5 simple exercises you can do at your workspace

Combat inactivity during the working day with this list of desk-based exercises.

At work we often spend long periods of time sitting in the same positions, this can cause small niggling issues such as tight muscles or lower back pain and can increase the risk of poor posture. 

This programme offers a few very discrete stretches and exercises which take only minutes to perform and will help to combat inactivity. If you feel uncomfortable doing them at your workspace, find a quieter place in your home.


Stretching is a great way to relieve tightness in muscles and stiffness following long periods of inactivity. These four stretches are effective in encouraging good posture and combatting the effects of sitting.

Dynamic chest stretch

Stand or sit up tall in your chair with arms stretched out straight in front of your body with palms together. At a steady pace move your arms out to your sides and rotate palms upwards, pushing the thumbs as far back as is comfortable, hold for ten seconds. Return to start position and repeat three to five times.

Standing lower back and hamstring stretch

Stand tall with arms stretched out to sides, take a deep breath in and then relax down towards the ground, keeping your legs straight and exhale throughout the movement to as far as is comfortable. Hold in the bottom position for 10-20 seconds and return to start position. Repeat three to five times.

Seated or standing back stretch

Sit up tall or stand around one meter from your desk, holding your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with arms straight out in front and palms facing together. Place your hands on the edge of your desk in this position. Keeping your back neutral, bow your head, bending at the hip and pushing your chest towards the floor. Hold for 10-20 seconds, return to start position and repeat three to five times.

Kneeling hip and thigh stretch

Holding your desk to balance, place the top of your foot on to the top of your chair and allow your knee to rest on your seat. Keep your other foot out in front of you for balance. A simpler version is to rest your foot on the seat of the chair. Gently push your hips forwards, keeping your chest pushed upwards and looking forwards. Hold for 10-20 seconds, relax and repeat each leg 3-5 times.

Mobility exercises

Perform 12 repetitions of each exercise one to three times, depending on how much time you have available.


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and back straight, bend at your knees and hips so that you move into a seated-like position with your thighs parallel to the ground. Return to start position and repeat.

Shoulder complex

Adjust your chair so that your feet are firmly flat on the floor and arm rests are lowered to the lowest position. Sit up tall in your chair with your back away from the rest. With arms straight, raise them to your sides to shoulder height, bring them to the front keeping them out straight and lastly raise both arms to a vertical position above your head. Pause, then reverse the movement and repeat.

Last updated Monday 25 April 2022

First published on Tuesday 5 January 2016