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MiniWorkouts for the Deskbound

Ifu Aniemeka Jr Software Consultant

By now, you’ve probably heard about all of the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time. Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to high blood pressure, body fat, and cholesterol, an increased risk of diabetes, generally feeling like absolute dumpster juice all the time*, and wanting to murder your coworkers, among other things. The key to undoing at least some of this damage seems to be getting up and moving around. In this article I’ll describe how to incorporate movement into your day and provide some exercises you might find useful.

Creating Habits

The first step is to make moving throughout the day a habit. There are a plenty of ways to go about doing this, but a couple of my favorites are the Pomodoro technique and the Tiny Habit method.

To start using the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll need a timer. It can be a physical timer, or you can download an app like Tomato One or BeFocused. For those unfamiliar with the technique, it calls for a preset time period of concentrated work followed by a short break, which you repeat throughout the day. The breaks, called pomodoros, help alleviate mental fatigue and, in so doing, allow you to remain productive for longer periods of time.

The Tiny Habit method, requires that you associate a habit you’d like to develop with a habit you already have. Tiny habits have three components: they use your existing environment to help you develop a habit, they begin small so that you shouldn’t have to rely on willpower or motivation to complete them, and they end with a small celebration once complete. For instance, you might start an office workout habit by deciding to do a single pushup every time you go to the bathroom. Once that practice becomes automatic, you can increase repetitions or exercises until you get to where you want to be. For an introduction to the tiny habits concept, you can visit tinyhabits.com or watch B.J. Fogg’s TED talk.

Try out both of these methods and see which one works for you. The important thing is to be consistent.

Problem Areas and How to Fix Them

Better Posture
First and foremost, let’s address posture. Some of the problems below are caused by or exacerbated by having bad posture while sitting. This stuff is super basic, but we’ve certainly all found ourselves leaning forward or slumping down in our chairs when deeply engaged in work. The goal is to be conscious of it and to reset your posture every time we feel yourself slouching. Here’s a handy guide to sitting well: Posture for a Healthy Back.

Useful Stretches and Exercises
You don’t necessarily have to try to squeeze everything below into your break time. You might, for instance, focus one break on abs, another on legs, etc. Or you could mix them up. It’s up to you.



This exercise is great for building core strength.

You want to be prone on the floor with your elbows at a 90 degree angle and your toes bent. Make sure that your back is straight, i.e. don’t stick your butt in the air or let your hips hang. Try to hold this position for at least a minute. If a plank is too challenging, use a chair or bench to elevate your upper body. If it’s not challenging enough, you can elevate your feet.



Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are quite similar to planks, except now your arms are fully extended with your hands flat on the floor and you’re making a running motion with your legs. Your arms should be at about a 90 degree angle to your body. Again, the key here to keep your back straight. Do about 15 repetitions for each leg.

mountain climbers

Leg Raises

Lay in a supine position with your arms at your sides. Raise your legs until they are 90 degrees from the floor and then lower them. Do this about 15 times.

leg raises


Flutter Kicks

Again, lay in a supine position with your arms at your side. Raising both of your feet a few inches off the floor, kick them as though swimming.

flutter kicks

Quads, Hamstrings, and Glutes


Standing straight, you want to take a long step forward and bend both the leading and rear leg at about 90 degrees. It may take a few repetitions before you get the distance right. Make sure not to drop too quickly so you don’t strike your knee against the floor.



For this exercise, you will stand straight with your feet at about hips width and your toes pointed out at around 30 degrees. Bending at the knee and hips, lower yourself as though sitting on a chair. Make sure your back is straight and your squat is at least deep enough that your thighs are parallel to the floor. You might also find it helpful to extend your arms in front of you or to put your hands on top of your head.




Lunging Hip Stretch

For this stretch, you want to sink into a lunge and place the knee and shin of your rear leg against the floor with your toes pointed backwards. You want to push your hips forward until you feel a stretch along the front of the rear leg. If you’re flexible, you can pull the foot of the back leg up. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds. Switch, and repeat with the other leg.

lunging hip stretch


Reach for Toes/Hug knees

We’re all familiar with touching your toes as a way to stretch your hamstrings. A way to get a little more of a stretch in is to wrap the arms around the legs and pull your torso towards your knees. Again, hold this stretch for 30 seconds.

hug knees



Supinated Wrist Stretch

Place your hands palms up on a flat, horizontal surface with your fingers pointed towards you. Lean backwards so that your elbows come over your fingers. Hold for 30 seconds.

Feel free to play around with this stretch. You could try placing your palms on the ground (fingers pointed away from you) and leaning forward.

wrist stretch


Tight Neck and Shoulders

The next few exercises are pretty self-explanatory, so we’ve just included video of what they look like.


Neck Circles
neck circle


Arm Circles


Chest and Shoulder Stretch
chest and shoulder stretch


Raising the Heart Rate

Pushup Variations


classic pushup

Wide Grip
wide pushups



diamond pushups





Being deskbound doesn’t mean you have to be moribund. There’s no reason you can’t get a pump at the office.

Get money. Get SWOLE. Show off your six pack. Get promoted because your six pack is so freakin’ sweet. Get more money. Get more swole. Ad infinitum.


* Feeling Like Dumpster Juice is a medical condition characterized by slumpy face, goopy heart, and jiggly brain.

[Too much sitting linked to heart disease, diabetes, premature death] (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/much-sitting-linked-heart-disease-diabetes-premature-death-201501227618)

[How Many Calories We Burn When We Sit, Stand or Walk](http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/22/how-many-calories-we-burn-when-we-sit-stand-or-walk/)

[The health hazards of sitting](https://www.washingtonpost.com/apps/g/page/national/the-health-hazards-of-sitting/750/)

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