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Here are 10 easy exercises you can do at your desk

By Michael Crump | 04 October 2016

We all know that eating well and exercising helps you stay healthy. Regular physical activity and a well-balanced diet have been correlated with lowering your risk of pretty much everything from heart disease to high blood pressure to some cancers and more.

But what you might not know is that these two components for living well are just as important to your academic health. According to the UK National Health System, “Exercise will help keep you calm during exams. You’ll feel more energised and refreshed, and that will help you perform better in your studies.” Of course, if you’re a student - especially one that’s juggling courses on top of commitments to a job, a family or another competing demand - you know that finding the time to get to the gym for that physical activity everybody says is so important seems impossible.

Well, never fear - we’ve put together a list of ten quick exercises you can do from your desk. Use them to stay active and energised, no matter how little time you’re able to commit:

Exercise #1 - Quick Leg Raises

As you’re sitting in your chair, lift one of your feet so that your leg becomes straight, hold the position for as long as you can, then return your foot to the ground. Repeat on the other side, alternating between legs as many times as you like. Not doing anything for you? Up the resistance by hanging your purse or briefcase on your foot (just like you would with an ankle weight band).

Exercise #2 - Secret Glute Squeezes 

No one will know you're doing them.  
This quick seated exercise will have you ready for Bondi in no time. Simply squeeze your buttocks, hold the squeeze up to ten seconds, and then release. Repeat the movement until the muscles tire, or set a reminder on your mobile’s alarm clock to squeeze your glutes every five minutes throughout your next study session. This isometric exercise will help tone and lift the buttocks, keeping you in shape without ever having set foot in the gym.

Exercise #3 - Simple Desk Squats 

Sit in your desk chair with your feet flat on the ground in front of you. Now, stand up, push your chair back slightly and drop your hips backwards - emulating the position of sitting in your chair, without actually sitting on the seat or touching it. For best results, go until your knees are over your toes and your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground (start smaller if sitting back this far bothers your knees). Raise your arms in front of you as you lower your body, hold the squat position for 15-20 seconds and repeat the entire sequence 4-6 times.

Not the correct form for a desk squat but another simple deskercise you can try!

Exercise #4 - Desk Item Bicep Curls 

Look around your desk for a small, heavy(ish) object - a stapler, a filled water bottle or a small purse are all good candidates. As you sit at your desk, hold the object in one hand with your palm facing up and your arm resting on your thigh. Slowly curl the object towards your chest - bending at the elbow - and then slowly lower it back. Alternate arms, and repeat the motion 12-15 times on each side. If the movement feels too easy, upgrade to the next heaviest object you can find near you.

Exercise #5 - Office Tricep Dips

Before giving this one a try, assess how sturdy your desk or desk chair are. Trust us, you don’t want a chair with wheels for this exercise - you’ll see why in a second…
Assuming you’ve got a piece of stable office furniture nearby, sit at the very edge of your desk or chair and hold the edge with your hands (placed right next to your body). Walk your feet forward and straighten your arms so that they’re holding the weight of your body. Dip your arms down 8-10 times so that they reach a roughly 90 degree angle, giving your triceps a quick, effective workout.
Now do you see why a rolling chair (or an unstable desk, for that matter) could be a problem?

Exercise #6 - Punch it out 

If you’ve got some extra study-related stress to work off, this one’s for you…
Set the timer on your mobile for 60 seconds and fist pump like you’re AC/DC playing at Allphones Arena. Punch in any direction you want, engaging every muscle in your arms as you punch out and pull back in. You’ll get an added cardio bump as you strengthen your arms - just be careful about giving this one a go if you’re studying at a public library or coffee shop.


Exercise #7 - The Brainy Genie

This pose won’t magically make your assessments go away, but it will get you energised enough to tackle them yourself.
As you’re sitting in your desk chair, cross your legs and rest your hands on the arms of your desk chair (again, avoid wheeled and spinning chairs for this one). Straighten your arms so that your legs come off the chair in their criss-crossed position. Congratulations, you’re now flying like the genie in Aladdin!
Depending on your current fitness level, you may need to work up to this one. Work with the other exercises on this list until you’re strong enough to remain floating for 10-20 seconds at a time.

Exercise #8 - Pinch a Pencil 

Those who spend a lot of time at their desks - students, especially - are at risk for developing hunched shoulders and poor posture (which, in turn, can pull vertebrae out of alignment and reduce blood flow and airflow throughout the body).
Solve the problem without ever leaving your desk by rolling your shoulders back and pretending you’re pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat up to 15 times per study session.

Exercise #9 - Spin Around

A few of the exercises we’ve covered so far have required stable office chairs, but for this one, you’re free to let your wild side spin.
The only catch? You can’t spin with your feet - you’ve got to spin using your core muscles only. To do it, lift your feet off the ground and use your ab muscles to swivel your chair as far as you can. Repeat the exercise, being sure to swivel in both directions, until you’ve worn out your core.

Exercise #10 - Easy Seated Crunch

Traditional curls require that you lay down on the floor, but we’re going to make things even easier. Instead of getting out of your chair, simply hunch forward in a seated position so that your elbows are resting on your thighs.
Now, try to crunch forward with your chest and shoulders while pushing back against your legs with your arms. Feel it in your core? You’ve just completed your first seated curl. Now, repeat the movement 10 more times, holding each rep for 10 seconds.

Do you have your own deskercises that you do to keep in shape? Let us know in the comments below! 

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