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The Ultimate Guide to Workplace Exercises for Healthier Workdays: Office Exercises to Start Today!

Whether achieved through wellness programs, workplace safety initiatives, or similar efforts, employers can create healthy, happy, and productive workplaces. Indeed, research from workhuman and Gallup reveals that employee health and wellness reduces employee burnout and turnover, fosters higher levels of belonging, and other benefits. 

A healthy employee base also saves money and opportunity costs. Gallup estimates that companies lose more than $300 million from employee turnover and burnout and $20 million for every 10,000 workers due to struggling or suffering employees.

These numbers make a good argument for workplace wellness programs, but as an employee you can do your part to keep yourself healthy, too—even if you work at a desk 40 hours a week. Performing a few simple workplace exercises or office workouts every day can make a big difference in your health and well-being

Let’s explore 13 easy desk workouts and office exercises you can do from the comfort of your office. 

Getting Started with Office Workouts

Person performing desk pushups in an office

“I don’t have the time to work out” is a common refrain from many employees. The reality is that thanks in part to the proliferation of remote work, it’s become much easier for employees to find time to exercise, as they no longer have to worry about long commutes to and from an office.

Even if you work in a corporate office, you can make time for simple, fast, and effective exercises. All you need is a little bit of time management and a small amount of space in which to perform the following chair exercises, desk workouts, and other office exercises. 

Performing each of these a few times a week, for five to ten minutes at a time, can improve your strength, mood, flexibility, and attention span. When coupled with more rigorous exercises, you can easily achieve the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended amount of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Chair or Desk-based Exercises

Office workers doing stretching exercises at their desks

You do not have to engage in full-on sprints to get exercise at work. Simple chair or desk-based exercises—including chair squats, desk pushups, and seated leg raises—are effective for strengthening muscles and getting blood flowing.

Chair Squats

To perform a chair squat:

  • Stand up from your chair with your hands clasped in front of you.
  • Slowly lower your body down until your buttocks are touching the seat behind you.
  • Immediately raise yourself back up into a standing position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Desk Pushups

To perform a desk pushup:

  • Place both hands on the edge of your desk, shoulder-length apart. Make sure the desk is sturdy enough to support your body weight.
  • Step back away from the desk.
  • Slowly lean forward, with the desk supporting you, into a plank position. Keep your core tight.
  • Push away from the desk until your arms are straight but not locked.
  • Repeat 10 – 20 times.

Seated Leg Raises

To perform seated leg raises:

  • Sit tall in your desk chair with your feet flat on the floor
  • Lift one leg until it’s parallel with the floor and straight in front of you. Be sure to contract your upper thigh muscles as you raise your leg.
  • Hold for one second, then slowly lower your leg back down.
  • Repeat 10 times with each leg.

Standing Exercises

Office worker meditating on a yoga mat

Leg muscles tend to atrophy when you sit at a desk most of the day. You can prevent this by performing wall sits, calf raises, and standing stretches—great workplace exercises that can help strengthen legs

Wall Sits

To perform a wall sit:

  • Stand up against a wall.
  • Slowly slide down the wall until your hips are level with your knees.
  • Hold the position for 30 – 60 seconds.
  • Slowly push yourself back up the wall.
  • Repeat 10 – 15 times.

Calf Raises

To perform a calf raise:

  • Stand up straight. Hold onto a desk or chair for balance if necessary.
  • Rise up to your toes. Hold that pose for a second.
  • Lower your toes back down to the floor.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Standing Stretches

There are several standing stretches you can try, including standing quadriceps stretches, standing hamstring stretches, and standing overhead side reaches.

To perform a standing quadriceps stretch:

  • In a standing position, place the tips of the fingers of one hand on your desk for support.
  • Bend the opposite leg and grab your ankle with your other hand.
  • Gently pull your heel toward your buttocks.
  • Hold the pose for a moment, then lower your leg back down to the floor.
  • Repeat 10 times. Then, switch sides and repeat 10 times with the other leg.

To perform a standing hamstring stretch:

  • Place your leg on your chair, heel down.
  • Lean forward and touch your toes with both hands.
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Then, switch legs.

To perform a standing overhead side reach:

  • Stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Place one hand at your side, touching your thigh.
  • Raise your opposite hand above your head, point your fingers toward the sky, and slowly lean toward the other side in an arc motion.
  • Keep leaning until you feel a slight tug in your torso.
  • Hold the position for 10 seconds. 
  • Return to your starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Continue alternating for 10 repetitions.

Workplace Workout Routines

One of the most common reasons people do not exercise is lack of time. But you don’t need a lot of time to get in an effective workplace exercise. Explore these five- and ten-minute office workouts to see how just a few minutes out of an eight-hour day can help keep you in shape and pain-free

5-minute Office Workouts

This 5-minute office workout does not require any exercise equipment and is easy to do, even in smaller confined spaces. 

Shoulder circles

  • Stand up straight and extend both of your arms to your sides at shoulder height.
  • Slowly rotate your arms forward in a circular motion. Complete 10 full circles.
  • Then, rotate your arms backward in a circular motion. Complete 10 full circles.
  • Let your arms full straight. 
  • Repeat for three more repetitions.


  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms to the side.
  • Slowly bend at the knees and hips so your body drops into a seated position. Keep your thighs parallel to the ground. Do not lean forward so you do not put too much weight on your knees.
  • Return to your starting position. 
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Seated crunches

  • Sit in your office chair. Hold the sides of the chair for support.
  • Ease back into the chair and draw your legs up toward your chest while keeping your core tight.
  • Extend your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Repeat 10 times.

10-minute Office Workouts

For an even more complete workplace exercise routine, try incorporating the following ten-minute workout regimen into your day. This office workout incorporates all elements of the five-minute routine but includes four additional exercises—triceps dips, forward-facing and side lunges, and single-leg deadlifts.

