7 Easy Standing Desk Exercises

With the advent of offices and desk jobs came an increase in sitting. While sitting itself is not inherently bad, sitting for long periods of time every day is often associated with an overall sedentary life. This can put a person at risk for a variety of health issues and contribute to an overall reduced quality of life.

Many people who work at desks all day have switched to standing desks, allowing them to alternate between sitting and standing and prevent some of the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Additionally, a standing workstation makes it easy to get in some quick desk exercise activities to break up the monotony, relieve tension, and get some blood flowing. Take a look at some easy standing desk exercises you can incorporate into your workday below to boost your energy at work and increase productivity. 

1. Standing Calf Raises

Your calf muscles are mainly activated when you perform any sort of ambulatory movement, like walking, running, or jumping, but they can also help to stabilize your body and support the mechanics of your entire lower body.

  1. Start with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Slowly lift your heels off the floor so that you are balancing on your toes and the balls of your feet.
  3. Focus on slow, intentional movement. Take at least two counts to get up, hold for two seconds, and drop back down in two counts.
  4. Repeat for 15 to 25 reps.
  5. To increase the challenge, perform this calf raise one leg at a time.

2. Standing Leg Extensions

Standing leg extensions work your quads and core, both of which stabilize your body. If you are having trouble balancing with this exercise, hold onto a chair, desk, or wall for added support. You can also do these leg extensions sitting down.

  1. Keep your feet hip-width apart. Relax your shoulders and focus on keeping them from rising up to your ears.
  2. Engaging your core, raise your left foot one or two inches off the floor.
  3. Engage your quads and core to straighten your left leg out in front of you.
  4. Bend your left knee to pull your left foot back.
  5. Start with 10 to 12 reps.
  6. Repeat with the right leg.
  7. Add ankle weights for increased difficulty.

3. Squats

Squats are a dynamic exercise that works out your quads and core as well as your glutes and hips. Most people have weak glutes as a result of extended sitting. Strong glutes provide support for your lower body and help you stay comfortable in both sitting and standing positions.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be pointed just slightly outward. Keep your hands together or loose at your sides. Try to keep your shoulders from pulling up to your ears.
  2. Bend your knees to lower your body down, engaging your core and glutes. Keep your back straight and chest pointed forward instead of down.
  3. Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should stay above your ankles, not in front of your toes.
  4. Once you have reached your lowest position, push into your heels, and return to your standing position.
  5. Start with one set of 10 to 12 squats.
  6. Hold dumbbells, kettlebells, or other weights to increase the challenge.

4. Reverse Lunges

Reverse lunges offer a combination of both reverse lunges and squats to work out stabilizing muscles like the quads, core, hamstrings, and glutes.

  1. Start with your feet side by side.
  2. Step with your left foot back. Lower the left knee 90 degrees. You ideally should not touch the floor with your knee.
  3. Push your weight into your right foot to return to a starting position. Try to focus on staying stable and avoid wobbling.
  4. Repeat with your right leg, completing one rep.
  5. Repeat for one set of 10 to 12 reps.
  6. You can increase the difficulty by holding weights in your hands.

5. Shoulder Press

While standing does involve the lower body, don’t neglect your arms and upper body. Working on your shoulders, back, and neck can help to ease some tension and strengthen the muscles associated with good posture.

  1. Start with your hands at shoulder height.
  2. Lift your hands straight up into the air, making sure you activate the muscles in your shoulders and upper arms. Don’t scrunch your shoulders up to your neck. Use small weights, books, or water bottles to add resistance and challenge.
  3. Bring your hands back down to shoulder level in a steady, controlled manner.
  4. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps.

6. Bicep Curls

Bicep curls offer an easy arm exercise when you’re reading something on your screen.

  1. Keep your arms at your sides, palms facing forward.
  2. Engaging your biceps, bend at the elbow until your hand is a few inches from your shoulder.
  3. Continue engaging your arm muscles as you slowly bring your arm back down to the starting position.
  4. Perform 12 to 15 reps for each arm. Use a water bottle, stapler, book, or another weighted item for added resistance.

7. Stretches

Along with the strength exercises, make sure you include some stretches to loosen up your joints and keep your muscles from tightening up.

Standing Calf Stretch

Move to a wall or a (stable) leg of your desk. Keep your heel on the ground and place your toes and the balls of your feet against the wall. Lean your body into the wall to feel a deep stretch in your calf muscles. Hold for up to 30 seconds and then switch to the other leg.

Standing Chest Stretch

Interlock your fingers behind your back. Straighten your arms out and pull them up behind you. Keep your shoulders down and squeeze your shoulder blades together. You should feel your chest stretch and open up. For added stretch, bend forward at the hips and tuck in your chin as you bring your arms up. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat as necessary. This is particularly good for days when you’ve been hunched over your computer and have back pain from sitting at a desk.

Lower Back Extension

With your feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands on your lower back, fingers pointed downward. Slowly bend backward from the hips, going as far as you can. Exhale for three seconds and avoid bending at the knees. Hold and slowly return to your starting position. Repeat as necessary.

Hamstring Stretch

Stand with your left leg crossed over your right leg. Bending at the waist, reach your arms down to the ground. Keep both knees relatively straight. Don’t strain to touch your toes or the ground. You just want to feel the stretch in your hamstring. Hold for up to 30 seconds before slowly bringing yourself back up. Switch to your other leg and repeat.

While your standing desk isn’t a replacement for a gym or a jog around the park, you can still keep up your health with some easy exercises. Keep in mind that standing desks are best used when alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day. Even if you don’t do the above exercises, make sure you do take a break every half hour to stretch or walk. It’ll help your body and your mind.

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