Easy Office Exercises You Can Start Today

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Carrie Lam, MD

Improve your health with office exercisesWith desk jobs and office work on the rise, stress caused by a lack of activity is also on the rise. It can seem nearly impossible to move around and burn those extra calories while working at an office job and this can make it difficult for many individuals to stay healthy. But here’s the thing, there are actually many office exercises that can be performed at your desk. These exercises not only help make you more healthy, but can also help you deal with stress. Stress, as you likely already know, is the leading cause of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

Use these exercises to boost your overall health and promote synchronicity in your NeuroEndoChromatic (NEM) stress response network.
So let’s loosen up a bit and dive into some great exercises that will help you stay in shape while you power through the day.

Before You Exercise

Always keep in mind practicing good ergonomics, which is perhaps just as important as exercise for maintaining your health while working in an office job. Proper ergonomics can prevent inflammation of the wrists and back, allowing your NEM network to focus on other issues. Proper posture can also prevent injury while you perform the amazing workout below. Remember to always:

  • Adjust your chair to a height that causes the least amount of strain on your neck and back while allowing your feet to remain flat on the floor.
  • Keep your lower spine against the back of the chair.
  • Ensure the top third of the screen is above eye level since this will help you to avoid hunching while you work.

These simple steps will help you more easily sit up straight and prevent other injuries like the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome.
Alternatively, you could opt for a standing desk. This is perhaps the best way to remain active while at work. Standing desks aren’t just a fad and are an excellent way to ensure you are at least somewhat physically active throughout the day.

9 Useful Desk Stretches

Office exercises you can useOK, so let’s get started with some simple stretches. These office exercises are easy to perform and will get you warmed up for the more intensive workouts that follow.

Reach for the Stars

From a seated position, ensure you are sitting up straight, interlace your fingers, and stretch your arms upwards toward the sky. Hold for a few seconds and release.

Take a Look Around

This one couldn’t be any simpler. Turn your head to the right and look over your shoulder. Hold for a few seconds. Then repeat on the left side.

Neck Stretcher

Similar to the last stretch, sit up straight and drop your right ear towards your right shoulder, you don’t have to go all the way. Hold for a few seconds. Then repeat on left side.

Neck Roll

Gently bring your chin down towards your chest and roll your head from one side to the other.

Open Heart

Bring your hands behind your back and press your palms together. Sit up tall as you firmly press your hands against your spine. Hold for around ten seconds.

Knee Hug

When was the last time you gave your knees some love? Bend your right knee up to your chest, wrap your arms around your leg, and pull it close to your chest. Hold in this position for ten seconds.

The Bend and Reach

Lift your left arm over your head, reach as far right as possible, and gently bend into the stretch. This will stretch the shoulder area and also the sides of your body. After holding for a few seconds, switch to the other side.

Knee Presses

If you want to stretch your glutes, this one is for you. Lift your left ankle onto your right knee, then gently press down against your left knee and hold. Switch sides and repeat.

6 Cardio Office Exercises

These exercises are designed to raise your heartrate, get your blood pumping, and refresh your mind.

Jog in Place

Perhaps one of the simplest, most overlooked workplace exercise is jogging on the spot. Simply walking or jogging in place can be a great exercise. Just stand up, move your legs, and get the blood flowing.

Take the Stairs

Office exercises like walking stairsJust take the stairs instead of the elevator. Easy enough right? And a bonus to this one is that you can avoid those awkward situations elevators are renowned for. If needed, stop and take a break. Many people with AFS report a sense of breathlessness while walking up steps.

Take a Walk

In a slump? Have some time to kill? Instead of endlessly clicking through webpage after webpage, get up and take a walk. You may even strike up a conversation with someone on the other side of the office. Slow walking is best to keep your heart rate under 120 beats per minute.


Who said deskercising ain’t easy? Any time you have a moment to breathe, you have a moment to do some squats. Like right now. Why are you still reading? Let’s see some action.

Push Ups

Nothing is quite like a classic push-up to burn some calories. What’s more, squats and push-ups make an excellent combo that can stimulate blood flow.

