Monday, 17 August 2015

Fitness in the Workplace : Stealthy Desk Workout

One of the last tasks I was asked to complete before leaving my former office job, was to design a workout for the team that they could do in the office to keep in shape without looking obvious. A fairly tall order!

In reality, there are many of us who want to maintain a fit and active lifestyle while working a busy schedule. Many people don't achieve this goal because work and life “get in the way.” and one way to try and combat this is to multitask. I'm going to skip over the tips about using the stairs instead of the lift, about parking further away from the office door and going for walks in your lunch break, not because it's not good advice, but because these tips are all well-known and I'd like to suggest something slightly different. If you really struggle to find time and motivation outside of work to fit in any sort of activity, then there are things you can do, even if you're desk bound.

This set of discrete exercises is intended to help to improve your posture and muscle strength which could help to dispel those aches and pains I know I've suffered from after a long day in the office. They could be done at your desk or in a meeting without drawing too much attention.

Before doing any of these exercises, ensure you have good posture and remember to breathe.


Yes it is possible to do a little cardio at your desk! Pretend you're Fred Astaire and tap your toes quickly on the floor under your desk. To make this harder and to engage the core muscles more, sit closer to the edge of your seat. Try four sets of 45 seconds of taps with 15 seconds of rest.

Legs and Bum

Calf Raises: While you’re waiting for your printing, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, press up onto tip toes, pause at the top, then lower back down. Repeat for three sets of 12-15 reps, or until the printing, faxing, or scanning is done.

Glute Squeeze: Squeeze all the muscles in your bum. Hold for 5-10 seconds, and relax. Repeat until the agenda wraps up or your glutes tire. 

Seated Leg Raise: While seated, straighten one or both legs then lower the leg(s) back to the ground without letting the feet touch the floor. Hold in place for five or more seconds and repeat (alternating legs if raising them separately) for 15 reps

Leg Toner: With legs straight, cross one on top of the other. Raise them off the floor. Press top leg down and resist with bottom leg. Hold until muscles are tired. Repeat with opposite legs top and bottom.
Thigh Press: Find a sealed package of printing paper. While seated, place the stack in between the knees and press legs inward, engaging the inner thighs. Continue squeezing the paper ream in place for 30-60 seconds.

Shoulders and Arms

The Namaste: Seated upright with feet flat on the floor, bring the palms together in front of the chest and push both hands together powerfully until you feel the arm muscles contract. Hold the position for 20 seconds. Release and repeat the sequence until you feel a little more zen.

Secret Handshake: Sitting up and with feet flat on the floor, clasp hands together as if giving yourself a handshake (with one thumb pointing to the floor and the other pointing to the ceiling). Then pull! Resist the motion of both arms (you should definitely feel this in those biceps). Hold for 10 seconds or more, release, and repeat.

Biceps Curl: Move chair close to desk. Make a fist while elbow is at 90 degrees and turn hand as if you're doing a hammer curl or open your palm. Push up against the desk with fist/hand. Hold for 6-10 seconds. Repeat 6 times.

Chest, Back, and Neck

The Pencil Pinch: Roll back the shoulders until the shoulder blades are pinched together, as if you’re holding a pencil between them. Hold for as long as possible.

Shoulder Shrug: While sitting upright, grab side of the chair and as though you're trying to lift yourself. Try to lift the seat of your chair while you’re sitting on it. Hold for 6-10 seconds. Repeat 6 times.

Nape Shaper: Put your head in your hands as if exasperated by the workday (you may already be in this position), and press your palms into your forehead as if trying to push the head backward. Resist the motion by engaging the neck muscles. Next, clasp the hands behind the back of the head and try to push the head backward, resisting the motion with your hands. Hold for 5 seconds, slowly release, rest, and repeat 5 times each.


Desk Chair Swivel: Sitting upright and with the feet hovering over the floor, hold the edge of your desk with your fingers and thumb. Use the core to swivel the chair from side to side. Swish back and forth for 15 rounds.

Levitation: This one may draw some attention but is great for your core and arms. Sit in your chair with your legs crossed and your feet on the seat (wearing trousers is advised). Place your hands on the armrests, suck in your stomach and raise yourself a few inches above the seat, using your belly, muscles and hands. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat five times.

Challenge your colleagues to see how many of these you can do in a day!

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