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It’s World Day for Physical Activity! Let’s deskercise!

April 6 is World Day for Physical Activity, let’s take a moment to recognize that the words “physical activity” and “outdoor” or “gym” are not synonymous. There is a perception that working at an office means being chained to your desk and inevitably becoming a “desk-potato”.

Deskercise, or desk exercises, are simple and short exercises that you can do at, or near your desk with tools available at the office or exercise gadgets you can easily bring to the office. Something as simple as walking can have significant health benefits. Walking a minimum of about 10 city blocks each day could reduce the risk of dementia, and potentially improve cardiovascular and joint health in the long term. To learn more about walking and its benefits, click here.

Woman doing arm stretch exercise

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


Here are some ways you can exercise at work:

  1. Tap your toes on a footrest or on the legs of your chair while sitting. If you are standing, you can tap your toes, alternating feet, like shown in this video.
  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  3. Walk, walk, walk! There are many ways to incorporate walking at work. Walk to your coworker instead of sending them an email. Walk to run errands instead of taking the company car. Walk to the printer on the farther end. Walk to get water.
  4. Jog or march on the spot for a couple of minutes.
  5. Got a big raise? Completed a project? Do a celebratory squat jump or split squat jump! Alternatively, you can add a set of squats into your work routine.
  6. Get your shake on! Shake up your tense muscles, do some seated dancing.
  7. Wall sits can help build strength and endurance. Stand with your back against a sturdy wall, bend your knees, slide your back down until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold the position for intervals of 30-60 seconds.
  8. Stand. Sit-stand desks allow workers to alternate between standing and sitting at work. Alternatively, you can stand at meetings to alleviate pain from prolonged sitting.
  9. When standing, do calf raises. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, raise up onto your tippy toes, pause for a couple of seconds, then lower back down. Do calf raises in intervals.
  10. Do butt squeezes, hold for 5-10 seconds, then relax. Do butt squeezes in intervals. This can be done sitting or standing.
  11. Do some triceps dips. Put a stack of paper, a sturdy storage box or yoga block against the wall, sit down with your back to the wall, place your hands on the block and straighten up the arms to lift up the body, bend arms at a 90-degree angle so that your body dips down, then repeat for 8-10 times.
  12. Do biceps curl with stationery items, such as staplers, water bottles, or heavy coin purses.
  13. Prayer hands: Push both hands together until you feel your arm muscles contract, hold the position for 20 seconds, release and repeat. This can be done sitting or standing.
  14. Sky punch or reach for the ceiling. Make sure you alternate your arms and that you will not hurt anyone near you.
  15. Work your arms. Stand with your arms down by your sides and palms facing back and slowly raise your arms up. When you feel the resistant, pulse for 5 seconds, then repeat. Keep your arms long and straight.
  16. Shoulder shrugs or rolls: Raise both shoulders up towards the ear, hold for 5 seconds, relax, then repeat. Add some spice to the routine by rolling your shoulders up, down, back and forward.
  17. Do wall push-ups. Stand one to two feet away from a sturdy wall, lean forward with palms against the wall, bend elbows to bring the body towards the wall, hold for a couple of seconds, push back slowly, then repeat.
  18. Neck exercises can release muscle tension. These include: tilting your head one way and holding the position for 5-10 seconds; interlocking your fingers so that your palms create a headrest for your head, push your head against this until you feel some resistance then hold for 5-10 seconds; and slowly rolling your head in a circle.
  19. The abdominal squeeze. Take a deep breath, then tighten your abdominal muscles, bring them in towards the spine as you exhale, hold for 5-10 seconds, then release and repeat. This can be done sitting or standing.
  20. The seated crunches. You can accomplish this by placing both elbows on the thighs to use them as resistance. Curl the chest towards the legs. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat.

In addition to the exercises above, you can also check out The Washington Post’s “A workout at work?“. The infographics department at the Washington Post tested 12 exercises for a week to see which ones people could incorporate into a workday. The article contains animated videos to demonstrate how to do these exercises.