head Tilt
To work the sides of your neck, straighten your spine and tilt your head to the right while keeping your left shoulder in place. Stay in this position for up to 10 seconds. Repeat this same movement on your left side and repeat the exercise five times.
A. Chin Tucks
Stand with your spine up against a wall so you can be sure it is straight. Pull your upper back and head back until your head is touching the wall. Make sure your chin remains down so your head is pulled back and not tilted up. Hold your head against the wall for five seconds. Repeat this 10 times.
B. Brugger's Relief Position
Straighten your spine to make your neck feel as long as it can while still looking straight ahead. Lift your arms up and out to the side with your palms facing forward. Pull your chin straight back while keeping your head level. Pull your shoulder blades together without pulling them up. You can do this by pushing your sternum forward and pulling your shoulders down just a bit. Stay in this position for about 20 seconds before relaxing.
6. Neck Rotation and Retraction
Straighten your spine and slowly turn your head to the right with your chin straight. Stay in this position for up to 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise on the left side. Do the entire sequence five times.
A. Neck Flexion
Standing up straight, lower your chin to your chest. Hold your chin there for about 10 seconds and slowly lift it back up.
B. Neck Extensions
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your arms by your sides. Tilt your head up, keeping your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Hold this for up to 30 seconds before slowly returning your head to its normal position. Repeat this process two to four times.
C. Isometric Exercises
To do an isometric exercise, apply force against your head so that tension builds in your neck muscles without any movement. This will strengthen the muscles in your neck.
A. Shoulder Shrugs
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and place your arms by your sides. Slightly bend your knees and keep your arms straight. Lift your chest and shrug your shoulders as high as you can while keeping your arms straight. Remain in this position for two seconds before lowering your shoulders back down. Do this 12 times.
B. Shoulder Rolls
Rolling your shoulders either forward or backward while you are sitting at your desk can release tension and prevent pain. To do this, sit on the edge of your chair with your spine straight.
Your neck should stay in line with your spine so your head is in the center of your shoulders without extending forward. Move your right shoulder back and then up toward your chin, and roll it forward and down. Repeat this on the left side. Roll each shoulder three times and then switch to the opposite direction. Finish this exercise by shrugging your shoulders up and then pressing them down five times.
C. Isometric Shoulder Exercises
Stand with your right side up against a wall and your right elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Press your forearm against the wall. Hold this position for 10 seconds before relaxing your arm. Do this 10 times and then repeat the exercise on your left side.
If you are able to take a few minutes a day to stretch at your desk, you will be able to relieve tension in your muscles.
8. Stretching Out Your Arms
A. Arm Circles
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift your arms straight out so they are parallel to the floor. Move your arms in a circle about five inches in diameter, with your palms facing down. Do this for one minute before relaxing. Then, repeat this exercise moving your arms in the opposite direction.
B. Arm Presses (Isometric)
Get into a plank position on the floor and hold it with your body straight for up to one minute. If this is too difficult, try placing your forearms on the floor rather than your palms.
C. Triceps Stretch
Stand up straight and raise your right arm above your head. Bend your right arm back and grasp it with your left arm above your head. Using your left hand, guide your bent right arm until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold this for up to one minute. Repeat the exercise with your left arm.
D. Bicep Stretch
Clasp your hands behind your back, keeping your palms together. Straighten your arms and rotate them so your palms are facing down. Raise your arms up until you feel a stretch in your bicep, and hold the position for about 30 seconds.
9. Stretching out your torso
A. Trunk Twists
Sit up straight with your legs crossed. Place your left hand flat on the floor behind you on your left side, and place your right hand on your left shin. Slowly twist your torso towards the left. Do this up to four times before repeating the exercise on your right side.
B. Side Trunk
Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your arms over your head and grasp each elbow with the opposite hand. Lean slightly to one side until you feel a stretch. Hold this for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
C. Chest Stretch
Sit or stand and place your hands on the back of your head with your elbows pointed to the sides of the room. Let your head tilt back into your hands and open your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold this pose for 20 seconds.
10. Stretching out your legs and knees
A. Standing Calf
Stand about a foot away from a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder length. Step your left foot back about one foot and place it flat on the ground. Lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold this for 30 seconds, then repeat the stretch on your right side.
B. IT Band (With a Foam Roller)
Lie down on your side with your torso propped up by your forearm. Rest your upper right thigh on the foam roller, rolling it down towards your knee and then up again towards your hip. Keep your hands flat on the floor in front of you to maintain your balance. Repeat this on the left side.
C. Figure 4 Glute
Sit with your spine straight on the edge of a chair. Place your left ankle on top of your right knee. Keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your glutes. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Forearm, Wrist, Hand, and Finger Exercises
These stretches will help prevent aches and pains while also strengthening your wrists, hands, and fingers with regular range-of-motion movement.
11. Finger Exercises
A. Simple Finger Stretch
Make a gentle fist with your thumb spread across your fingers. Hold this for up to one minute before releasing your fingers and spreading them out. Do this on both hands four times.
B. Finger Stretch
Place your hand flat down on a table and straighten your fingers as flat as possible without using force. Hold this for one minute before releasing. Do this four times on each hand.
