Long periods spent hunched over a computer can leave you feeling tired, stiff and immobile. We have created a desk workout that keeps you energized throughout the day, leaving you feeling invigorated, not fatigued.

1. Are you sitting comfortably for exercise?

Correct ergonomics at your desk will go a long way to preventing aches and stiffness.

  • Make sure that your chair, monitor, telephone and any other equipment you use are all correctly sited. As a guide, your forearms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes at the same height as the top of the computer screen.

  • Check that there is clear space under your desk to move your legs freely.

  • Your chair should support your back. If using a keyboard, have your arms roughly horizontal when typing. If your feet don’t reach the floor, use a footstool. Ideally the chair height should be adjustable to suit all the people who use it.

  • Good body posture is equally important, so try to avoid slumping over your desk. Sit upright on your chair with relaxed shoulders.

2. Be active at work

The human body was both designed to be, and functions better, if we’re active, so at least every hour, get up and move away from your desk.

Use lunchtime or a toilet/coffee/water break as an opportunity to get up, move around and get away from your desk. A few minutes is sufficient to get the blood flowing all around your body and you’ll return revitalized and with more energy. 

3. Exercising at work

During long periods of inactivity, your muscles can become stiff, tense and immobile at your desk, with the key ones being the neck, shoulders, back and arms. Additionally, you may find that your legs stiffen up. Simply follow the exercise protocols outlined below and then consult the table for suitable mobility exercises to recharge your body.

4. Exercise protocols

For all the exercises in the table, carry out the following routine to get maximum benefits from your desk break. The entire routine should take only a few minutes.

  • Stand up and move away from your desk in clear space.

  • Ideally, go for a short walk first to increase blood flow around your body before carrying out the mobility exercises.

  • Stand tall during each exercise.

  • Allow approximately 10 seconds for each movement.

  • Execute all movements gently.

  • Ensure relaxed breathing throughout the routine.

  • For maximum benefits, try and carry out the routine in the order below, which mobilises the larger muscle groups first.

Area of the body Mobility exercise Mobility tip
Legs Standing on one leg, lift one knee up towards the chest and then return it to the floor. Repeat with the other leg For a variation: when your knee is at your chest, flex your knee in and out before swapping legs
Chest & upper back With straight arms, reach both arms out in front, palms together. Repeatedly open your arms out as far as comfortable and back to the start position Try contracting your shoulder blades together to get more of a stretch
Shoulders Slowly circle your arms from the shoulders, stretching out as far as possible Alternate between forward and backwards movements
Trunk Stand with legs apart, hands on hips. Slowly circle the hips Alternate between clockwise and anti-clockwise movements to keep the body in balance
Arms Bend your arms at the elbow to touch the shoulders and then fully straighten the arms again. Repeat Can combine with the wrist mobility exercise
Wrists Slowly circle your hands from the wrists both clockwise and anti-clockwise Can combine with the arm mobility exercise
Neck 1 Looking ahead, alternately angle your neck from left to right, trying to make your ear touch each shoulder As your mobility increases, try and stretch a fraction further towards your shoulders on the last couple of repetitions
Neck 2 Looking ahead, alternately bring your chin down to your chest and then look up to the ceiling Avoid arching the back during this movement and overstretching the neck

5. Stay hydrated

Office environments can dry you out, particularly with air-conditioning, but if you spend long periods at a desk, hydration is easy. Stick to the following 3-point plan to focus on hydration :

  • Limit caffeine intake. Caffeinated drinks including cola, tea and coffee, all dehydrate your body. Too much caffeine can result in headaches, dry and sore throats, and lethargy.

  • Don’t lose your bottle. Always keep a bottle of water at arms reach. Take frequent swigs and you’ll keep your fluid levels topped up.

  • Don’t neglect activity. However, just because you have water close at hand and don’t need to move away from your desk for a drink, still make sure that you take regular exercise and mobility breaks.

6. Eat for energetic activity

Correct nutrition makes a big difference to an exercise routine and the desk workout is no different. Follow the guidelines below and in addition to your exercise, your energy levels will remain high.

  • Keep topped up. To maintain your energy levels, have small, frequent meals and snacks so that you always have an energy boost. Too long between meals will result in poor concentration and symptoms of fatigue – which means that your work will take longer and you will have to spend more time at your desk. Fruit is a great healthy snack and bananas are ideal. Also, try a handful of raisins or dried fruit or a low-fat yogurt.

  • Avoid liquid lunches. In addition to dehydration, alcohol at lunchtime will leave you feeling tired and listless with impaired concentration. Stick to soft drinks such as fruit juices or flavored water in your lunch break and you’ll feel far more energized during the afternoon.

7. Reap the benefits of exercising at work

If you follow the simple eating, drinking, exercise and mobility ideas above, not only will you combat the effects of long hours spent at your desk, you’ll be setting good standards for your all-round health and nutrition. After work, instead of feeling tired and listless, you’ll feel far more alert and energized for that evening gym visit or jog with friends.