Get Fit at Your Desk! 10 Simple Moves

As an elementary school teacher, Karen Mercurio was almost always on her feet. “I was often standing and moving, going from student to student to help them with their needs. It was great exercise.” 

After choosing to follow a different career path, Mercurio found herself working in an office setting and unable to get away from her desk most of the day.

 “I am no longer able to get the exercise I once did as a teacher,” she says, adding that she also worries about her circulation.

If you have an office job like Mercurio and want to remain physically fit—don’t fret!
“There are a variety of ways you can get fit at your desk simply by using your chair as a piece of equipment and your body weight,” says Demarco Dodson, a fitness expert.

So next time you’re at work and find yourself starting to feel stiff, here are a few of Dodson’s favorite techniques to try—from different strength exercises to stretches.

1. Standing Chair Hip Flexor Stretch

While standing in front of your chair (facing towards it), put one leg on the chair bent at a 90 degree angle. You then raise the opposite arm straight in the air and reach across your body while leaning forward slightly. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and breathe in and out deeply. This is a great stretch for your hip flexor muscle, which tends to get very tight from sitting for extended periods of time.


2. Standing Quad Stretch

This is another great stretch for tight leg muscles. Stand behind your chair, and hold on to the back of your chair with one arm for stability. Now bend your leg at the knee, bringing your heel to your bottom. Use the opposite arm to hold it at the bridge of your foot, and lean forward slightly. Hold on both sides for 20-30 seconds.

3. Seated Neck Rolls

While seated in your chair, sit up nice and tall. Start by bringing your chin to your chest. Then rotate your neck to the left slowly, going all the way around until your chin is at your neck again. Now repeat to the right side. Make sure you take deep breaths, exhaling slowly. This will ease some of the tension that can build up in the neck muscles from sitting for extended periods of time.

4. Seated Forward Bend

Start by sitting in your chair, and sit up nice and tall once again. Now raise both hands above your head and take a deep breath in. Slowly begin to lean forward as you exhale; continue to lean forward until your chest is touching your thighs and your hands are draped over your feet. Begin to raise back up slowly as you breathe in deep again and return to the starting position. This is a great technique for de-stressing, calming anxiety levels, and stretching the muscles in your back.

5. Seated Twist

Again, sit up straight in your chair, and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, begin twisting to your right. Try and reach as far to the right as you can, looking behind you if possible. You can use both the opposite hand (left) and pull on the arm of the chair to allow you to stretch even further. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds and then return to the middle. Repeat to the other side. This stretch is great for relieving tightness in your middle and lower back, as well as for increasing flexibility in your core.


6. Chair Push Up

Start by standing a few feet away from your chair while facing towards it. Do not do this exercise if your chair has wheels. Place your hands on the edge of your seat and walk your feet back until your body is in a straight line and your arms are extended. Now begin to perform a push up, inhaling on the way down and exhaling on the push up. This is a great exercise for upper body strength and toning of the chest and tricep muscles.

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7. Chair Plank with Knee Tuck

This exercise will be great for strengthening your core and toning your ab muscles. You are going to get into a similar push up position as you did for the chair push up exercise. This time, you will begin with your elbows and forearms in the seat of the chair, with your body in a straight line. Elbows should be directly under your shoulders in the seat of the chair. Next, you will tuck your knee into your chest and back out. Then repeat on the other side by tucking your knee to your chest and back out. Repeat this for 10-15 reps with each leg. Make sure you keep your core tight and breathe as you perform each rep of the exercise.

8. Chair Dips

Another great exercise for toning your triceps is the chair dip. Again, if your chair has wheels make sure that the back of your chair is against a chair or wall so that it doesn’t move while performing the exercise. Begin by sitting in your chair facing forward with your hands holding onto the edge of the chair. Now, begin to walk your body forward while you continue holding on to the chair until your bottom is no longer in the seat. Your arms should be extended and holding the chair behind you. Now, lower your body until your arms are bent at a 45 degree angle, and then push your body weight up. Repeat for 10-15 reps.


9. Seated Tricep Stretch

Begin by sitting straight up in your chair. Raise one arm up in the air over your head; then bend at the elbow, placing your hand behind your head. Take the opposite hand and hold the elbow that is bent. Now, begin to gently pull the elbow towards the opposite side of your body until you feel a stretch in your tricep. Hold for 15-20 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

10. Single Leg Squat

This exercise will be great for strengthening your leg muscles and helping you develop better balance. Begin by standing in front of your chair, facing away from it. You should be about a foot or two away from the chair. Now, place one leg in the chair behind you. Your toe should be pointing into the seat of the chair. Place both hands on your hips, and begin to lower your body until your front leg is at about a 90 degree angle. Then push up until your leg is fully extended. Repeat for 8-12 reps on each leg, making sure you breathe in and out with each rep performed.

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