C. Claw Stretch
Hold your hand out with your palm facing you. Bend your finger joints so your fingernails are facing you and the pads of your fingers are touching the pads of your palms. Hold this for 60 seconds before releasing. Repeat this stretch four times on each hand.
12. Wrist Stretch Exercise
Put your arm in front of you with your palm facing the floor. Point your fingers toward the floor by bending your wrist with your left hand. With your right hand, hold your left hand to gently bend your left wrist farther until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold this for 30 seconds before repeating this exercise on the other side.
13. Wrist Rotation Exercise
Keep your left elbow held close to the left side of your body and slowly rotate your palm up and down until you feel a stretch at each extreme. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat this up to five times on each side.
14. Wrist Bend Exercise
Stand with your palms together and your elbows out. Lower your wrists until you can feel a stretch. Hold this for five seconds before returning to your starting position. Repeat this move five times.
15. Forearm Exercises
A. Chair Grip
Lie flat on the floor on your stomach with a chair about two feet in front of you. Reach forward until you can grasp the chair legs with your arms and you feel a stretch. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat the move five times.
B. Pushups Angled Against Desk
Place your hands flat on the side of your desk and step both of your feet back about a foot. Lean forward into your desk slowly to do a pushup with your arms. Return to your starting position and repeat this move five times.
C. Pull Apart
Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip the middle of a tension band with both hands at shoulder level with your palms facing down. Keep your arms straight and slowly pull the band out, then return it back until your shoulder blades contract. Go back to your starting position and repeat this 10 times.
D. Isometric Forearm Exercise
Keep your left arm flat and place it down in front of you. Hold your left forearm with your right hand and try to lift your forearm, providing resistance with your hand. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat on the right side.
E. Rubber Band Desk Exercise
Place a rubber band around your hand at the tips of your fingers with all of your fingers grouped together. Slowly stretch your fingers apart so the rubber band is providing resistance. If this is too easy, try doing it with multiple rubber bands until you find the right resistance for you. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
It is really important to stand as often as you can throughout the day. If you have to be on a computer all day, you can look into buying a converter desk that will allow you to stand while you are doing your work. In order to keep your back healthy while standing, invest in an anti-fatigue mat so you are in an ergonomic position all day.
16. Jog in Place for 60 Seconds
Jogging in place will not only help you burn calories, it will also raise your heart rate and give you energy. When doing this, make sure that you are raising your knees all the way to your waist.
17. Running or Stepping in Place While Sitting
Pretend that you’re running while you are sitting at your desk by moving your legs back and forth. Additionally, you can use under-desk equipment such as an under-desk cycle or elliptical.
18. Do Calf Raises to Tone Your Legs
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your hands by your sides and lift yourself up by the balls of your feet. Make sure you stay straight, and hold the position for about two seconds. Do 15 reps and repeat the exercise two to three times.
19. Do a Standing Glute Squeeze
Stand up with your feet at a wide stance and your toes pointed out slightly. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can for 30 seconds. Repeat this three times.
Each hour, make sure you are spending at least two full minutes walking. Maybe walk to a co-worker’s desk to take a short break, or take a walk outside around the office.
21. Use a Treadmill Desk
Using a treadmill desk can allow you to walk all day while you are getting your work done.
22. Take the Stairs
If you ever have a choice between taking the stairs and taking an elevator, choose the stairs. Walking up stairs is a great workout.
23. Total-Body Chair Workout
If a few stretching exercises are not enough, try this total-body chair workout routine. The 32-minute workout is a low-impact option for people who want to exercise at work, or who have a health condition that prevents them from doing other more vigorous types of workouts. Try doing this on your lunch break or in the mid-afternoon if you need a pick-me-up.
24. Standing Leg Curl
Use your office chair for support to do a standing leg curl. Put your hands on the back of your chair and stand with your feet should-width apart. Bend one knee back at a 90-degree angle and flex your foot. Lift your leg slowly and then return it to starting position. Do this 20 times on each side.
25. Do Chair Dip Triceps Exercises
Sit on the edge of a chair with your spine straight. Grip the chair on the sides with your palms facing down. Hold your body up with your arms and slowly dip down towards the ground. Return to your starting position. Repeat this exercise five times. Rest for 30 seconds and then do two more reps.
26. Under-the-Desk Cycling
Use an under-the-desk cycling exercise machine so you can keep your blood pumping throughout the day. You can use this machine with either your hands or your feet to reduce the amount of time you are sedentary throughout the day.
You'll need a desk for some of these exercises. Do them all at about 30% intensity. This routine involves shrugs, bicep curls, triceps pushdowns, single-arm lateral raises, horizontal shoulder abductions, and isometric neck extension, rotations, and retractions.
28. Rest Your Eyes
Every 30 minutes, take some time to rest your eyes. Use the break timer Chrome extension to remind yourself to do this. You can also use this tool to remind yourself to get up and walk around throughout the day.
29. Stay Hydrated
It is so important to stay hydrated throughout the day. It can be difficult to remember to keep drinking water, but if you keep water at your desk and make an effort to take sips throughout the day, you will be more likely to benefit your body.
30. Take a 20-Minute Power Nap
Sometimes the best pick-me-up is a short nap to help you re-energize and continue on with your day. Instead of reaching for caffeine at 3:00, take a quick nap to boost your energy and revitalize yourself.
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