Deskercises: 5-day desk exercises routine to get you through the workweek

As the Better Health channel puts it, “sitting is the new smoking”. This is why remote and in-office employees have begun squeezing in physical activity through desk exercises at work.

 Our desk jobs have made our lives so sedentary that we rarely follow the best practices of ergonomics. The pandemic didn’t help either, because it limited opportunities for us to exercise outside. 

I thought it would be helpful to compile the desk exercise routine we follow daily which helps us stay active at home. Keep reading!

1 Why Should You Deskercise at Work?

Why Should You Deskercise at Work

Research by the US Department of Health shows that 80%t of US adults and adolescents are inadequately active. We can all agree that this fact applies to the entire world instead of just the US (though the actual numbers may vary slightly). This is primarily because of the addition of technology in every aspect of our lives.

Exercises, and generally being active, have a multitude of health benefits. Desk exercises at work are ideal if your job is behind a laptop screen. Instead of feeling guilty about missing your gym class, you can incorporate desk exercises when working. The best part is, that you won’t feel like you’re missing out on either fitness or the task on your daily To-Do! 

If you don’t or can’t exercise much, and the second option sounds more lucrative, that’s because it is. Desk exercises help you in getting your body used to moving before you move on to more strenuous workouts. Here are more reasons why you should start off with desk exercises even if you are physically active.

1.1 Helps manage stress

Work-related stress can have both physical and mental effects. Exercise helps release cortisol thereby helping your body in reducing stress and anxiety. Regular exercise, even desk exercises at work helps in strengthening the physiological resistance to stress which helps manage it betters in the long term

1.2 Improves productivity

Indulging in even desk exercises at work before you begin your work can improve alertness and concentration. It also helps with increased and sustained energy throughout the day. This combined with heightened focus helps with productivity at work.

1.3 Improves mood

Are you someone who is unable to leave personal worries at home? And you come to work in a bad mood? Then, desk exercises at work might be your solution, at least temporarily. Exercise supports the feel-good hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins which in turn alleviates our mood for many hours.

1.4 Helps with better sleep

According to this study by the NCBI, exercise is the best non-drug treatment option for sleep disturbance  It helps you to fall asleep easier and stay asleep. And we all know from sheer experience that better sleep means less crankiness, therefore no more grumpy-owl at work.

1.5 Encourages Team Building

Team building happens more effectively when we do non-work-related activities together. 

Desk exercises at work can be included as part of virtual team building activities which helps with general fitness and improved performance. It also increases mild competition amongst the team members when you put forth workout challenges like –  

  • Who can do the most number of jumping jacks
  • Longest time in the plank position.
  • Who can do the most number of Surya Namaskar sets?

and so on.

2 5-day desk exercises routine to get you through the workweek

Scheduled workouts are more beneficial as they concentrate on one muscle group each day of the week. So why should desk exercises at work be any different? When we get together with our virtual teams and engage in daily exercises before we begin work on a routine, we build endurance together – literally and figuratively.

Here is a 5-day workweek desk exercise routine that you can follow with your team or even alone.

2.1 Monday desk exercises at work – Yoga

Monday desk exercises at work – Yoga

Tadasana – The Mountain Pose

Tadasana - The Mountain Pose

It is also the foundational pose of Yoga. It can be done by itself to improve posture, or as a beginning posture before other asanas. 

  • Stand erect, feet hip wide apart. 
  • Engage your quads, turn your thigh inwards, 
  • Draw in your belly. 
  • Stretch your arms over your head, touch the ears with the side of your arms, palms facing each other 
  • Keep your neck elongated and stretch the crown of your head upwards
  • Bend back as much as you can. Take deep and slow breaths
  • Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times

Uttanasana or The Forward Bend

Uttanasana or The Forward Bend

This asana provides a soothing feeling of release as blood rushes to your head

  • Stand erect, feet hip wide apart. 
  • Stretch your arms above your head, touch the ears with the side of your arms, palms facing each other 
  • Bend forward at the hips and touch your fingers/palms to the feet/ground. Bend the knees very slightly to take the pressure off the back
  • To extend the stretch, try holding your calf muscles and touching your head to the knees
  • Take slow deep breaths. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times

Dandayamana Mudrasana or The Standing Yoga Seal

This asana is a slight extension of Uttanasana.

