10 Quick Desk Exercises You Can Fit in Before Your Next Meeting

All you need for these simple workouts is bodyweight, a desk, and a chair.

Woman working on laptop at desk

If you work at a desk, you may find it difficult to stay active throughout the day. After all, a sedentary job can often mean sitting for upwards of eight hours at a time. If you've been looking for a way to break up long periods of stagnancy, desk exercises are the way to go. These short, office-friendly bursts of activity are simple enough to do seated or standing right at your workspace—and require no equipment beyond body weight and sometimes a chair or desk.

What Are Desk Exercises?

Whether you work from home or in the office, desk exercises can become a part of your daily routine. "Desk exercises utilize a series of workplace furniture or settings whereby a person transforms these pieces into exercise equipment using simple movement patterns and flexibility techniques designed to counter excessive sitting, slouching, and other posture and pain inducing work habits and behaviors," says Len Glassman, CPT, CHN, JD, a certified personal trainer and health nutritionist.

Benefits of Desk Exercises

Desk exercises are an attainable way to work some activity into your day. "Our bodies aren't meant to be stationary for very long," says Colleen Louw, physical therapist and spokesperson for American Physical Therapy Association. "Small, frequent breaks can go a long way to alleviate problems before they begin." Sitting for prolonged periods can cause lack of blood flow to muscles, joints, and nerves, which can make them more sensitive.

In addition to improving blood flow, exercising at your desk is a great way to create a daily regimen of physical movement. This is especially beneficial if you don't have time to go to the gym before or after work. What's more, desk exercises will help you release endorphins during business hours. "Exercise has been shown to have an overall positive effect on your mood, health, and wellbeing," says Sonya Robinson, NASM certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist.

The Best Desk Exercises

If you want to incorporate more movement into your day, consider adding these simple, expert-recommended desk exercises to your work routine. They can be done at home or in the office and all you'll need is a desk, chair, or bodyweight.

illustration of standing on toes at their desk
Grace Canaan

Sit to Stand

This exercise strengthens your lower body and core while simultaneously helping you maintain balance and improve your mobility. "The goal is to do the sit to stand exercise without using any equipment," says Glassman.

  1. Sit toward the front edge of your desk chair. Your knees should be bent and your feet should be flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Breathe in slowly while leaning forward and slightly shift your weight to the front of your feet.
  3. Breathe out as you slowly stand up using your hands as little as possible.
  4. Once standing, lift up onto the balls of your feet.
  5. Sit down slowly while tightening your core and abdominal muscles to control your lowering as much as possible.
  6. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times.

Chair Dips

You'll need a desk chair for this movement, which engages your triceps, chest, and anterior deltoid muscles.

  1. Place a chair behind you.
  2. Place your palms flat on the chair, with your fingers pointing in the direction you're facing. Keep your heels on the ground with your legs straight.
  3. Lower yourself until your upper arms make a 90 degree angle.
  4. Push yourself up mostly with your upper body (your legs can assist if needed).
  5. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times.
Illustration of person doing lateral lunges
Grace Canaan

Lateral Lunges

Activate your quadriceps, hamstrings, and adductor muscles with this simple exercise that requires no equipment.

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take a big step to the side and focus on shifting your hips back like you're sitting in a chair, bending your knee until your thigh is almost parallel to the ground.
  3. Step back into the standing position.
  4. Repeat this exercise 10 times on each side.

Desk Plank

Activate your core by trying this movement, which you will need to use your desk for.

  1. Place your palms flat on your desk with your arms fully extended and your legs straight out behind you. Keep your back in a straight line and your hips in line with your shoulders.
  2. Hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds.
chair abs
Grace Canaan

Chair Abs

You can stay seated for this exercise, which strengthens your abdominal muscles and obliques without compromising your neck and back.

  1. Sit close to the front edge of your chair and keep your back straight and your feet flat on the ground shoulder-width apart.
  2. Cross your arms across your chest and contract your abdominal muscles until you start to feel them tighten.
  3. Release your arms to your sides.
  4. Raise one leg up, keeping it bent in a 90 degree angle. Hold for up to one minute.
  5. Repeat on the other leg for an additional minute.


You're likely familiar with this popular exercise, which targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, and core.

  1. Stand up, keeping your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your hands in front of you or behind your head.
  2. Lower down until your glutes almost touch your chair, keeping your knees in line with your toes.
  3. Return to the standing position
  4. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times.
illustration of person doing downward dog on a chair
Grace Canaan

Straight Arm Pushup Into Inverted V

This movement is slightly more advanced than some other desk exercises, but it will certainly get your blood flowing. "It strengthens muscles and bones in the front and back upper body, core, and legs, while increasing flexibility and range of motion in the upper and lower body regions," says Glassman.

  1. Start in a straight arm pushup position, facing the chair bottom with your wrists under your shoulders and legs extended so that your back is flat and your body forms a straight line.
  2. Exhale through your mouth as you tighten your core and push your gluteal muscles and pelvis up towards the ceiling, while keeping your legs and arms straight so your body forms an inverted V.
  3. Lower your pelvis back down into the straight arm pushup position.
  4. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times.

Arm Jabs and Torso Rotation

Stay seated for this higher intensity cardiovascular exercise, which strengthens your arms and tightens your torso.

  1. Sit straight up without using the chair back for support, if possible.
  2. Place arms at your sides with your elbows bent and pushed past your back on either side, with your fists clenched and shaped like a boxing glove.
  3. Start by punching across your upper body into a full arm extension and then quickly retract the arm back.
  4. Repeat this movement with the other arm.
  5. Repeat this exercise for 30 second intervals, building up to one minute.
illustration of person doing a dead lift
Grace Ganaan

Single Leg Deadlifts

You can still reap the benefits of deadlifts, which target your gluteal muscles and hamstrings, by using bodyweight rather than dumbbells.

  1. Stand tall on one leg with your hands at your sides.
  2. Push your hips back and reach toward the floor, bringing your chest parallel to the ground while simultaneously lifting your leg straight out behind you.
  3. Return to the starting position, tapping your lifted foot down if you need to regain your balance.
  4. Repeat this exercise eight to 12 times on each leg.

Marching in Place

This movement has it all—cardio endurance, abdominal and leg strengthening, and tricep and upper body muscle engagement.

  1. Sit at the front edge of the chair, leaning back slightly with your back straight.
  2. Place the palms of each hand on the sides of your chair and gently push down with your arms straight at your sides to activate your triceps.
  3. Alternate raising your legs in a bent knee position while tightening your abdominal muscles.
  4. While pushing your arms down, continue marching in place.
  5. For intermediate exercisers, try moving your entire body off the seat briefly, so that all your weight is on your arms. March in place, keeping your feet flat on the ground as you alternate.
  6. Repeat this exercise 15 times on each leg.
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