Triceps dips

  • Stand in front of your office chair. Make sure that it is stationary and cannot move.
  • Place your palms on the seat of the chair with your fingers facing away from you. Keep your feet on the ground and your legs straight in front of you.
  • Slowly lower your upper body until your arms are nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Forward-facing lunges

  • Stand up straight and place your hands on your hips.
  • Take one big step forward. Bend your front knee. Be sure to keep it in line with your toes. 
  • Step back to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the other knee.
  • Perform 10 – 20 repetitions on both sides.

Side lunges

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Clasp your hands in front of you, just below your chin. 
  • Take one big step to the side and lower into a squat until your opposite thigh is nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the other side.
  • Perform 10 – 20 repetitions on both sides.

Single leg deadlifts

  • Stand up straight in the middle of your office. Make sure you have enough room on all sides.
  • Balance on one leg while bending forward at the hip. Let your arms hang down while you reach toward the floor.
  • Stop bending once your back is parallel to the ground.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5 times with each leg.

Incorporating Exercises into Your Work Routine

While workplace exercises do not require a lot of time, it can sometimes be difficult to incorporate them into your daily routine. Everyone gets busy, and it can be easy to forget to move and stretch when working head-down on a project or task.

To help incorporate office exercises into your daily workflow, consider adopting the following tactics:

Put exercise time on your calendar. Block out a few minutes on your calendar, at the same time or times every day, dedicated to performing the office exercises of your choice. Make it a point to do your workouts without interruption as much as possible.

Set a reminder. Set recurring reminders every hour to get up and move for at least a few minutes, even if it’s only for a simple stretch. Alternatively, if you have a smartwatch, use the device’s ability to prompt you to move every hour as an opportunity to get up from your desk and exercise.

Combine exercise with work tasks. There are many ways to exercise while working. For example, consider investing in a standing desk that you can move up and down as you desire, or an under the desk treadmill that allows you to keep moving as you type. Seek out no-cost exercise alternatives, such as going for a walk while on a conference call.

Whatever you choose, there are easy ways to move frequently throughout the day that will not compromise your ability to remain productive at work. 

Overcoming Common Challenges

At some point we have all come up with excuses as to why we do not exercise. Some of the most common include lack of time, space, or motivation.

The good news is that each of these can be easily overcome. Here are a few practical ways to incorporate exercise into your work life, even if you are pressed for time, have a small office space, or just are not feeling motivated on a particular day.

Focus on short and simple exercise intervals

Office exercise does not have to be an intense, heart-pounding, 30-minute gym workout. Even something as simple as a couple of minutes of stretching or strength exercises can be highly effective. Refer to the five- or ten-minute workout routines above to get an idea of how to incorporate short bursts of exercise into your busy workday. 

Perform exercises that work with the space you have.

Most office exercises do not need a lot of space. In fact, many workplace exercises, such as lunges, wall sits, and so forth, are perfect for any size space. With the exercises outlined above, you can even use some common office items, such as your desk or chair. 

Remind yourself how exercise makes you feel and its long-term benefits.

Somedays it can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise. Perhaps you are tired or you have too much work to do. On days like these, it’s a good idea to remind yourself how exercise makes you feel. Research in the European Heart Journal shows that even small amounts of exercise every day can significantly lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and early death. Small doses of energy can also help increase blood flow and improve mental well-being and productivity.

With these benefits in mind, you may find yourself more motivated to move—even when you are not feeling up to it.

Embracing a Healthier Today with Workplace Exercises

We all have busy work lives, and sometimes it’s hard to fit in a workout during the workweek. But getting a good amount of exercise does not necessarily mean setting aside an hour to go to the gym every day. Although more intensive workouts are certainly beneficial, even a few minutes of in-office exercises interspersed throughout the day can help you become more fit, mentally focused, and reduce your chances of heart disease and other worrisome illnesses. 

What’s more, embracing a healthier today through workplace exercises does not have to take a lot of time, space, or effort. With just a few minutes a day—and a little motivation—you can engage in short, simple, and effective workouts that can break up work monotony and help you live a longer, happier, and more productive life.

Want to learn more about how Acuity can help your company improve workplace health and well-being? Check out Acuity’s comprehensive workplace wellness and prevention programs, as well as our occupational health services. Then, contact Acuity to find out how we can help your organization create a safer and healthier environment for all employees.

Workplace Exercises: FAQs

What is workplace exercise?

Workplace exercise is any type of exercise performed at the workplace, including a corporate or home office. Workplace exercises are different from typical gym workouts in that they do not require a lot of equipment, time, or space. They can generally be done in short intervals throughout the day using only a person’s body weight or office equipment, such as a desk or chair.

Which exercise is best for office workers?

The best exercise for office workers is generally one that requires little time, space, or equipment. The key is for the exercise to be, simple, enjoyable, and accessible so that the worker will perform it regularly.

What exercise does not raise cortisol levels?

Cortisol is a body’s main stress hormone. Since many of us already have enough stress at work, one of the goals of any workplace exercise program should be to reduce stress levels. Fortunately, all the office workouts mentioned in this blog post are low-stress exercises, and none will raise cortisol levels. In fact, they are great at reducing cortisol and helping workers be more focused and productive.

How can I exercise while sitting at my desk all day?

Exercising while working at a desk can be as simple as taking a few minutes out of each day to do short, yet highly effective, office exercises that require nothing more than a little bit of space and motivation. In fact, there are many workplace workouts you can do while actually sitting at your desk, including seated leg raises and chair squats. 

Still, it’s a good idea to try and move around at points throughout the day. Look for a few minutes here and there to get out of your chair and do some stretching or strength exercises, go for a short walk, or even do some quick chores if you work in a home office environment.

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