  • Stand erect, legs 2-3 feet wide apart. 
  • Bring your arms to shoulder length
  • Stretch it back and interlock your fingers
  • Bend forward at the hips with the interlocked hands stretched towards the ceiling. Bend the knees very slightly to take the pressure off the back
  • To extend the stretch, try to keep your head between the knees
  • Take slow deep breaths. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times

Marjaryasana (Cat pose) & Bitilasana (Cow Pose) 

Marjaryasana & Bitilasana

The Cow & Cat tilt is an effective spine stretcher and headache reliever.

  • Spread a mat, get down on all fours with thighs and palms hip and shoulder-width apart, respectively
  • Keep your spine neutral, and head parallel to the ground.
  • Inhale, round the spine, and curve it upwards
  • Exhale, curve the spine downwards and lift your chest and face up
  • Stay in each pose for about 30 secs. Repeat 6-8 times 

Bhujangasana or the Snake Pose

Bhujangasana or the Snake Pose

This could be the only time we all love snakes. This snake (pose) helps reset our slouched sitting.

  • Lie down on your stomach, feet hip-width apart
  • Keep your palms by the side of your chest, tuck the elbows towards your body
  • Lift up at the waist, throw your head back
  • Take slow deep breaths. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times

Balasana or The Child’s Pose

Balasana or The Child’s Pose

This is the foundational resting pose in Yoga. Essential after every yoga practice.

  • Sit on your knees with legs folded under you, toes touching.
  • Lift your arms above your head, keep your spine erect
  • Bend at the hips and lean forward and try touching your forehead to the ground. Keep seated, ie, do not lift your hips from the sitting pose.
  • Touch your arms to the floor in front and push them forward to give that invigorating stretch to your spine.
  • Take slow deep breaths. Stay in this position for 2-3 minutes.

2.2 Tuesday desk exercises at work – Upper Body

Tuesday desk exercises at work – Upper Body

Tricep dip

Tricep dip

  • Stand in front of a heavy/stationary chair. Or wheel your chair back to the wall so that it doesn’t move
  • Sit on the edge; keep your palms on the seat on either side of your hips.
  • Extend your legs, place them slightly wider than your hips
  • Move your hips forward, bend your elbows and slowly lower and raise yourself
  • Exhale as you move down, inhale as you move up. Repeat this 16-20 times

Desk push-ups

Desk push-ups

  • Stand in front of a heavy/stationary desk
  • Stand back, lean over with your body in a straight line, and keep your hands on the desk, little wider than your shoulder-width
  • Keep your core tight, elbows tucked in, push yourself towards the desk, and get back up 
  • Exhale as you move down, inhale as you move up. Repeat this 16-20 times

Desk planks

Desk planks

  • Stand in front of a heavy/stationary desk
  • Stand back, lean over with your body in a straight line, your elbows and forearms against your desk, and your hands closed in a fist by each other.
  • Keep your core tight. 
  • Breathe normally. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times

Shoulder press

Shoulder press

  • Grab two 1L bottles and fill them with water.
  • Sit on your chair or stand by your desk with your spine erect, legs hip-width apart
  • Hold the bottles near your shoulder and elbows bent at 90-degrees
  • Keep your core tight, slowly stretch your arms above your head, pause for few seconds, and bring it back to the above position
  • Exhale while extending your arms, inhale while bringing it back to shoulder level. Repeat 10 times 

Bent over rows

Bent over rows

  • Grab two 1L bottles and fill them with water.
  • Stand by your desk with your spine erect, legs hip-width apart
  • Bend at the hips to about 45 degrees, knees bent slightly
  • Push your arms before you and point to the ground. Pull each arm back towards you and line the water bottle in level with your chest
  • Exhale while pulling your arm, inhale while lowering it. Repeat 10 times

Bicep curls

Bicep curls

  • Grab two 1L bottles and fill them with water.
  • Stand by your desk with your spine erect, legs hip-width apart, arms by your side, weights facing outwards
  • Without moving the rest of your body, curl your elbows and bring the weights to your shoulders
  • Pause for a few seconds and bring it back. Repeat 10 times

