Bad news, everybody. We all know sitting for long periods of time is bad for you, but the truth is that it’s worse than that. In a 2016 cross-sectional observational study of 2,500 people, it was found that those with diabetes sat for an average of 26 minutes per day more than those who did not have the disease, a correlation that leads scientists to believe that for every extra hour you sit each day, you’re probably increasing your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by about 22%.
That’s right. It seems that even if you do everything you can to improve your health at home, you can’t counteract the damage done by sitting around all day at work.
But for some of us, it’s not really a choice whether or not we sit all day. Not everyone has access to a standing desk. Not everyone can take time out of their busy workdays to go do lunges in the break room. Whether you’re booked with back-to-back meetings or just worried about losing your job if the boss catches you “goofing off” too many times, there are plenty of reasons why you probably spend the majority of your day seated.
So while it is highly recommended that you get up and move around at work as often as you can (and there are plenty of online lists full of exercises you can do at the office), we believe there has to be a more practical solution for those who can’t just leave their seats whenever they feel like it.
Below are our ideas for getting active without getting out of your chair. Most of the exercises below can also be done without much brain power, sweat, or privacy. If you have dividers between your desks at work or some other minimal form of privacy, there’s no need to go find an empty room or secluded corner to do your mini-workout. If done right, you should be able to perform many of these tasks in the middle of a meeting without your co-workers even noticing!
PRO TIP: Do the arm exercises while reading something or doing another activity that doesn’t require your hands. Save the leg workouts for when you need your hands for typing, clicking, or whatever other tasks your desk-job requires.
While some stretching exercises require more privacy or range of motion than others, there are still stretches you can do at your desk without really being noticed. Let your head loll to one side and then roll it around to the other side. Extend your legs under the desk for a few seconds. Shrug your shoulders as high as you can and hold it for a few seconds. Reach your arms overhead and lean back to stretch your back. If your co-workers do see you stretching, they’ll probably just think you’re sore or stiff from sitting in one position all day. Even those of us who aren’t trying to exercise often stretch during the workday without even thinking about it.
14. Chair spins
If your desk chair swivels, grab onto the edge of your desk and turn from side to side, using the muscles in your abdomen to move you. Be sure to sit up straight and engage your core for maximum results!
13. Praying and holding hands
It sounds silly, we know. But if you place your palms together as if you were praying and press them toward one another, it won’t be long before you’re feeling your muscles work! You can also clasp your hands together tightly and attempt to pull them apart. Onlookers will probably have no idea you’re doing anything new, especially if they only see you from the back on their way by your cubicle.
12. The Boomerang Chair
If you sit in a rolling desk chair at work, you can grab onto the edge of your desk, push yourself away from it, and then pull yourself back. If your chair takes substantial effort to move, or if you don’t have a rolling chair, you don’t even have to move it; just push and pull on the edge of your desk and let the resistance from your chair provide the workout.
11. The Hovering Genie
Place your hands on the arms of your chair and press down, attempting to lift your entire body from its seat (but make sure the arms of you and your chair are strong enough to support your body weight before beginning to avoid a nasty crash). Keep your core and leg muscles tight so that they go along for the ride! This one is tricky for some, but you don’t have to lift your body all the way off your chair to get results either! Coworkers passing by will just think you’re adjusting your sitting position, which we all do various times throughout the workday.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?