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Desk Sets: Exercises For The Office

by StephenKelly

In last month's installment of Worth The Weights, it looked like all hope was lost for the cubicle kings stuck in an office all day. Squeezing exercise into your day -- especially in a place where you have absolutely no privacy — is challenging. But all is not lost. As you will see, there's plenty you can do with a desk, a chair and a bottle of water to keep fab from turning to flab.

Every day, millions of people sit upright at a computer for hours on end — so it's no wonder that work-related ailments like back and neck pain, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome have skyrocketed. It's also proven that long periods of sitting leads to loss of muscle tone and impeded blood flow. The body needs to move.

Our cubicle-dwellers' workout will help you do just that. Try doing a few of these for five minutes every hour. They are designed to improve circulation, boost energy levels and relieve stress — and your results will include sharper concentration and a better attitude, making you that much more productive.

The idea is to keep yourself moving until you can get to your regular workout, and you'll find that most of these exercises mimic some of your gym faves. Now get to work!


Leg Extension
Sit upright in a chair and tighten your abs. Extend right leg until level with hip. Hold for five seconds. Repeat with left leg.

Hip Flexion
While sitting, lift right foot off the floor a few inches, keeping your knees bent. Hold for five seconds. Repeat with left leg.

Groin flex
Place a full water bottle between legs and squeeze gently. Make sure the cap is tight, of course.

Chair squat
While sitting, lift your butt off the chair a few inches and hold for five seconds. Stand up and repeat.

Upper Body

Sit in middle of chair with back straight and abs tight. Extend arms shoulder-width apart in front of you, gripping the top of the desk. Making sure chair remains stable, push upper body towards slowly toward desk, adding slight resistance as you push. Lower arms to just above desktop, hold and slowly push upward to starting position.

Front raise
Sit in chair with your back straight and abs in. Hold a full water bottle in your right hand and raise it forward to shoulder level. Hold three seconds and repeat with left hand.

Side raise
Use the same action as the front raise, but extend your arms to the sides. Hold for three seconds, then repeat.

Bicep curl
Hold a full water bottle in right hand. Keeping back straight and abs tight, curl toward shoulder. Repeat with left hand.

Upper body stretch
Sit on edge of chair and firmly grip the back of chair. Straighten your arms, keeping your back straight. Pull upper body forward to stretch shoulders, chest and upper back. Hold all stretches for 15 seconds.

Wrist and Forearms Stretches

Wrist stretch I
Hold right arm in front of you, palm facing outward. With the left arm slowly bend the wrist down, hold and slowly bend it back up. Repeat four or five times with each hand.

Wrist stretch II
Extend right arm in front of you with the palm up. Grab hand with left hand and gently pull down. Hold for five seconds and repeat with left hand.

Wrist stretch III
Press hands together in front of chest as if praying, your elbows bent and parallel to the floor. Bend your wrists to the right and left.


Ab stretch
Sit on edge of chair, extending your arms in front of you. Contract your abs and slowly lower torso toward back of chair, keeping your back straight. Hold five seconds and repeat.

Ab curl
Sit up straight and cross arms over your chest. Curl your shoulder towards your hips, contracting and pulling your abs in. Hold for two seconds, then repeat.


Staring at a computer screen for hours is murder on your eyes, and you can add computer vision syndrome (CVS) to the growing list of work-related ailments. Its symptoms include eye fatigue, headaches, dry or teary eyes, inability to maintain focus and changes in color perception. Here are some eye-healthy tips:

  • Move your eyes away from the screen and refocus on a distant object. Do this for 30 seconds or more every half hour.
  • Blink frequently to keep your eyes lubricated.
  • Look far to the right; hold for five seconds. Repeat with left eye. Look to center and relax.
  • Look hard at the floor; hold for five seconds. Look at the ceiling, holding for five seconds. Look ahead and relax.
  • Rotate your eyes slowly, left to right, five times while breathing slowly. Repeat, circling eyes right to left for five seconds. Center eyes and relax.

Of course, you're not chained to your cubicle, so move about when you can. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a brisk walk at lunch. or park far away enough from the office to give yourself a good walk. Use the restroom on another floor. Or use your imagination to come up with simple ways to exercise at work.