Let's be honest, not everyone has time to hit the gym after work or go for a run. We lead busy lives that demand a lot and our time is one of the first things sacrificed. Fortunately, our health doesn't have to go with it.
If you already use a standing desk, then you've seen some dramatic benefits to your health. You have more energy, better focus, and you're always in a better mood than your coworkers who stay seated. You've chosen a lifestyle that's healthier just by picking the right desk.
So while you're standing there, chugging your way through emails and reports, why not up the ante and add some exercises. Now that you've kicked the chair, there's nothing holding you back.
Exercises While You Work
The World Health Organization recommends 30 minutes of daily activity for adults ages 18-64. While this is easily manageable for most people, sometimes your schedule won’t give you a minute to do it.
That’s where these exercises come in handy. You can burn calories, improve blood flow, and better your concentration while you finish those reports and emails.
It should be no surprise that you’re not going to become a professional body builder while exercising at your desk. You will, however, develop them much faster than you would sitting down.
The changes may take a few weeks to become noticeable, but soon enough you may find yourself catching winks from more than just your reflection.
This exercise is great because you can strengthen your entire lower half at once. Even better is that while you're squatting to an imaginary chair, you'll be passively mocking your peers into a guilt trip and hopefully pushing them to lose the chair as well.
Keeping your back straight and using the edge of the desk for support if necessary, bend from your knees as if you’re going to sit down. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, where your chair would be, return to the standing position.
Ensure your knees don’t pass your toes so you avoid injury, but feel free to change the width of your stance to whatever is comfortable. Different distances will work different portions of your thighs.
If you want to increase the intensity, squat with one leg. Tuck the other behind you or keep it straight in front of you to complete a “Pistol.”
2. Calf Raises
Often neglected muscles, even by gym goers, are your calves. With both feet flat on the floor, stand on your tippy-toes and hold it for three seconds. Return to the floor and repeat.
When that becomes too easy, try using one leg at a time, like with the squats. Also, you can grab an old text book and use it as a stepping stool. Place your toes on the spine so that your heels start at a lower elevation. You’ll notice the few inches difference and you’ll finally have a use for that college text.
3. Lateral Leg Raises
A simple exercise for working the adductor muscles of the leg, the ones that help with stabilization.
Face your desk, using it for support as necessary, and lift your right leg as high as you can, keeping your toes pointed at your desk. Hold it at the peak and return to your starting position. Switch legs and repeat as many times as you’d like.
For a harder exercise, loop a single resistance band around both legs. As your reach the end of your rep, you’ll find the pull of the band adding, well, resistance.
If you're a fan of the 90's, throw on some sweat bands and leg warmers while playing your old copy of "Sweating to the Oldies". That'll turn some heads.
Reading a long-winded email? This one is easy to do while staring at the monitor.
Reach your arms straight out to your sides so they're parallel with the floor. Then clap. Just like a rockstar trying to motivate a crowd. As your hands move to the starting position, squeeze your back muscles together by pinching your shoulder blades. You'll feel a good burn through your upper back.
If you want to add some focus, play your favorite songs. Clap to the beat and only take a break when it finishes.
While developing muscles is great, flexibility will keep them growing and limit your injuries. It’ll also stop you from throwing out your back the next time you reach down at the water cooler.
With all of these stretches, make sure to hold for 30 seconds before shaking it out. Repeat as many times as necessary.
5. Hamstring Stretch
This is great for taking that short break from the screen. Keeping your legs locked, attempt to touch your toes.
It's alright if you can't, just reach as low as you can, holding the stretch without bouncing.
When you bounce, you risk pulling a muscle, rather than stretching. This is even riskier with “cold muscles”, so take care to be slow and deliberate.
If you’re prone to being lightheaded, make sure you’re keeping your head above your heart as stretch.
6. Quad Stretch
Kick a foot back like you’re trying to get your butt in gear and secure it with the same hand. Pull the foot up as you force your knee backwards.
Use your desk for support if you can’t balance well. Also, switch hands for the same leg in order to focus on different muscles in your quad.
7. Groin Stretch
There are dozens of ways to stretch your groin, but the simplest is to spread your legs as far as you can and squat to one side. Keep your toes facing your desk and you’ll feel the stretch as you sink lower into position.
Switch sides, using the desk for support and repeat.
8. Calf Stretch
This stretch is particularly handy after those textbooks leave your calves exhausted.
Reach one leg backward, until your heel can’t touch the ground, and then force it to get there anyways. You’ll feel the stretch as you finish sending your emails. Just be sure to proofread a little extra if the burn is too much.
Doing exercises at a standing desk shows that you’ve already found balance between your work life and personal health, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better at standing on one foot.
Balance is more than being able to walk the high-wire. It requires control of all your muscles in order to stabilize your body. Fortunately, it can be practiced anytime and anywhere.
9. Standing on One Foot
The simple go-to exercise for bettering your balance. Keep time when you’re standing on each leg and aim for longer durations every iteration. If you have a medicine ball at your office, for some unknown reason, balancing on that is even better. Just make sure to use your desk when you need it.
10. Tiny Circles
This is really a modification of standing on one foot. With your non-planted leg, lock your knee out and make tiny circles with your foot. This small movement is enough to activate the stabilizer muscles in your opposite leg. This will strengthen it as well as help develop your balance.
11. Tree Pose
There are plenty of Yoga poses you can do for balance and although some require contortion on the ground, a few can be done from your desk.
For the Tree Pose, place a foot against the inside of your opposite leg, either on the calf or the thigh (never directly on the knee). Imagine you’re making a ‘4’ and balance like that. Take deep breaths and hold the position for as long as you want. When you switch legs, try to match that time.
Becoming Fit While You Work
These exercises aren't possible at a regular desk and although none of them will leave you breathless, they will burn calories, tone muscles, and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Crank the tunes and feel the burn. You've proven that you want to be healthier by owning a standing desk, now it's time to take advantage of its other benefits.
Having a standing desk adds tremendous benefits to your health, but why stop there? Check out some of the other reasons you should take to your feet and set yourself on the path to a healthier life.