Simple desk exercises you can do in the office

Office desk exercises

Do you spend most of your day at your desk in an office chair? Our list of desk exercises will get you up and moving in no time! Like most office workers you're probably sitting for around 9 hours a day, however, sitting at your desk for prolonged periods can affect your body over time. 

Sitting at a desk all day can lead to poor posture (not to mention how much we now look at our phones!). Not only this, but poor posture can lead to back pain and neck pain.

A survey from Fellowes suggests that 81% of UK office workers spend 4-9 hours sitting at the desk. The survey also discovered that a massive 64% claimed their office environment also had a negative impact on their health.

Being sedentary especially in an office job affects overall health and wellbeing and can lead to taking sick leave due to chronic back pain.

Taking all these factors into consideration, I’ve highlighted a few exercises that you can do at your desk and incorporate in your everyday life in the office.

As a trained physiotherapist, I usually recommend to my patients to set hourly reminder on your phone to get your body moving in some form to help create a daily habit

Exercising at your desk is easier than it might sound and you only need some basic equipment or no equipment at all for some of the circulation based exercises. Keeping a stress ball, an elastic band and lightweight dumbbells on the desktop is an excellent way of exercising while working. Also, these exercises are great stress busters. 

Here are 8 exercises you can perform while sitting at your desk. One exercise for each hour your seated in the office.  Remember to take frequent breaks and get up from your chair and drink water regularly.

1. Seated straight leg raise

Sit upright in your chair. Straighten one leg so that it is parallel to the floor and hold it for 10- 15 secs. Repeat on both sides. This can be done while in a meeting or just sitting at your desk. Once this becomes easy you can consider wearing ankle weights to increase the benefits.  


  • Improve circulation
  • Tones and strengthens legs
  • Engages core


2. Seated ball squeezes

Sit up right. You can place your stress ball between your legs or an elastic band in the figure of 8 around your legs just above your knees. Slowly squeeze the ball and hold for 10 secs. If using an elastic band slowly pull legs apart to hip width and hold for a couple of secs. It's important you synchronise your breathing. Always remember to breath!!


  • Reduces stress
  • Pelvic strengthening – this helps with incontinence and prolapse uterus
  • Adductor (thigh muscle) strengthening

3. Knee lifts

Great exercise to do while you are over the phone or reading emails. Sit up straight on the chair and support your hands on the arm rest or seat. Knees should be at 90-degree angle. Slowly left leg up towards your chest. Raise your knee as far as you can comfortably can before lowering to the ground. Do 10-20 reps on each leg.


  • Works and tones your leg muscles
  • Engages your core muscles
  • Improves co-ordination

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4. Shoulder fly

Place the elastic band/TheraBand underneath your bottom. Slowly take both your hands away from your body. You can also alternate hands to perform this exercise.

Remember it is important to synchronise your breathing. Do not elevate your shoulders.

Repeat exercise 10-15 times.


  • Strengthens shoulders
  • Great stress buster
  • Good for posture


5. Scapular stabilisation exercises

This exercise can be performed sitting or standing.

Hold each end of the band with elbows bend at 90 degrees. Extend arms and straighten elbow, return to starting position.


  • Increases muscle strength
  • Increases scapular stability
  • Improves posture


6. Thoracic twist

While seated in your chair engage your core and twist your body to reach for an object behind you. Repeat on both sides. Synchronise your breathing.


  • Improves thoracic mobility and prevents stiffness in upper back
  • Improves breathing
  • Engages the oblique abdominal muscles


7. Neck stretch

Bend your left arm behind your back and drop your right ear to the right shoulder. Do go deeper place your right hand just above your left ear and stretch gently.


  • Releases strain on the neck
  • Improves postures
  • Prevents tightness from developing in the neck muscles


8. Breathing exercises

Sit back on your chair. Close your eyes. Drop your head in a comfortable position and just focus on your breathing. Breathe in to fill your lungs and breathe out with pursed lips.


  • Reduces stress
  • Prevents thoracic tightness
  • Improves overall wellbeing


If you feel like one exercise per hour is too much, start small and pick a few exercises that you feel are achievable and incorporate them into you day. If you’re experiencing lower back pain or neck pain, you can book a private physiotherapy appointment at our Oxford Street Polyclinic.


Written by: Fatimah Parkar, Physiotherapist at London Doctors Clinic

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