woman standing in front of her desk at work, exercising and using the desk for balance.
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7 desk exercises to stay active at work

June 14, 2024
5 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Workout tips

It can be challenging to fit a workout routine into a busy schedule. Even if you regularly spend time at the gym or doing other exercises, there are likely days when you can't do your normal fitness activities.

Those of us who work in offices at a desk job can combat the sedentary lifestyle with office exercises. These simple but effective exercises can be done at your desk when you take a break. In addition to being good for your overall health and well-being, doing some quick exercises throughout the workday will also enhance your productivity.

Importance of staying active during the workday

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone exercise for at least 150 minutes every week. Even if you can only exercise in short bursts during your workday, you can still enjoy these benefits:

  • Decreased body mass index (BMI): Researchers at the University of Utah found that doing exercises for 10 minutes or less can have a positive impact on your BMI. Specifically, every minute of high-intensity exercise done throughout the day can lower obesity odds by up to 2% for men and 5% for women.
  • Mood improvement: One review found that doing short bursts of daily exercise is linked to positive mood changes.
  • Reduced appetite: A study compared exercise programs made up of a dozen 5-minute exercises every day with a program consisting of one hour of exercise. The researchers discovered that participants doing the 5-minute exercise blocks reported 32% less hunger during the day than the participants who exercised for a straight hour.

Fortunately, spending even five or 10 minutes doing easy exercises at your desk can provide stimulation and mid-day blood flow. Here's a bonus: Some easy desk exercises can help you push through the dreaded mid-afternoon slump that occurs after lunch.

Overview of the negative effects of prolonged sitting

Sitting for extended periods can reduce blood flow, which can contribute to stroke or heart attack. Equally concerning, prolonged sitting and other sedentary behaviors are linked to insulin resistance. For these reasons, prolonged sitting bears some of the blame for health conditions that include:

  • Heart disease
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes

One study found that individuals who sit for most of the day even have a 40% increased risk of reduced longevity. In terms of burnout and mental health, a lack of physical activity can increase anxiety, stress levels, and depression risks.

1. Desk push ups

Desk push ups work the chest and triceps.

How to do desk push ups:

  1. Stand and face your desk.
  2. Place the palms of your hands against the desk. Your hands should be just a little bit wider than the width of your shoulders. Keep your arms straight.
  3. Lower yourself as much as you comfortably can, or until you almost reach the desk with your chest.
  4. Return to the start position, and repeat the desk push ups for 10 reps.

2. Calf raises

This exercise works the calves.

How to do calf raises:

  1. Stand up tall, placing your hands on your desk or chair for balance.
  2. Raise your heels slowly off the ground, up on your toes.
  3. Hold the pose for between five and 10 seconds before lowering your heels back to their position on the floor.
  4. Repeat the calf raises 10 times.

3. Back twists

Back twists work the obliques.

How to do back twists:

  1. Sit in a chair that swivels and place your hands on the edge of your desk.
  2. Using your hands, spin as far as possible to one side.
  3. Repeat, switching to the other side.
  4. Do this for 10 reps on each side.

4. Tricep dips

This exercise gives your chest and triceps a workout.

How to do tricep dips:

  1. Place a chair without wheels behind you.
  2. Stand with your back to the chair.
  3. Place the palms of your hands flat on the chair's seat. Your fingers will be facing away from you.
  4. Make sure you keep your heels securely on the ground, keeping your legs out straight in front of you.
  5. Lower yourself towards the ground until your upper arms are nearly parallel to the floor. You can lower yourself as low as is comfortable for you.
  6. Return your body to the start position, and repeat the tricep dips for 10 reps.

5. Wall sit

Wall sits work the core, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

How to do wall sits:

  1. Stand against a wall with your back flush to the wall.
  2. Slowly slide down toward the floor until your knees and hips are bent at approximately a 90-degree angle.
  3. Hold the position for about 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat the wall sits 10 times.

6. Chair squats

Chair squats strengthen your hips, buttocks, and lower back.

How to do chair squats:

  1. Standing in front of your chair, place your feet with your toes pointing forward and shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees, keeping your head and chest up.
  3. Drive back your hips as if you plan to sit in the chair. You can hold onto your desk if you need help with balance or support for your knees.
  4. Just before your bottom reaches the chair, stop and rise slowly back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat chair squats 10 times.

7. Neck rotations

Neck rotations help alleviate "tech neck," a stiffness that occurs when people sit in front of a computer several hours a day.

How to do neck rotations:

  1. Sitting in your chair, relax  and gently lean your head forward until your chin almost touches your chest.
  2. Roll your head slowly toward one shoulder. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat the same exercise on your other side.
  4. Relax and move your chin back to the start position.
  5. Repeat neck rotations three times for each shoulder.

Strategies for staying motivated to exercise at work with Evidation

Evidation is an excellent tool to help you reach your activity and fitness goals. Try some of these strategies for staying motivated to move more and get some mini-workouts done while at your desk.

  • Set SMART goals: SMART is an acronym for goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • Track your progress: With Evidation, you can monitor your progress toward your goals. When you see your achievements, you'll feel motivated to keep up the good work.
  • Set reminders: Scheduling your five-minute workouts ensures you'll stop to do the desk exercises. 
  • Enable notifications: If you use wearable tech, consider enabling notifications that remind you to stand for five minutes every hour.
  • Find a fitness buddy: Start a fitness challenge with your coworkers using the Evidation app.


Integrating these exercises into your daily routine can have a huge impact on your overall quality of life. Evidation offers support in reaching your fitness goals. Download the app today to start tracking healthy activities and earning reward points.

Workout tips
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