Front raises

Front raises

  • Grab two 1L bottles and fill them with water.
  • Stand by your desk with your spine erect, legs hip-width apart, arms by your side, weights facing behind
  • Without moving the rest of your body, keep your arms straight and bring them to level with your shoulders in front of you, parallel to the ground
  • Pause for a few seconds and bring it back. 
  • Exhale while lifting the weights, inhale while bringing it back down. Repeat 10 times

Shoulder raises

  • Grab two 1L bottles and fill them with water.
  • Stand by your desk with your spine erect, legs hip-width apart, arms by your side, weights inwards
  • Without moving the rest of your body, keep your arms straight and bring them to level with your shoulders by your side, parallel to the ground
  • Pause for a few seconds and bring it back. 
  • Exhale while lifting the weights, inhale while bringing it back down. Repeat 10 times

Arm pulses

Arm pulses

  • Stand by your desk, keep your arms by your sides, palms facing backward.
  • Keeping the arms straight, push them backward and pulse for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 2-3 times

2.3 Wednesday desk exercises at work – Core

Wednesday desk exercises at work – Core

Wall sit

Wall sit

  • Go to a wall and lean your back against it.
  • Extend your legs, keep them hip-width apart
  • Slide your back down the wall until your hips are level with your knees and your knees are bent at 90 degrees
  • Stay in this position for 30-45 seconds

Oblique twists

Oblique twists

  • Sit with your spine erect on your swivel chair. Do not use the backrest
  • Hold onto the edge of your desk, keep your arms straight
  • Lift your legs and hover them slightly over the ground. Keep your core tight
  • Rotate the chair side to side using your core while holding onto the desk.
  • Exhale while moving to your side, inhale while coming back to the neutral position
  • Repeat 10-16 times 

Seated crunches

Seated crunches

  • Sit on your chair with feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
  • Keep your hands behind your head, interlock your fingers. Keep the spine erect and core tight
  • Lift one knee toward the opposite elbow, twisting your body down toward it so that the knee and elbow touch.
  • If you find this exerting, do not twist your body. Instead, do straight body crunches where you slightly bend your shoulders towards your knees.
  • Do not move your neck. Exhale while bending, inhale while coming back up. Repeat each side alternatively 10 times

Knee to chest

Knee to chest

  • Sit on your chair, keep your legs straight out in front of you, heels on the ground
  • Keep the spine erect and the core tight. Do not use backrest
  • Hold the bottom of your chair and pull your knees in toward your chest, both legs at the same time.
  • Pause for few seconds and return to the first position 
  • Exhale while bending, inhale while straightening. Repeat 10 times.

Russian Twists

Russian Twists

  • Sit on a chair without armrests and swivel function, or on the floor. Bend your knees and keep your feet slightly off the floor. Keep your back straight.
  • Hold a 2L filled water bottle or any heavy object in front of you level with your chest
  • Keep your core tight. Twist your body and move the object to one side.
  • Pause for few seconds, and repeat on the other side.
  • Exhale while twisting, inhale while coming back. Repeat 10 times.

Lower-Abs Leg Lifts

Lower-Abs Leg Lifts

  • Sit on your chair with your spine erect, keep feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. 
  • Keep your core tight and Lift one leg up at a time
  • To make it more challenging, try lifting both up at the same time.
  • Exhale while lifting, inhale while lowering. Repeat 20 times.

2.4 Thursday desk exercises at work – Lower Body

Thursday desk exercises at work – Lower Body

Squats

Squats

  • Stand straight with your chair behind you. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, and your hands stretched out in front of you.
  • Lower down until your buttocks almost touch your chair. Make sure your knees stay in line with your toes.
  • Pause for few seconds and return to the starting position 
  • Exhale while lowering, inhale while coming back up. Repeat 10 times.

Plie squats/Sumo Squats

Plie squats

  • Stand straight. Keep your feet 2-3 feet apart, facing outwards, and your hands stretched out in front of you.
  • Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure your knees stay in line with your toes.
  • Pause for few seconds and return to the starting position 
  • Exhale while lowering, inhale while coming back up. Repeat 10 times.

