How to work out at your desk

Studying and schoolwork can no longer be an excuse for avoiding exercise. There are ways to incorporate bouts of exercise while working at a desk.

Lifestyle and Wellness Consultant Julianne Ryder said that today’s sedentary society sees people sitting stagnantly for hours on end, including students.

“Students spend so much of their day sitting, whether in a lecture, at their computers, in the library or on a bus,” Ryder said. “They can get caught up in their work, but in order to do well in our studies we need to be at our peak health.”

We asked Ryder to share some of her fitness tips from her program “‘Exec’ucise.” It’s designed to keep executives active while working in an office but Ryder modified the exercises with students in mind. All of these exercises can be done in less than 10 minutes periodically throughout the day. I’d say most are discreet enough for Stauffer Library.

General tips

Move around: Break up the stagnant sitting and ensure continuous blood flow by getting up and walking around the room on a study break. “Go up and down the stairs a couple of times, use the washroom on another floor,” Ryder said.

Sit on an exercise ball: Sub your office chair at home with an exercise ball.

“Sitting on it will strengthen your core. You can also roll it away from your desk and use it for crunches.”

Full body stretch: Complete whenever possible to avoid aches and cramps.

Time management: Scheduling study breaks that incorporate activity can help with effective time management. Arrange to meet up with a friend and throw a ball around or walk around the block. Activity breaks help with concentration.

Ryder said activity does more than just maintain fitness levels.

“Exercise contributes to de-stressing. It’s equally as important to book in activity time to keep stress in check.”

Chair squats

Slide your bottom out to the very edge of the chair and perch for a moment. Press up through the heels of the feet and come to a standing position. The goal is to repeat the standing/sitting motion without allowing your bottom to sit on the chair. This exercise works all of the muscles in the legs. Inhale as you squat down and exhale as you press up through your heels.

Static lunges

In this version, you’re just dropping your knee down rather than stepping forward or back. Feel free to hold wall or chair for balance if needed. One foot forward and one foot back, by about three feet. Bend back knee towards floor and make sure to keep front knee behind the toes. Keep torso straight and abs in as you push through the front heel. Do as many reps as desired and switch legs.

Desk push ups

You can strengthen your chest and triceps without having to get down on the floor to complete this exercise. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of your desk. Bend the elbows and allow your chest to move towards the desk. Only move to the point where you have a 90 degree angle at the elbows, then push up and return to the starting position. Breathe out as you push your body away from the desk and inhale as you allow your body to return towards the desk.



Clasp hands behind back (don’t link fingers) and open up chest. This is an important stretch because you’re leaning forward while sitting at a desk.


Link hands in front of your chest as though you’re hugging a barrel and open up shoulder blades.

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