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Easy Desk Exercises for Beginners

written by: Angela Atkinson • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 3/29/2009

Looking for a way to stay fit and comfortable at work? Try these simple exercises to do at your desk.

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    Image Credit: Steve Woods
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    Why You Need Exercises to Do at Your Desk

    As our world becomes increasingly technologically advanced, more Americans than ever are working desk jobs which require them to sit for long periods of time during the day. Long hours combined with hectic schedules often leave little time for exercise, which can contribute to a more sedentary lifestyle.

    Sitting for eight hours a day can wreak havoc on your body. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), back pain is one of the most common reasons for employee absences at work. In fact, half of all working Americans admit to having back pain, at least occasionally. And, the ACA confirms, back pain is the number two reason for doctor’s visits, secondary only to respiratory infections.

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    Get Moving

    First, wear comfortable shoes and clothing, even if you’re in a formal business environment. This will encourage you to move more often. With a little creativity, you can find things that are both comfortable and work appropriate.

    Get up and walk around for a couple of minutes at least once an hour, even if it’s only to go to the restroom or refresh your coffee.

    "We are made to move, not sit at a desk 12 hours a day," according to author Joan Price, who wrote The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book. "As ergonomic as your desk or chair may be, sitting produces back pains, headaches, and listlessness. You become less productive."

    Why exercise at your desk?

    While the US Surgeon General suggests that we get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, most Americans don’t do even half that amount. Exercise that can be done at your desk can help you to increase your overall activity level, which can benefit you in more ways than one.

    People who work out regularly report less fatigue, depression and stress than their more sedentary counterparts. They also experience less repetitive motion injuries and back problems, both of which are common complaints from office workers.

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    Stretchy Sides

    Try doing a few side stretches. Raise your arms above your head, ensuring that your feet are flat on the floor and your hips are aligned properly in the chair. Slowly lean to one side, bending at the waist as far as is comfortable (and safe). Then repeat this on the other side. Start with three or four repetitions on each side, and work your way up as you are comfortable. This can help to tighten and tone your waist area and will help to reduce the occurrence of back pain.

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    Leg Lifts

    Sit with your bottom firmly planted in the seat, holding on to the sides of the chair for support. Slowly lift both legs and hold them for a few seconds (as long as you can tolerate), then slowly lower them back to the floor. Do five repetitions, and eventually work your way up to ten or fifteen each time. This can help to tighten your abs and strengthen your leg muscles.

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    Shoulder Shaper

    While sitting in your chair, raise your arms so that your elbows are parallel with your shoulders. Lower your arms back down to your sides and repeat. Start with ten repetitions and work your way up. You will really feel this one in your shoulders, but it can really help to make them shapely.

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    Secret Squeeze

    This one is simple. Just tighten and release your buttocks muscles while you’re on the phone or typing your emails. This will help to keep your bottom in shape and avoid a flat, spread out look.

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    Twisty Turns

    Face forward in your chair. Slowly turn your upper body to the left and then to the right as far as is comfortable. For a little extra stretch, hold on to the back of your chair and gently pull. Start with two repetitions on each side and work your way up as you become comfortable with it.

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    Friendly Precautions

    Use caution if your chair is on wheels. Don’t start any new exercise program without checking with your doctor to be sure it’s safe for you to do so. If you’re pregnant, remember that deep twisting can be harmful to your baby.