12 Great Exercises to Do at Your Desk

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A man stretching at his desk in an office with files in the background.
BetMGM Oct 21, 2021, 1:22 AM

Everyone knows the benefits and necessity of exercise. It’s an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and especially important to people who spend long hours at a desk each day – whether for business or entertainment purposes. Not only is exercise crucial for your physical health, it also plays an important role in your brain functioning. Whether you’re a business mogul or an online casino fan who enjoys playing casino table games like online poker, exercise can enhance your focus and memory, build your self-esteem, improve your mood and increase your productivity. 

If you’re anything like some of the most successful people in the world, chances are you already have a regular exercise routine – whether it’s a daily jog or yoga class, three to five resistance-training sessions each week or your favorite sport. And while these exercises will go a long way in supporting your well-being, nothing beats going from a sedentary lifestyle to becoming generally more active. Ways to become more active could include cycling to work each morning, always opting for the stairs over the elevator, or adding some exercises to your days (or nights) while sitting at your desk. You’ll see the difference very quickly, not least in your overall energy level. 

Now, you’re probably wondering what some of the best exercises to do at your desk are. Below, we’ll discuss some great desk exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine. In addition to these, getting up regularly to stretch from time to time, to give your eyes a break from the screen, is also helpful!

1. Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises allow you to access your autonomic nervous system (the component of your nervous system that controls involuntary processes such as breathing and heart rate,) and create shifts in your energy levels and perspectives. If you don’t have time for physical exercise, breathing exercises can offer you many of the benefits, from helping to reduce stress and release tension, to improving focus and clarity, boosting energy levels and relieving chronic pain. And the best thing about breathing techniques is they can be done wherever you are. Getting your breath under control is an immediate way of getting a handle on a situation, especially if you’re panicking about something or feeling angry. Take some deep, long breaths to settle yourself down and then give some of the following techniques a try. 

Rhythmic breathing

This breath can either energize or relax you, depending on what you need.

To practice: Sit up straight and release any tension in your shoulders. Breathe in and out through your nose, and allow the air to flow into your lower chest and abdomen.

For an energizing breath: Inhale for a count of 6, hold for 1, exhale for a count of 4. Repeat for 1 to 3 minutes.

For a relaxing breath: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for 1, exhale for a count of 6. Repeat for 1 to 3 minutes.

Alternate nostril breathing

This technique reduces anxiety and improves clarity. It’s also very difficult to think about anything else than just practicing the technique, so you’ll get a natural “clean slate” approach to your next task at hand when you’re done! To practice this breathing exercise, sit up straight and close off one nostril with your finger; breathe out through the other nostril and in again; then switch nostrils (some people find using a thumb on one nostril and a finger on the other makes it easy to flip from one side to the other seamlessly.) Breathe slowly for the same count in each direction – pick a rate that works for you. Repeat for 2 to 4 minutes, or until you feel calmer and clear-headed. It may feel strange at first, but when you get used to it, you’ll find it’s an excellent way to refresh your mind.

Pumping breath

Known as Kapalabhati in yoga, this breathing technique increases the amount of oxygen in the blood – energizing the whole body and refreshing the brain. To practice: sit up straight, take a deep breath into your belly, then forcefully exhale while drawing your navel in towards your spine – creating a pumping action. Then allow your lungs to fill back up, and repeat the forced exhale. Think of it as inhaling passively but exhaling actively, almost the opposite of a “normal” breath cycle. Continue for 10 to 20 breaths, and repeat 1 to 3 times. Give it a try and you’ll be amazed how awake you feel afterward!

2. Upper body exercises 

Neck rolls and side stretch

Benefits: Relieve tension in the head, neck and upper back. 

Instructions: Sit up straight and gently roll your neck in slow circles, one way and then the other. If there is pain, rather bring the neck into a side stretch (on both sides,) then a forward stretch, and hold it there while breathing deeply and consciously relaxing the surrounding muscles. Next, raise one arm straight above the head, then reach it over to the opposite side, focusing on elongating the side of the body and expanding the rib cage; repeat on both sides.

