10 Exercises You Can Do At Work

10 Exercises You Can Do At Work

Read Time • 8 Min
  • Category Fitness, Health, Experts


All of us know exercise is important, but the problem isn’t why you should do it—it’s when. And even though working out is beneficial to your overall health, it shouldn’t be a burden to fit into your busy day. 

Using your lunch break can be an effective and efficient way to sneak in your daily dose of physical activity. It can also increase productivity later in the day, since exercise boosts memory, concentration, and processing speed in the brain. This occurs by stimulating important bodily changes, such as reduced insulin resistance and inflammation, along with enhanced production of new blood vessels in the brain. 

Related: Turn Your Brain Into a Super-Focused, Stress-Fighting Machine Through Mindfulness

Exercise also decreases our levels of stress in the long-term (though it slightly increases our body’s physiological markers of stress in the moment). Exercise while at work can serve as an effective intervention for regulating our stress levels. Subsequently, when our levels of stress are at a manageable level, we are also able to be more productive in our jobs and daily lives. 

Related: How to Better Understand and Manage Stress

There’s also research to suggest that regular exercise can directly affect the brain itself. Parts of the brain that control our thoughts and memory tend to be larger in those who exercise consistently. Indirect benefits to lunchtime workouts include improved mood and sleep quality.  

Related: Debunking 5 Popular Myths About Exercise and Depression

So whether you’re at home or back in the office, here are simple exercises and activities to check exercise off your to-do list for the day:

  1. Shoulder Blade Squeezes
    • Push your shoulders back, bringing your shoulder blades together.
    • Hold for 5 seconds before relaxing.
  2. Chin Tucks
    • Sitting in your desk chair, stare straight ahead and bring your chin parallel to the ground.
    • “Tuck” your chin slightly down and backwards (like you’re trying to make a double chin).
    • Hold for 5 seconds before relaxing.
  3. Trunk rotations
    • If you have a rotating chair:
      • Place both hands on your desk. Using your core, rotate the chair to the right then left. 
    • If you have a stationary chair:
      • Keep both hip bones firmly on your chair. Rotate your shoulders all the way to the right, then all the way to the left without moving your feet and knees.

If you have more privacy in your office or work from home, try these exercises:

  1. Desktop Pushup
    • Starting with straight elbows, lean onto the edge of your desk with both hands.
    • Bring your chest towards your desk before pushing back to the starting position. 
    • Repeat 10 times.
  2. Desk Chair/Couch Dips
    • Face away from your chair or couch and place both hands at the edge of the seat. 
    • With your feet straight out in front of you, lower your buttocks towards the floor by bending your elbows. Slowly push back to the starting position. 
    • Repeat 10 times. 
  3. Desk Donkey Kicks
    • Make sure you have enough space behind you. 
    • Lean forward onto the edge of your desk. 
    • Keeping your knee straight, kick your leg back up towards the ceiling. 
    • Repeat 20 times on each leg. 
  4. Chair Squats
    • Place your feet shoulder width apart standing in front of your chair. 
    • Squat down until your buttocks brush the chair. Quickly stand up by pushing your heels into the ground.
    • Repeat 25 times. 
  5. Calf Raises
    • In standing, raise onto your tip-toes and hold for 5 seconds before slowly lowering back to the ground. 
    • Repeat 25 times. 
  6. Forward Lunge
    • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
    • Lunge forward by stepping forward with your right leg. Bend the knee until your thigh is parallel with the ground before standing back up.
    • Repeat 15 times on each leg. 
  7. Wall Sit
    • Stand against the wall and slide down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
    • Hold that position for 30-60 seconds and repeat 5 times. 

Cardio exercises are also important to add to your routine. Examples of cardio exercises include:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Standing Marches
  • Jogging in place
  • Stairs

These cardio activities can be performed during lunch or smaller breaks throughout the day. An ideal trick to breaking up the workday is to perform a new exercise every hour. Most of these exercises only take a few minutes, and you might find yourself more clear headed once you’re finished.

Continue reading below for more tips on how to incorporate exercise into your workday:

  • If you have a sedentary job, look to incorporate movement and activity as much as you can throughout the day. Taking breaks from sitting at your desk can improve work positioning, efficiency, and productivity while also benefiting your overall health.
  • Lunch time is always a good opportunity for exercise. The simplest activity you can perform is going for a walk even if you work at home or in an office. 
  • Cold climate or not enough time to go for a walk at lunch? Take shorter periodic walks throughout the work day. Take a detour when walking to/from the bathroom, break room, or copier to get extra steps in throughout the day. 
  • Grab some co-workers and do the exercises together. Performing exercises or physical activity with other people helps hold you accountable and makes it more enjoyable. 

Take Home Points
It is not always easy to find the time to exercise around a busy work day. However, using your lunch break and little moments throughout the day can help you achieve your daily exercise milestones.

Another tip to increase physical activity markers throughout the day, regardless of your break times, is to use a sit-to-stand ratio like the one we described in our article, Essential Tips To Taking Care of Yourself When You Work at a Desk. You can also try skipping the elevator and taking the stairs to the restroom or break areas. 

Want to check off a Fitness Blender workout on your lunch hour? Here are some great recommendations:

  1. Low-Impact Bodyweight Cardio Intervals (30 min)
  2. Non-Impact Core with Active Recovery Cardio Circuits (30 min)
  3. DPT-Led Bored Easily Routine for Stubborn IT Band Syndrome (28 min)
  4. Total Body Strength Circuit with Cardio Rounds and Bodyweight Core Intermission (33 min)
  5. Quick Bodyweight Plank and Lower Body Strength Circuits (32 min)
  6. Descending Intervals Bodyweight HIIT Circuits (36 min)
  7. Fun Cardio Walking Workout - Indoor Walking Workout with No Equipment (30 min)

As always, this is a balance. It is easy to get caught up in the mindset that productivity means we are “better” or “succeeding.” However, productivity is not an indicator of our self-worth. So, through this article we hope to give you some ideas for ways to challenge yourself to get in more movement and increase productivity throughout your day while also recognizing when you need rest. 

What are your best-kept secrets for maintaining productivity and sneaking in physical activity throughout the workday? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Written for Fitness Blender by Kayla C, PT, DPT
Board-Certified Neurological Clinical Specialist

and Haley S, PhD
Licensed Psychologist