Exercises to do at Work to Improve Health

July 17, 2017

at work exercises for people who work at a computer deskEver notice that when you are at work you get so wrapped up in what it is you are doing that you haven’t moved, sometimes for hours on end? It’s easy to forget to get up, move around, stretch or take mental breaks when you are focusing on your work. Maybe you don’t even realize the importance of doing this! Continuing this unhealthy pattern for days, you may start to get tension headaches, have chronic back pain, experience carpal tunnel, suffer from a mid-day slump and/or have trouble sleeping at night.

Maybe the side effects are not as pronounced, but whether you realize it or not, the effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time can have very negative effects on the body. According to Men’s Journal magazine in an article written by Lisa Marshall titled “Sitting: The Most Unhealthy Thing You Can Do.”, several health dangers were associated with sitting at length. Those dangers include slower blood flow (resulting in clumping of red blood cells in the legs); up to a 20% drop in “good” cholesterol; heart disease risk of up to two and half times greater than average; a rise in chronic inflammation; and a doubling of the risk of diabetes.

We know what you might be thinking, this doesn’t apply to you because you are in impeccable physical condition and you exercise every day. You might even be a marathon runner, a yoga teacher or a fitness trainer. Still, if you are sitting for long periods each day without getting up and including some level of activity between sits, you are putting yourself are at risk no matter how much you exercise earlier or later in the day.

Trends Related to Exercising at Work

You may have noticed the increased trend of stand up desks or that your iWatch (or other activity tracker) came equipped with an Activity app that includes a “stand ring” which shows the hours in which you’ve stood up and moved for at least a minute at a time. It also alerts you when you should be standing and gives you your daily “stand” goals to achieve. Items like these have gained in popularity as more studies have shown how imperative it is to our health to avoid stagnancy for lengthy periods of time.

at work exercise working Woman with pogamatThe goal is to figure out non-intrusive ways to achieve bringing intervals of activity into your work day. The results you will see are increases in productivity, focus, concentration, ability to make better decisions, reduced stress levels, a boost of energy, better time management and improved mental sharpness AND help you avoid all the health dangers associated with a sedentary lifestyle. The benefits will make the efforts well worth it! The below suggestions will vary for everyone depending on what you do and the flexibility in your schedule. It is also important to note that these options may not work out every day, particularly if you have a very swamped work week or are traveling, etc.

One suggestion is to bring your Pogamat (check our newest lightweight version for a more portable option!) to work with you. This way you can stretch and fit mini workout sessions in throughout the day. Try setting a timer on your phone or an app that will send you reminders to get you moving at least once every hour. The bonus to bringing your gear with you to work is that you can head right to the gym on your way home from work. This avoids the temptation to skip a workout because if you have to stop home to get changed and get your gear, you are more likely to find yourself napping in that nice comfy-looking bed or lounging in front of the television.

A List of Exercises to do at Work


Suppose you work in a cubicle with little to no privacy. You can’t exactly pull out a yoga mat and get yoga-ing. If you have no shame and just want to go for it… by all means, go for it! But in certain work environments, this will simply not fly. Here are a few ideas that will allow you to be discrete enough to get in that physical activity right from your desk chair.
  • Do work standing up
    • If you are able to have your computer raised up or can do other work standing up, this is a great option. We understand, for most, this may not be an option. If at all possible though, do some work while on your feet to get the blood circulating.
  • Sit on something wobbly
    • If possible, try substituting your regular desk chair for an exercise ball or a backless stool to strengthen and put your core muscles to work. Sit up straight and keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you.
  • Release neck/shoulder tensionExercises to do at Work
    • Inhale deeply and shrug your shoulders. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears and hold them there, then release them down your back drawing your shoulder blades together. Repeat five times.
    • Shake your head slowly, yes and no. Complete a few rounds of neck circles (clockwise and counter clockwise).
  • Perform torso twists
    • Inhale and lengthen the spine (maybe even reach your arms up toward the ceiling).
    • Exhale turning your body to the right, grabbing the back of your chair with your right hand and the arm of the chair with your left. Try on left side and repeat a few times on each side.
  • Stand up and sit down repeatedly without using your hands
    • Using your core muscles, stand and sit as many times as you can in a 60 second session (stay as controlled as you can).
  •  Leg extensions
    • Sitting in your chair, extend your legs straight out in front of you. Working your abs and legs flex and point your toes five times. Release.
    •  Extend your legs back out and try crunching your legs in and out for a few rounds.

Secluded Workspace:

If your office environment offers a bit more flexibility where you can close your office door, use an unoccupied area or get active in an in-office gym, spread your Pogamat on the floor and get to work. Until you are able to complete your full workout later in the day, try your own quick yoga flow (perhaps a round of Sun salutations) or some of our suggested stretches and exercises below:
  • Forward fold
    • Take 8 to 10 breaths by folding forward at your hips and letting your arms and head hang heavy.
    • This will loosen up your tight hamstrings which will offer a release to the low back muscles.
  • Child’s poseat work exercises Woman in plank pose yoga stretch on mat
    • From table pose, exhale and lower the hips to the heels and forehead to the floor. Have the knees together or if more comfortable, spread your knees wide.
    • While in this pose, try bringing your palms together and drawing them to rest on the back of your neck, hugging your elbows in toward your ears for a deep stretch through the shoulders and triceps.
  • Downward dog
    • Start in table-top position on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders.
    • Spread your fingers wide, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and tuck your toes under.
    • Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor, lifting your hips high and back to flatten out the spine.
    • Hold for five deep breaths, spiraling your biceps inward toward your ears.
  • Cat/Cow Pose
    • A great flow to warm up your spinal cord done by resting your hands and knees in table top pose and moving the spine up and down to improve extension and flexion in your back.
  • Wall Sits
    • Standing with your back against the wall, bend the knees and slide your back down the wall until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold here for 30-60 seconds. To up-level from here, try crossing the right ankle over the left knee, hold for 15 seconds then switch sides.
  • Squat Variations
    • Stand with your feet together and bend your knees so that your thighs are almost parallel to the ground, as if sitting in a chair. As you bend, raise the arms straight up or directly in front of you. Keep the knees together and aligned. Hold for 15 seconds and release, repeating 5 times.
  • Arm Flaps
    • Stand with your arms by your sides and palms facing behind, pulse the arms backward keeping them long and lengthened for 10-15 seconds. Release and shake out your arms before repeating 10-15 times!
  • Abdominal Exercises 
    • Any abdominal exercise from traditional sit ups to abdominal holds to bicycle crunches are a great way to break up your day and a quick and easy exercise to do.

Other Quick at Work Exercise Tips:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • When you hit a (work) wall, go for a short walk, even if it’s just around your office building
  • Replace emailing or messaging your coworker for getting up and speaking with them face-to-face.
  • Leave for lunch and get out of the office (with your pre-packed, meal-prepped, healthy lunch, of course!)

If you choose to perform one of these exercises each time your alarm goes off during your work day, you will begin to feel the positive effects within a month! All it takes is being mindful of the movement in your day and it could help improve immediate pains and prevent major health conditions down the road!

What are some of the exercises, stretches or tips you implement to stay active during your workday?!

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