Desk donkey kicks

Desk donkey kicks

  • Face your desk and lean against it, keep your body in a straight line.
  • Stand on one leg, bend the knee of your other leg at 90 degrees.
  • Kick your bent leg back as far as you can while keeping the 90-degree bend
  • Pause for few seconds, then slowly get back to the starting position.
  • Exhale while kicking, inhale while lowering. Repeat 10 times on each side

Lunges

Lunges

  • Stand erect. Keep your feet together and hands on your hips
  • Take a big step forward. Bend your knees, making sure the front knee is in line with your toes and the back knee is almost touching the ground
  • Get back to the starting position and repeat with the other leg
  • Exhale while bending, inhale while coming back up. Repeat 10 times on each side
  • You can also include side lunges by keeping your legs 2-3 feet apart, bending one of your knees, and lowering down such that your thigh is parallel to the ground. Come back up and repeat on the other side

Glute squeezes

Glute squeezes

  • Sit straight in your chair. Keep your spine erect and keep your arms lightly either on the desk or on the chair beside you.
  • Squeeze or contract your glutes (butt muscles) as hard as you can for 10 – 30 seconds.
  • Relax. Repeat 10 times.

Seated flutter kicks

Seated flutter kicks

  • Sit on your chair with your legs extended out in front of you, heels on the ground but toes extended forward
  • Lift one foot up about 6-12 inches and pause for a moment.
  • Lower that foot but do not let it touch the ground, and lift the other foot up about the same height at the same time.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side.

Leg extensions

Leg extensions

  • Sit straight, with your feet flat on the floor. Palms on your thighs
  • Lift one leg until it’s parallel with the floor and straight out in front of you. Squeeze the quads (muscle on the front of your upper thigh).
  • Hold for a few seconds, then lower back to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side.

Stairmaster

Stairmaster

  • Take a stool or a sturdy raised platform not higher than your knees. 
  • Put one foot on the stool, step up, and lift the other foot such that the thighs are parallel to the ground
  • Get back to the starting position.
  • Exhale while lifting the second leg, inhale while lowering it. Repeat 10 times on each side.
  • Or simply run up and down a flight of stairs 2-3 times. Holding a 1L filled water bottle on each hand will give additional workouts for your core and upper body along with your lower body.

2.5 Friday fun – Dance away with your team

Friday fun – Dance away with your team

Who doesn’t look forward to a Friday and the upcoming weekend? Gather your team, pick the team’s favorite music and break a leg together. We find that this is the best time that a team can have online with their remote office colleagues.

Here are some playlists we recommend that you can groove to

Still considering if desk exercises at work are beneficial? We have answered some of your un-asked questions for you.

3 FAQs

3.1 How can I exercise at my desk in secret?

Sometimes we all need an extra dose of stretching or desk exercises at work. If you want that additional workout but don’t want to be seen by your co-workers, then many exercises can be done discreetly.  Try

  1. .Seated crunches without using hand, torso twists, shoulder opener (place hands on the small of your back, palms facing outwards, then press into the back while pulling the arms and shoulders back)
  2. Leg extensions, glute squeezes, and
  3.  Stairmasters, where you go up and down 2 flights of stairs on the pretext of going out for a break.

3.2 How can I stay active at my desk job?

If you are one of those who got back to work from office then you can follow some simple desk exercises at work to stay active – 

  • Walk or ride a bike to work if you don’t live far away
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator 
  • Take regular productive breaks
  • Use standing desks for 30% of your work timings
  • Engage in desk exercises before you begin the day
  • Stretch sufficiently during the day, maybe every hour or two.

3.3 What are the benefits of desk exercises?

  • Helps manage stress by releasing cortisol into the system
  • Improves productivity by keeping you focussed and active
  • Improves mood by aiding the happy hormones like dopamine
  • Helps with better sleep, reduces crankiness and dull minds
  • Encourages Team Building when exercised together

3.4 Do desk exercises work?

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, desk exercises are the starting point for you to start living an active life. Not only do they negate the side effects of sitting for long hours in front of a computer, they also provide multiple physical, mental, and sociological benefits. We find desk exercises to be like a positive gateway drug for a healthier life.

3.5 What exercises can I do while sitting at my desk?

Depending on your body’s capacity, you can stick to stretches multiple times a day, or you can formulate your own routine to exercise by your desk before you start the day. You can also go a little extra and get yourself mini fitness equipment like an under-the-desk elliptical, exercise ball chair, yoga mats, stretch bands, etc.


Aakash GuptaAakash Gupta
Written by
Aakash Gupta

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