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Exercises To Do From Your Desk

By Emily Lockhart

Medically Reviewed by Eric Leckie, PT

It’s an unfortunate reality that many of us are chained to our desks for eight hours or longer each and every day. That’s not to mention the overtime or the work we take home with us on the weekends. It’s a sad fact that most of us spend more time sitting than we do standing, walking, running, or being active, which leaves us open to all sorts of physical issues—like weight gain, back issues, poor circulation, and more.

There are effective ways that you can combat the damage you do by sitting hunched over a computer for long periods of time. Take these for example. You can do them right at your desk to improve circulation, bad posture; rounded shoulders; tight wrists, neck, and back muscles; and to boost your overall core strength so sitting all day long is much easier on your body.

Here are 10 exercises that you can do without even getting up from your desk…

Carpal Tunnel Stretch

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common affliction that sets into the median nerve in the wrists from repetitive stress—like typing. It often leads to loss of feeling and movement in the wrist, forearm, and parts of the hand and can cause numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hands.

You can prevent carpal tunnel by placing your palms on your desk with your fingers pointed toward you. Put pressure down on your hands gradually until you feel the stretch. Hold for 15 seconds each time and repeat 4 times on each side.

Shoulder Stretch

This exercise will create flexibility in tight necks and shoulders. Just sit up straight in your chair and reach your left hand over your head , bending it palm down facing your mid back and between your shoulder blades. Reach your right hand up and over grasping your left shoulder. Gently apply pressure and push the elbow down. Hold for 10 seconds on each side for two rounds.

Overhead Side Stretch

Sit upright in your chair and raise your right wrist over your head. Reach over head with your left hand and pull your right wrist towards your left side to give the right side of your body a good stretch (especially the oblique muscles otherwise known as the side abdominals). Ensure as you pull, you keep your shoulders from cramping up to your ears. Repeat twice on each side and hold for 10 seconds.

Spinal Twists

To give your back a good stretch and squeeze out all the tension from the day, sit up tall facing forward, cross your left hand over your right knee and twist your upper body to the right. Be aware to keep both hips planted in your chair. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat twice on each side.

Desk Push Ups

A great exercise to increase your upper-body strength, stand facing your desk (approximately 3-feet from your desk) with your feet hip distance apart. Place your palms on the edge of your desk so they remain in line with your shoulder and lower your chest down so that your face comes to meet the desk. Using your chest and biceps muscles, push your body back up to a plank. Do 15 to 20 repetitions.

Hamstring Stretch

A lot of stress can build up in the hamstring muscles with limited activity. To get some relief, push your chair away from your desk and put one leg up on the edge of the desk. Flex your foot so that toes point towards the ceiling and slowly hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back straight. If you can’t grasp your toes, grasp behind the knees or calves and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat four times.

Invisible Chair Squats

A great core-strengthening exercise that mimics actually sitting down in your chair, to squat stand up straight with feet hip distance apart and arms comfortably at your sides. Lower your bum as you bend at the knees, keeping your back straight (as if you were sitting down in a chair).

You can even stand in front of your chair and lower down with the seat behind you for balance. You can also extend your arms out in front for added balance. Do 210 to 15 repetitions.

Triceps Dips

This exercise targets the muscle on the back of the arms (you know, the one that can look like lose chicken skin). Stand a few inches away from the edge of your desk facing outwards.

Place both palms on the edge of the desk on either side of you with fingers facing out, feet hip distance apart. Bend at the elbows, placing weight on your hands as you dip a few inches down, and then use your upper body strength to push your body back up. Do 10 to 15 repetitions.

Knee Extensions

Seated knee raises target the quadriceps (or upper leg) muscles. Sit in your chair with your feet flat and your back straight against the back of the chair. Using leg strength only, extend your right leg straight. Hold your leg straight for 5 seconds and then lower your foot back down so it’s flat on the floor. Alternate your legs for 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.

Ball Stabilization

Sitting on any unstable surface, such as swapping your desk chair for a stability ball, will encourage strength-building in the core muscles (the abdominals, mid and lower back, and hips) for better balance, posture, and stability. You’ll notice that after sitting on a stability ball for a few days that you’re sitting posture is straighter and that you’re back is suddenly in proper alignment.

Encouraging “active sitting,” strengthens your abdominals and back muscles, improves your balance, and increases core stability so that daily tasks—such as walking, standing, and climbing stairs are easier on the body.

DPT, Doctor of Physiotherapy

Eric Leckie is a men's health Physiotherapist specializing in prostate cancer treatment. He completed his studies in Australia earning his Doctor of Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne. He currently works in a private practice, in addition to owning his own Telehealth Physiotherapy clinic which focuses on treating men with prostate cancer.

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