Suit and Tie Push Up

Wearing a suit? Don’t want to put your hands on the floor? Try this modified wall push-up. Stand one to two feet away from a sturdy wall (i.e., not a cubicle), place your palms flush against the wall, and lean gently into it. Hold your arms out straight and make sure they are both parallel to the ground. Then, bend your elbows and ease into the wall. Hold for a few seconds and push back. Do 12-15 reps.

5 Fun Chair Exercises

These exercises aren’t just effective, they can be a fun way to keep each part of your NEM response system in synchronicity.

Leg Raises

So your boss didn’t give you that raise? Give yourself one. From a seated position, extend one leg at a time parallel to the ground, and hold for five seconds or more. Alternate back and forth performing three or more reps on each leg. Still want more? Add some weight by hanging a purse or briefcase from your leg.

Stapler Curls

Your stapler can do more than just attach sheets of paper together. Using your stapler like a dumbell, do 10-15 bicep curls on each arm. Alternatively, you can use a water bottle or similar object.

Shoulder Shrug

From a standing position with your arms hanging by your sides, shrug your shoulders up and hold for five seconds. Do 10-12 reps to start. Looking to amp this up? Hold a paper ream in each hand. Make sure you check who is around before you shrug. The boss might be insulted, but who knows, you may just look like the coolest person in the office.

Wheelie Push

Everyone wants to play on their rolling desk chair and now you have a great reason too. Position yourself at arms length from your desk while seated in your chair. Grasp the edge of your desk and raise your feet slightly above the ground. Next pull your chair inward towards the desk until you have rolled as far forward as possible. Then, with your feet still raised, push yourself back again. Do 20 reps or less, until you really feel the burn.

Silent Ab Squeeze

Whether from a seated position or walking down the hall, you can perform the silent ab squeeze. Start by simply taking a deep breath, tightening your abdominal muscles, and pulling them inward towards your spine as you exhale. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Do this intermittently throughout the day.

Office Exercises and Your NEM Response System

NEM stress response system

The NeuroEndochromatic (NEM) Stress Response is a way of viewing how the various circuits of the body work in unison with each other, and provides a lens through which we can see disease. Six circuits make up the NEM network: neuroaffector, cardionomic, inflammation, metabolic, detoxification, and hormonal. These 6 circuits are combined to perform all of our daily biological functions.

One of the effects of an imbalanced NEM system is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Adrenal Fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands become burnt out, mainly due to continuous unrelenting stress. Inactivity and improper workplace practices can lead to increased levels of stress, and if left unchecked, can become a burden. Therefore, it is important to keep your stress in check. These office exercises are just one of many ways to do that.

Office work and health

Office exercises and stressAlthough office work appears to be a safe alternative to factory work or other labor jobs, it comes with its own risks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.2 million deaths can be attributed to lack of exercise. Office work can greatly contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, which can cause the circuits of the NEM system to underperform or operate incorrectly. This imbalance can lead to a number of issues such as diabetes, heart disease, muscle loss, and of course, weight gain.

The most alarming aspect of this is that regular exercise, before or after work, may not be enough to counteract the effects of an office lifestyle. This means that doing office exercises throughout the day is a must.

In Conclusion

The NEM stress response system is a finely tuned mechanism, that has evolved over thousands of years, tailored to humans that previously lived very active lifestyles. However, modern lifestyles, which often include office work, have led to more sedentary lifestyles. A lifestyle lacking activity can slowly wear away at our health by causing parts of our NEM system to operate incorrectly.

Using these office exercises throughout the day can really help you maintain your health and keep the NEM response system operating optimally. Perhaps the best way to ensure you exercise throughout the day is by planning a 5-minute stretch/exercise break after every 30 minute of work. This regular physical activity will help you maintain strong blood flow all day long. Keeping your body healthy can even improve your work performance, since you will be more relaxed and mentally focused. Share these office exercises around your office so that everyone can be a bit more active.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Exercise can often seem boring but if you work an office job, these office exercises can be really fun. Use these awesome exercise to get your blood flowing and liven up your work day. What are you waiting for?

Office exercises