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best office exercises to stay fit at work

Don’t feel guilty if you can’t make it to the gym during your lunch break or you’re too burned out after work to go anywhere near an elliptical. These office exercises make it easy to work out at work, whether your aim is to strengthen your core, gain flexibility, or even work in some cardio.

After all, less than 20 percent of Americans have jobs that require physical activity, with many people spending more than half of the workday seated. And all of that time spent sitting can lead to serious health issues, such as weight gain, weaker bones, and a weakened immune system. Those are pretty good reasons to become serious about fitness. Even if you have a full inbox or a deadline keeping you stuck at your desk, here are some ways to stay physically active on the job, from seated core exercises to light stretching and beyond.

Take the Stairs

office exercises - fitbit

Get it on Amazon for around $144

Daily exercise can be the first thing you do even if you have to be at work early. Simply skip the elevator ride and take the stairs to fit in some cardio when arriving and departing your office. Stair climbing burns more calories than jogging, can prevent cardiovascular disease, and even strengthen your muscles. And if your office is on the ground level, consider parking far from the front door to get in your steps (and keep track with a device like Fitbit), or make a few loops around the building every morning or during your lunch break. Just be sure to bring along some comfortable shoes.

office exercises - comfortable shoes

Get it on Amazon for around $50

Shop all your office exercise equipment needs here:

Try These Seated Exercises

Whether you want to strengthen your core, tone your calves, or improve the flexibility of your ankles, you can do all of these and more without leaving your seat. The blog Your Modern Family has several seated exercises anyone can do at work.

Legs and Ankles

Rotate your ankles in both directions for five seconds to strengthen the flexibility of your ankles. Tone your calf muscles by raising your legs up on the very tips of your toes while remaining seated and hold for 10 seconds before returning to start position.

Seated Core Exercises

Sit with your legs shoulder-width apart and your knees bent over the edge of your chair. Rotate as far to the left as you can and hold there for five seconds, then repeat on the right. If you’re into crunches, simply move to the edge of your chair and plant your feet on the ground. Lean back on the backrest and then lift your straightened legs a few inches above the ground, raising your back a few inches off the backrest.

office exercises - resistance bands

Get it on Amazon for around $17

Further strengthen your core while seated with the help of a resistance band. Wrap a resistance band around the back of your chair and hold onto the ends of the band with each hand. From there, pull your belly button in toward the back of your seat while simultaneously extending your arms out. Hold this position for 10 seconds before relaxing.


Sitting at a desk all day can also lead to slouching, shoulder pain and neck fatigue. For a good upper body and arm stretch, clasp your hands together above your head with palms facing outward. Push your arms up, stretching upward, and hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds.

Find the Nearest Door

office exercises - doorway pull up bar

Get it on Amazon for around $28

You might get a few looks of envy from your co-workers by showing off how many pull-ups you can do at the nearest doorway. This upper body workout bar turns any doorway into a personal gym and is ideal for pull-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, dips, and more.

Get Loose

office exercises - lacrosse massage balls

Get it on Amazon for around $12

Loosen up muscles that may have gotten tight while sitting with the help of Lacrosse massage balls. Just roll one under your foot at your desk or behind your back or hips at the nearest wall.

Pedal It Out

office exercises - deskcycle

Get it on Amazon for around $169

You may be able to cancel that SoulCycle membership you never use thanks to DeskCycle, an under-desk exercise bike and pedal exerciser. Take that important conference call, but your legs will feel like they’re competing in the Tour de France.

Find Some Balance

office exercises - balance ball

Get it on Amazon for around $70

Try swapping your swivel seat for a balance ball. It’s more affordable than a standing desk. Even if you move very little, sitting on a balance ball activates the core and positively impacts your metabolism. So go ahead and answer those emails, but try to do it while balancing on a ball.

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.


Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, and VICE.

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