Upper back stretch

Benefits: Opens the upper back and chest, energizing the body.

Instructions: Bend one arm at the elbow, placing the hand behind the head on the upper back. If your flexibility allows, bend your other arm against your lower back and clasp your hands. On an inhale open the chest, leaning back slightly from the upper back (not collapsing into the lower back), and on the exhale, bring the spine back into a neutral position. Repeat a few times on both sides.

Incline pushups

Benefits: Strengthens the upper body and core, while increasing blood flow.

Instructions: The higher the incline, the easier the pushup, so do these either on your desk or chair, depending on your level of strength. Placing your hands flat on the chosen surface, bring your body into a plank position with core, glutes, arms, chest and back engaged. Slowly bend your arms, tucking them in at your sides, and lower your chest toward the surface; hold for a second, then push back up. Do 5 to 15 reps.

3. Lower body exercises

Forward-fold hamstring stretch

Benefits: Relieves lower back tension and increases blood flow to the legs.

Instructions: Sitting on the edge of your seat, straighten one leg out in front of you with the heel on the ground, keeping the other bent at a 90-degree angle. Open your chest and roll your shoulders back, lengthen your spine, and hinge forward from your hips, bringing your lower belly in towards your upper thighs. Hold for a few deep breaths and repeat on the other side.

Legs up the wall

Benefits: This exercise is great for tackling that mid-afternoon slump, as it both relaxes and energizes the whole body and increases blood flow to the brain. 

Instructions: Lie on the floor with your bottom right against the wall and bring your legs up against the wall – either straight or slightly bent. Stay here for 5 to 10 minutes while taking long, relaxing breaths.

Chair squats

Benefits: Squats strengthen the muscles of the lower body and core. Prolonged periods of sitting weakens the glute muscles, which are essential for posture and functionality.

Instructions: Sitting on the edge of your chair, bring your feet hip-distance apart at a 90-degree angle, then stand up. This is the distance you’ll be using. Now start in a standing position and open your chest; engage your core and slowly lower yourself down, just touching your bottom on the chair; then stand back up in a controlled way. If you’re used to weighted squats and need an extra challenge, try amping it up and going for a single leg squat on the chair, where you lift one leg slightly off the ground and then squat (don’t forget to swap sides, of course.)

4. Core exercises

Core strength is essential for good posture, which prevents back pain and improves general functionality. These exercises can be done on an office chair, an inflatable exercise ball or on a yoga mat on the floor.

Chair bicycle

Sit firmly on your chair, placing your hands behind your head, with your toes on the ground. Engage your core, lift one leg and crunch it in towards the opposite elbow. Repeat on the other side. If you have a chair that allows you to lean back slightly, you can keep both feet lifted off the ground in a boat position while crunching one knee to shoulder at a time. Do 10 reps per side.

Seated knee to chest

Place your toes on the ground and lean your upper body back slightly, keeping your core and chest engaged, and holding onto the sides of the chair. Bend both knees, drawing them into your chest, hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Oblique twists

Lean back slightly in your chair and draw your knees into your chest, with a 90-degree angle between the back of your thighs and your calves. Use your core to keep your legs and torso in that position, then clasp your hands and gently twist to one side, bringing your elbow in toward the side of your body, then to the other side. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Sample workout

The Energizing Sequence:

  1. Pumping breath – 10-20 times for 1-3 rounds
  2. Upper back stretch
  3. Forward-fold hamstring stretch – Hold on each side for 6 deep breaths
  4. Incline pushups on the desk – 12 reps x 2 sets
  5. Chair squats – 12 reps x 2 sets
  6. Chair bicycle – 12 reps x 2 sets.

Finish off with some deep breathing and a tall glass of water, and you’ll be amazed at how you feel afterward. 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.