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Office Workout: Five Easy Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk

Spending too much time deskbound leads to tight muscles, a weak core, and poor circulation. Julie Drake, operations director at the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education’s Fitness Institute of Texas (FIT), demonstrates five desk exercises designed to chase away office health hazards.

Small steps make a big difference.

Right now, before you read on, stand up. Go ahead – nobody is looking. Just get out of your chair and continue reading while you stretch your legs.

According to Juststand.org, the average American sits for 7.7 hours per day, or roughly half of the time spent awake. Research supporting the claim that exercise is good for you has existed for decades but until recently nobody asked the question, “Is sitting bad for you?”
We have looked at exercise from many angles and know that it’s beneficial for everyone. However, scientists are just beginning to test the theory that sitting for extended periods of time might have more negative health effects than simply not exercising at all.

In our current era of unavoidably inactive work as well as inactive leisure time, more and more studies are examining the physiological repercussions of prolonged sitting.

A recent University of Texas at Austin study has compared accelerometer counts for two groups of people, one with normal BMIs (18.5-25) and the other composed of people with overweight BMIs (>25). Both groups were technically sedentary; however, the normal-weight BMI group was found to spend an average of 21 minutes more per day engaging in moderate intensity physical activity (Davis et al., 2012).

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT is the title given to energy expended during many of the basic activities of daily living. All of the steps, gestures, and movements that it takes to get you through the day add up to the greater part of your daily caloric expenditure and can be as important to maintaining your health as engaging in regular exercise.
Finding ways to increase your NEAT can be as simple as standing up while reading this article, converting your desk to a standing work-station, or setting an alarm every 60 minutes to remind you to take a 2-3 minute stretching or moving break. Take the stairs whenever possible and consider giving up that parking spot right next to the building in favor of a few extra steps to the door.

Calandra LindstadtAbout the writer: Calandra Lindstadt, B.S., C.P.T., is a second year master’s student in Health Behavior and Health Education and is a Graduate Research Assistant with the Fitness Institute of Texas. She achieved her B.S. in Health Promotion and Fitness from The University of Texas at Austin in 2012. Calandra is interested in improving the quality of life for underserved populations through health education and physical activity. She has been teaching group fitness classes and yoga since 2012. Her interests include bicycle commuting, healthy home-cooking, and exploring South America one country at a time.


Davis, J. N., Hodges, V. A., & Gillham, M. B. (2006). Physical activity compliance: differences between overweight/obese and normal-weight adults. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 14(12), 2259–2265. doi:10.1038/oby.2006.265

Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Salmon, J., Cerin, E., Shaw, J. E., Zimmet, P. Z., & Owen, N. (2008). Breaks in sedentary time: beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care, 31(4), 661–666. doi:10.2337/dc07-2046

Patel, A. V., Bernstein, L., Deka, A., Feigelson, H. S., Campbell, P. T., Gapstur, S. M., … Thun, M. J. (2010). Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, 172(4), 419–429. doi:10.1093/aje/kwq155