6 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk

 
Increasing Your NEAT: 6 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk | Jennifer Diaz | Photo by Kelsey Cherry

How much do you sit during a typical day?

If you're the average person, I would say it's probably somewhere between 7-15 hours each day. Which is pretty crazy to think about since our bodies are designed for movement! By now, most of us know that sitting for long periods of time isn't the healthiest thing for us, but exactly how dangerous could it be? A couple years ago, Dr. James Levine, the Director of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Solutions Initiative, coined the phrase "sitting is the new smoking." And even if you're spending a few hours a week exercising at a moderate-vigorous intensity, you are still at a high risk for developing a variety of cancers, heart disease, muscular injuries, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression if you're consistently sitting for 6+ hours a day. So yes, not only do you need to be getting your regular workouts in, but you also need to be moving more in general!

Moving more during your day means increasing your NEAT levels. NEAT stands for Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis, and is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. So think walking around the mall, dancing, raking leaves, gardening, etc. Dr. Levine's work has shown that NEAT can burn an average of 330 calories per day (1000 in some people)! In addition to increased caloric expenditure, moving more throughout the day can also increase concentration, productivity, and levels of serotonin and dopamine. 

So what's a person with a desk job to do? No, you don't need rush out to buy a standing desk. Instead, try a few of these to incorporate more movement into your daily routine:

  • Walk before you get to work.
  • Park farther away and walk into work.
  • Walk at lunch.
  • Stand up when you have to make a phone call.
  • Walk to get water.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Walk after dinner. 
  • Do exercises at your desk every couple of hours.

Below are 6 exercises that are easy to do right at your desk. Set your timer for every 2-3 hours to remind you to stand up and perform 2-3 of the exercises below:

1. Desk Push-Ups

  • Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Scoot your feet back so you are standing at an angle.
  • Lower yourself down to the desk so that your chest is in between your hands until your elbows reach a 90 degree angle.
  • Press back to the starting position.

Perform 10-20.

2. Chair Suitcases

  • Sit on the edge of the seat and hold onto the seat or arm rests. 
  • Bend your knees and bring your feet off of the ground so that your knees come to your chest. 
  • Slowly extend your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Engage your abs and bring your knees back into your chest.

Perform 15-25.

3. Figure 4 Squats

Increasing Your NEAT: 6 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk | Jennifer Diaz | Photo by Kelsey Cherry
  • Holding onto your desk, prop one ankle above the knee of the opposite leg so your legs create the shape of a 4.
  • Slowly sit down and back, keeping your shoulders back, head up, and knee behind toes.
  • Press through your heel as you stand back up to the starting position.

Perform 10 on each leg.

4. Close Grip Desk Push-Ups

  • Place your hands directly under your shoulders.
  • Scoot your feet back so you are standing at an angle.
  • Lower yourself down by bending your elbows and lightly sweeping your ribcage
  • Make sure your chest is in between your hands
  • Once your elbows are at a 90 degree angle, press back to the starting position.

Perform 10-15.

5. Single Leg Squats

Increasing Your NEAT: 6 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk | Jennifer Diaz | Photo by Kelsey Cherry
  • Stand two feet in front of a chair or stable surface and prop one foot on it.
  • Keeping your shoulders back and head up, sit down and back into a squat.
  • Press into your heel and stand back up to the starting position.

Perform 10 on each leg.

6. Tricep Dips

  • Place your hands directly under your shoulders on a stable desk or chair.
  • Bring your shoulders back and down away from your ears. 
  • Lower down, making sure your elbows go straight back until they are at a 90 degree angle. 
  • Press through the palms of your hands back up to the starting position.

Perform 10-15.

Adding more movement doesn't have to be complicated or expensive! Stand up and get moving and you'll be feeling better before you know it!

Resources:

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005
  2. http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/106/7/dju206.full
  3. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/172/4/419.abstract
  4. http://www.diabetologia-journal.org/files/henson.pdf
  5. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2003.045591/full
  6. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(13)00319-X/abstract

All photos by Kelsey Cherry.