Exercise tips for desk-bound employees

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Exercise tips for desk-bound employees

Australians employed in jobs that involve 'mostly sitting' spend an average of 6.3 hours per day sitting at work, putting them at risk of diabetes, obesityi, and cardiovascular diseaseii. To reduce these risks, the National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends that adults limit the total amount of time sitting down, and also encourages employers to implement initiatives to reduce the time their employees spend sittingii. No matter if you are an employer looking for options to support your staff, or an employee wanting to reduce the health effects of a sedentary lifestyle, there are plenty of ways to integrate exercise into the average office workday.

Doing some simple exercises at your desk everyday can counteract the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle including obesity.

Workplace exercises

When arriving at your workplace, take the stairs rather than the elevator to increase the amount of exercise you get at work. Standing uses more energy than sitting, so try to find reasons to stand at work. For example, you could stand while talking on the phone, or walk to a colleague's desk instead of instant messaging themiii.

Also, try stretching your arms above your head and slowly leaning from side to side to prevent back painiv. Rocking your head slowly backwards and forwards, and from left to right will help with the tension in your neckiv.

For some inspiration, here's our top 5 "deskercise" list:

  1. "The Patient Printer": Use the time standing in front of the printer and waiting for your prints to do some calf raises - push yourself up to your tippy-toes, hold, then lower back down.
  2. "The Silent Seat Squeeze": While working on that urgent report, train your isometric glutes by squeezing your buttocks for about five seconds; release, then squeeze again, and repeat.
  3. "The Lunch Break Hammy": Stand up and hold on to the back of your chair for support. Slowly lift one foot to the back of your thigh, hold briefly, and lower your foot back down. Repeat about 12 to 15 times, then switch legs.
  4. "The Stapler Curl": Sitting down, take a stapler into one hand, and place that hand on your thigh, palm facing up. Now curl your arm up towards the chest, and lower it back down. After 15 to 20 repeats, switch arms. Of course, this also works with heavier items such as a small water bottle.
  5. "The Office Genie": You need arm rests for this one: sit cross-legged on your chair, and lift yourself off the chair only using your arms. Try to hold your body weight for 15 to 20 seconds, and release.
Walking over to a colleague's desk is the healthier alternative to instant messaging them.

Stand-up desks

For employers who'd like to offer their employees the possibility to sit less at work, stand-up desks could be the answer. Stand-up desks help to keep office workers on their feet, while maintaining their productivity. A recent study by the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the University of Sydney showed that employees who use sit-stand workstations reduced the amount of sitting-time at work by almost 20 per centi.

Stand-up desks can be used by multiple workers as many are height-adjustable, which improves workplace flexibility as well as overall health of employeesv. Some businesses are creating activity-based workspaces that allow employees to stand and work at their desk, or conduct standing meetingsvi.

Treadmills at work

If standing at your desk wasn't enough, treadmill desks allow employees to walk at a steady pace while working. While treadmill desks can come with a quite hefty price tag, recent research shows that the desks are not only good for long-term health, but may also increase productivity in certain situationsvii,viii.

iNational Heart Foundation of Australia 2013, The Stand@Work Study, viewed 30 July 2014,

iiNational Heart Foundation of Australia 2011, Sitting less for adults, viewed 30 July 2014,

iiiMayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research 2014, Office exercise: Add more activity to your workday, viewed 1 August 2014,

ivJohnston, B 2014, 'Five exercises to do at your desk', Body and Soul, viewed 1 August 2014,

vSouthward, J 2012, 'Standing up for office health', Sydney Morning Herald, 21 June, viewed 1 August 2014,

viMcSweeny, L 2013, 'Just move it', Sydney Morning Herald 15 November, viewed 1 August 2014,

viiD'Mello, C 2013, 'Drop kilos and earn money at the same time', Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July, viewed 7 August 2014,

viiiAdams, S 2014, 'New Study: Treadmill Desks Boost Productivity', Forbes, 11 March, viewed 7 August 2014,