Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of changes in the way people live and work. Yet regardless of whether you now work from home or still have to commute, you’re likely just as busy as ever. Being busy also means that you might not have enough time for habits you used to have or always wanted to have—habits like working out at the gym or any other kind of fitness routine. But even if you don’t have the time or resources to go to a gym, there are a wide variety of exercises you can do from your desk at work or from the comfort of your home office.
For people who have big families or demanding desk jobs, exercise can seem like an extravagance or a hobby that you just don’t have the time for. The truth is, though, that getting enough physical activity is a crucial part of maintaining long term health. Countless studies have shown that exercise is associated with a range of health benefits:
- Mental health: exercise can improve cognition, reduce anxiety, help you sleep better, and lower your risk for depression.
- Reduce risk for disease: regular exercise lowers your risk for a number of negative health outcomes, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
- Increased strength: bones, joints, and muscles tend to get weaker as we age, but exercise can increase strength and maintain mobility levels as you get older.
- Live longer: studies show that many deaths each year could be prevented by even moderate increase in physical activity each day.
- Improve chronic conditions: exercise can help with the management of chronic diseases like arthritis or type 2 diabetes.
- Weight management: the average American diet has more calories than ever before, but regular exercise can offset some of those extra calories and help with maintaining a healthy body weight.
How Much Should You Exercise?
The internet and social media are loaded with recommendations for what kind of exercise you should be doing and how often you should be doing it. It can all be a little overwhelming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, each week adults need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two sessions of activity dedicated to strength training. That may seem like a lot, but it can be spread out across the week and still be effective.
Moderate-intensity physical activity can mean almost any kind of aerobic (also referred to as cardio) exercise that increases the heart rate and gets you breathing harder. One way to know if the exercise is intense enough is if you can still talk but couldn’t sing the words to a song. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, jumping jacks, riding a bike on level ground, or pushing a lawnmower. If it feels too daunting at first, you can always start slow and build up to longer sessions and greater intensity over time.
Aerobic activity is certainly important, but we also need to do exercises that strengthen our major muscle groups: arms, legs, back, chest, shoulders, and hips. A general rule is that you should do any given muscle-strengthening activity until you can’t do another repetition without assistance. Working a muscle to fatigue like this is how muscle fibers are broken down and then are rebuilt stronger. These kinds of activities are usually associated with going to a gym, but there are also many ways to build strength even while sitting at your desk.
Desk Exercises Anyone Can Do During the Workday
Unless you have a standing desk with a treadmill, cardio activities will probably be harder to do at your desk (though not impossible). That’s why anyone with a sedentary job should get up from their office chair regularly and move around, even if you plan to get your 150 minutes in during the week. But there are still a number of strengthening and stretching exercises you can do at your desk that can help in your overall goal of building muscle. Below are some examples of desk exercises:
- Seated chair raises: Sit in your desk chair and place your arms (or hands, depending on your comfort level) on the armrests. Hold your core muscles tight as you lift yourself and hover a few inches above the seat for 10-20 seconds. Pause for 30 seconds and then repeat for 3-5 sets.
- Seated leg extensions: Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your right leg until it’s parallel with the floor and squeeze the quad muscle on your thigh for one second. Set the leg back down and repeat with the left leg. Do 10 reps with each leg.
- Desk push-ups: Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of your desk and step back several feet. Bring your chest down toward the desk and then back up for 10-20 reps. You can adjust this upper body workout by changing the distance of your feet from the desk.
- Chair dips (tricep dips): Find a non-rolling desk chair and sit on the edge. Place your arms at your side, your hands on the edge of the seat, and your feet shoulder-width apart flat on the floor. Lift yourself off the chair and walk your feet forward far enough so that you can bend your arms and lower yourself below the level of the seat. Then push back up, straightening your arms. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
- Calf raises: Stand up (gently hold onto your desk or chair for balance if needed), raise your heels up so that you’re standing on your toes, hold for one second, and lower your heels again. Do 1 or 2 sets of 10 reps each.
- Lunges: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with the right leg until your left leg is extended and your left foot is on the toes. Then bend your right knee until it forms a 90-degree angle and your left knee just barely touches the ground.
- Chair squats: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and an office chair behind you. Squat down (while keeping your lower back straight) until your butt just barely touches the chair, all while making sure your knees don’t go past your toes. Then stand up straight and return to the starting position. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps each.
- Glute squeezes: Sit up straight in your chair. Squeeze your glutes for 10-30 seconds (or as long as you can). Do this 10 times.
For all the exercises above, you only need a chair and a few feet of space. With these and other exercises, you can increase intensity over time with more reps or more sets. But there are many other exercises that you can add to your repertoire if you purchase a couple of dumbbells or some resistance bands. Especially when you’re first starting out, the most important thing is to pick exercises that work for your space and that you don’t mind doing. Start small and work your way toward higher intensity.
Contact True You Weight Loss
Exercise, whether you’re doing it at your desk or at a gym, is important for overall health and wellbeing, but it isn’t an effective method for losing weight. If you’ve tried to lose weight this way before and failed, you’re not alone. That’s why at True You Weight Loss we are passionate about offering an alternative way to meet your weight loss goals. If you’d like to learn more about our non-surgical solutions, please contact us today to request a consultation.