Desk Exercises That Can Relieve Tension and Fuel Engagement

For many workers, most of a standard eight-hour workday is devoted to sitting at a desk. Sitting for extended periods of time can lead to low employee engagement, productivity, and morale. If you or your employees need a boost throughout the day, try these desk exercises.  

The importance of desk exercises

There are different exercises to do at your desk for the times you get antsy, sluggish, or everything in between. You can foster an environment that encourages employees to do the same.

According to The Washington Post, sitting without movement can lead to problems like muscle aches and degeneration, organ damage, slow brain function, and more. A small workout at your desk can help prevent these issues.

In many industries, sitting at a desk takes up the bulk of the workday. To combat this, you can get up, stretch, and walk around. Plus, the exercises and stretches you can do at your desk might help your health and wake you up.

How to exercise at your desk

There isn’t one standard exercise you can do at your desk that will boost productivity, alleviate aches, and help you be more engaged.

Try out different exercises that get your blood moving and see what works best for you. You can do them throughout the day. They might be especially helpful toward the end of the workday.

Here are a few exercises you and your employees can try out. You might find that it even increases your business’s bottom line as a result of improved engagement.

Desk exercises

Sitting leg extension

While sitting on the edge of your chair, extend one leg out and hold for a few seconds. Then, drop it down so it’s hovering above the floor. Continue moving it back and forth between extension and hover until you’ve done so 15 times. Do the same with the other leg. You can also try this exercise while standing.

Thoughts: This is a great exercise for antsy legs. Even though it specifically targets your legs, you might notice more energy after your sitting leg extension.

Standing leg kick

If you have a standing desk, you can do this while you work. If not, you might still be able to work while you do this exercise. Stand up straight and lift one leg behind you. Your foot should touch your glutes. Hold for about 30 seconds and alternate.

Thoughts: Once you can get your balance, you should feel a stretch in your calf and thigh.

Calf raises

When you’re standing, prop yourself up on your toes (heels are off the ground). You can hold on to your desk (if it’s the right height) or the back of your chair for balance. This will stretch out the back of your calves. Raise and lower your heels for a few minutes.

Thoughts: Especially if you have a standing desk, this is perfect to do while on the computer. It’s a simple exercise that gets your body moving. You don’t need to take a break from your work to do this exercise. Running payroll? No problem. You can multitask. And, you can do calf raises throughout the day whenever your legs need to stretch.

Neck stretch

Sometimes while you’re working, you might put a lot of stress on your neck. This could lead to migraines or strain. Try stretching your neck and relieving the tension by leaning your left ear toward your left shoulder. Do the same for the right side. Hold for about 15 seconds and switch to the other side.

Thoughts: Having poor posture is incredibly easy when you’re sitting for long periods of time. Your neck may thank you for doing this stretch. And, if you are prone to migraines, your head might thank you, too.

Horizontal arm extensions

Extend one arm out in front of you with your palm up. With your other hand, grab the extended hand’s fingers and pull down. You should feel a stretch in your wrist and arm, which is beneficial if you do a lot of writing or typing on the computer.

Thoughts: Your arms might be constantly in use at your desk. But, they are doing the same motions. This helps you stretch them out and give them a break.

Vertical arm extensions

Lift both arms above your head. Reach as high as you can go. For more of a challenge, reach your arms behind you so your elbows are in line with the top of your head.

Thoughts: This is a simple stretch, but it really helps alleviate tension in your biceps.

Desk push-ups

This exercise is a little more obvious that you’re working out than the other ones. Using your desk, put both hands against it and back up. Then, do push-ups against the desk.

Thoughts: Even if you don’t like push-ups, you might want to try this out. It can help get your heart rate up, build strength in your arms, and stimulate your brain.

Back stretch

Setting your right hand on the right back of the chair cushion, twist your torso so you’re looking behind your right shoulder. Do the same with the other side.

Thoughts: Doing this stretch might cause your back to crack. It also helps to get rid of built-up pressure. Take a break from setting up your accounting books, calculating payroll taxes, or slouching over your blog for this simple stretch.

Shoulder blade stretch

This is a pretty easy stretch that you might do on your own already. Pinch your shoulder blades together for about 15 seconds.

Thoughts: This helps to relieve some tension in the back.

Walking exercises

Never underestimate the importance of walking. Walking can help strengthen your muscles and improve your mood, according to Mayo Clinic.

Walking to work

Depending on your commute, you might be able to walk (or bike) to work. This requires you to leave a little earlier, but the walk over will help wake you up and get you ready for the day.

Thoughts: If you can wake up earlier, you might feel great when you get to work. Getting the blood flowing early on will help you be extra alert from the get go.


If you work on the second floor or higher, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Already taking the stairs? Take two at a time to get blood flowing a little more.

Thoughts: You might get to your floor a little more out of breath than if you take the elevator if you aren’t used to taking the stairs. But, taking the stairs is a great way to start the day.

Walking around the office

Throughout the day, take walking breaks so you aren’t constantly sitting. If an employee has a question, walk over to them to answer it instead of using email or another chat system.

Maybe you frequently take calls from customers. Walk around while on the phone instead of staying stagnant. Depending on your business, there are many ways you can walk while remaining productive.

Thoughts: Walking around the office is great to cut down your time spent sitting. And, it helps break up the monotony of the day. Plus, it could help you get to know your employees a little more.

Lunch walk

During lunch, walk around instead of sitting the whole time. Or, you could head over to the gym for a workout.

Thoughts: Sitting at your desk or in the break room is great to unwind and socialize, but you might feel a dip in energy afterward. Splitting up your lunch between sitting and walking can help you strike a balance and return from lunch energized.

Going forward

If some of these exercises or stretches are beyond the scope of your abilities, don’t try them. Try things that get your body moving, your brain fueled, and your mood lifted. As you get better at simple exercises, you can continue to add more challenging ones into the mix.

For discrete exercises and stretches, try the above tips. You can do more intense exercises as well. Incorporate things like jumping jacks or marching in place to really get a workout. And, you can do squats or lunges.

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