8 Exercises You Can Do While Sitting At Your Desk

I have a bad habit. A really bad habit. Here's how my day usually goes: I get into the office around 8 a.m., fill my water bottles, and put my lunch in the break room fridge. Around 12:30 p.m., I grab my lunch from the break room, say a quick hello to anyone eating their lunches as I pour dressing on my salad, give it a quick shake, grab a napkin, then head back to my desk to eat and work. The rest of my team is in a different out-of-state office so my mid-afternoon meeting happens at my desk via a conference line. Throw in a couple bathroom breaks and water refills, as needed, and I leave for the day right around 4pm.

Minus my working lunch habit, can you spot the problem? I'm stuck at a desk for eight hours with very little movement. There are countless articles about the hazards of sitting at a desk all day, yet I'm stuck in this cycle that I can't seem to break — until now. While I'm not planning to bust out an intense HIIT workout in my office mid-day, there are a few exercises that I can do right at my desk to stretch out and break free from hunching over my computer all day.

Scale pose

Scale pose, also known as Tolasana, is traditionally seen in Vinyasa yoga practices as a way to strengthen "the abdominal muscles, arms, and wrists. The deep abdominal work stimulates your digestive system, as well. This pose also increases flexibility in the hips and wrists," according to Yoga Outlet. This pose can also be modified to be done in the office.

Start by pushing your chair away from your desk a bit and crossing your legs. Place your hands firmly on the seat of your chair, engage your core, and lift your legs and tush from the chair. Hold for a few breaths, gently lower yourself, switch your legs and repeat. As you continue to practice this pose, the longer you'll be able to hold. Now roll your chair back and get back to work.

Chair v-sits

Another great core move, and arguably one of my favorites, is the v-sit. Generally a v-sit is performed with your butt on the ground, hands planted next to and a bit behind your hips, while leaning your torso back until your feel the core engage, feet lifted from the ground, and moving your torso back as you straighten your legs, and then returning to the starting position.

While this version obviously isn't the most office-friendly exercise, Prevention suggests, "While sitting, scoot your butt to the front of your chair. Then lean back so that your upper back rests lightly on the seat back. Contract abs and lift your right knee up, then place your foot back down on the floor." To make it a bit more challenging, you can lift both feet from the ground at the same time. This variation to the classic v-sit can even be done in heels and a skirt, if that's your thing.

Incline push-ups

A couple coworkers recently admitted to their new habit of completing push-ups at work throughout the day. They usually find an empty conference room, shut the door and complete a few sets before returning to their desk. If this is an option in your office, perfect!

But if there are no free conference rooms, or you don't want to drop your nose to the carpet at your office (I wouldn't blame you!), then I suggest using your desk as your base and getting in a few incline push-ups. You can even play around with moving your hands closer or further apart to target different muscle groups and add a new challenge. Go ahead, drop and give me 20!

Triceps dips

If you want to work your arms a little more, then the next exercise to do at your desk are triceps dips. To do this exercise, place your butt on the edge of your desk or chair, place your hands on either side of you (feet planted flat on the ground), scoot your butt off the edge, bend your elbows, and lower yourself until your elbows hit a 90 degree angle. Then, push back up to a straight position.

Important safety tip: if your chair has wheels, move to one that doesn't — or use your desk, so you don't find your arms rolling away behind you as you push yourself back up!

Wrist stretches

Sitting at our desks all day typing on our computers or texting on our phones, really takes a toll on our joints and may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. One very important exercise we need to do regularly at our desks are wrist stretches.

One move you can easily do at your desk is the simple wrist stretch, "spreading your fingers out as far as they can go, before tightly clenching your fist." Another option would be to place your fingers on the edge of your desk and stretch your fingers back.

Hip stretch

If you've ever found yourself sitting at your desk all day, only to get up several hours later and feel your back sore or like your hips don't want to move so you can walk to the bathroom, then you already understand the need for this simple hip stretch. According to Men's Health, "When you sit a lot, your quads and hip flexors tighten. This impairs your performance whenever you squat, lunge, run, or jump, and places strain on your lower back and knees."

To perform this stretch, place your right foot firmly on the ground and lift the left foot to your right knee. Work towards pulling your left knee to parallel, and hold for a few breaths. Then, switch legs, and hold. Work towards holding this for a few minutes per side every day.

Chest opener

After sitting curled over your computer, your shoulders and neck fall forward. If you sit that way long enough, you are going to be sore and likely end up with a headache. To counteract this position, you need to perform a chest opener. You could try a seated cat or cow pose, or this chest opener.

Move to the edge of your chair, keep your feet flat on the floor, and reach your hands back to grab the back of your chair. Draw your shoulders down and back, then hold. Don't forget to breathe!

Spinal twist

The mother of all desk stretches is the seated spinal twist, which relieves back pain and stiffness, loosens the joints in the hips, and opens the chest, increasing oxygen to the lungs.

Sit sideways on your chair, with your feet planted on the ground. Twist your torso toward the back of the chair while holding onto the seat back. With each inhale, work towards lengthening your spine, and with each exhale, twist further. After completing a few breath cycles, move your legs around the opposite side of the chair and twist into the other side of your body.

Switch out your chair for an exercise ball or get a standing or treadmill desk.

We know that sitting at our desks all day with little to no movement is not great for our health. But it can be so easy to get hooked into our to-do lists, constant emails and notifications, and numerous conference calls. However, each of these exercises is easy enough to fit into even our busiest days — and will make a big impact on our health.

If you happen to find yourself wanting more, you can always change up your desk itself. Whether you bring in an exercise ball to replace your chair, switch to a standing desk, or even go for a treadmill desk, there are plenty of options to keep ourselves active at work!