It important to learn how to maintain some level of fitness even though you work at a desk all day.  This article will lay out 10 exercises and exercise equipment that will help you achieve that goal and have you feeling better about office life and your health. 

I will cover things like small elliptical machines that fit secretly under your desk and resistance bands that you can attach to your chair for upper body workouts anytime.  Let get to it!

Being a Cubicle Cowboy can be horrible for your health. If you work a desk job, then you’re right along with about 86% of Americans who do the same. While more and more people are working cubicle-type jobs (which are commonly known as “gravy” jobs) the health detriments of these kinds of jobs are becoming quite a big deal. While you’d think working in the elements can be tough, it turns out being a cubicle cowboy comes with some pretty serious health drawbacks.


For example, working a desk job and sitting all day can lead to musculoskeletal problems, including lumbar pain, obesity, heart problems, decreased energy, a lack of endurance, varicose veins, depression and anxiety. Scarier still, working in a cubicle can be linked to heart disease, cancer, decreased bone strength, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  Yikes!


But…you’ve got to work, and if you’re career entails a desk job, then the good news is that there are some ways you can combat the negative health issues associated with sitting all day. Here are 10 examples:


Desk Cycle

desk cycle to get exercise while at your desk

Maybe you’re wondering “Can I exercise at my desk in secret?” A desk cycle is a piece of equipment with two pedals and a base. It sits beneath your desk (that’s right, its secretly living under your desk), right where your feet go.

While you’re sitting at your desk, quietly pedal away. Desk cycles typically come with resistance levels so that you can adjust as needed, and desk cycles can usually be adjusted to the level of your desk.

This is a great way to help combat restlessness, keep up your leg muscles, get some adrenaline moving, and beat some of the negative impact of sitting at a desk all day.


Office Chair Strength Trainer

The Office Chair Strength Trainer

The office chair strength trainer fits securely on the back of your existing office chair and is a great way to build and tone muscles while you’re sitting at your desk. Elastic bands and a pulley system create resistance for arm exercises to keep your mind and body stimulated throughout the day.


Under Desk Elliptical

under desk elliptical to get exercise at your desk

An under the desk elliptical fits compactly beneath your desk at your feet. Simply put your feet on the pedals and get to work. Under desk ellipticals usually have a foot shifter for easy adjustments.

If you’re looking for a simple way to give your lower body a workout while you’re at your desk and increase your focus, an under desk elliptical could be just the thing for you.


Forearm Workout Machines

forearm workout machine to exercise at your desk
Unlike this guy, you may want to wear a shirt while doing this at the office…

These innovative, portable workout machines slip over your arm, offering an adjustable fit and variable resistance system that lets you workout your forearms at your desk without the need for bulky equipment.


Wavex Microgym

portable office gym

If you want something compact but versatile, you can’t beat a Wavex Microgym. With a high-strength elastic cord, you can work out any muscle group; there are hundreds of exercises you can do with it – right in your cubicle space. Great way to maximize your break time!


Old Fashioned (but effective) Exercises


Tried and true exercises, such as push ups, squats, tricep dips, and wall sits, are all phenomenal ways to beat the curse of the cubicle. Engage your brain and body by getting some cardio in – even if it’s only for a few minutes!

Tricep Dip

Everyone’s got an office chair, right?  Put that thing to use and get some tricep burn on!  As you can see in the illustration, its pretty straightforward. Its also pretty inconspicuous if you are trying to keep your workouts on the down low.  Having a rack of weights in your office isn’t necessary when you have body weight exercise.

What muscle groups do chair dips target? Besides triceps they also hit the forearms, deltoids and traps.

Tricep Dips office workouts

Push Ups

Ah push ups, the ol’ standby. Its an often over-looked exercise probably because its so simple that people think it can’t possibly be as effective as a fancy $1000 machine.  You can be confident that push ups are, in fact, very effective and can be done in slightly different ways for different effects and muscle improvement. 

What muscle groups do push ups target? Here’s the laundry list: perctorals, deltoids, triceps, abs and serratus (smaller muscle in front of the lats).  And oh yeah, its going to get your circulation going as well.

push up office exercises

A push up takes about a second or less to complete so you can imagine that you don’t need much time to complete 10 or 20 of them.   You don’t need an hour and a half to a day to get some exercise in, you can get something beneficial done in just a few minutes. Ideally, you should be doing small amounts of exercise multiple times per day rather than sitting for 8 hours and then doing a 45 minute intense workout. 

The exercises laid out here are just that. Quick and easy to do and will help you fight the sedentary lifestyle that can afflict those that find themselves at their desk all day.


A great body weight exercise, the squat is quick and easy to do. You can do as many as you like until you feel fatigued.  As an added benefit, you can do squats while on the phone.

Hows that for multi-tasking?! Don’t want to strain your joints by going too low in your squat? No problem, put a chair behind you and squat until your butt hits the chair then back up. 

What muscle groups do squats target? Your butt…and quads as well as calves and hamstrings. 

For an excellent explanation of proper form see the folks over at Dark Iron Fitness

squats for exercise at your desk

Wall Sits

This isometric exercise will largely target the quads. Its just like sitting in your chair…except your gonna feel the burn!  Make a right angle with your knees, back straight against the wall and hold for 30 seconds. Doesn’t sound like much but seconds tend to feel longer when you’re doing wall sits

The muscle groups targeted are: quads and hamstrings (which is good for someone sitting for long periods and not using much of their leg muscles).

The monotony of day to day office work can be harsh, but the physical impacts can be even more challenging. Fortunately, all it takes is committing to a new habit now to reduce those nasty side effects of office life. Beware – none of these tips will get rid of unsavory co-workers!  

If you have office workouts that you see great results from and think they should be included in this list, let me know.

office desk workouts








Comments are closed.