Workplace health | The 5-minute office workout

Whether you work in an office or from home, it doesn’t take long for poor posture and an unergonomic workspace to damage to your back. At work, one of the best things you can do for your long-term health and productivity is to get up and take regular breaks away from your workstation.

Putting five minutes aside to perform a mini workout is the best way to prevent the build-up of stress and strain. A quick workout gets your blood pumping and stretches you out before you return to your desk.

What is the five-minute office workout?

If you work from home or work in an office with a dedicated quiet space, why not find a quiet corner and perform these gentle exercises? 

You don’t need any equipment and you won't need to get changed.

  • Walking High Knees (1 minute)
  • 10 x Shoulder Circles
  • 10 x Arm Circles
  • 10 x Squat
  • 10 x Reverse Lunge Reach Back
  • 10 x Low Side to Side Lunge

Move slowly in and out of these movements to get the most out of this mobilising session.

Why time away from the desk is vital

Getting away from your workstation gets your blood moving and gives you an opportunity to stretch out. Sitting at a desk for long periods compresses the spine and hips, which can lead to the development of serious health conditions over time.

It’s also important for us to reset our mental focus and give our eyes a break from staring at a screen. Sitting and living a sedentary lifestyle encourages the pooling of blood and fluid in the bottom half of the body, leading to fatigue and an increased risk of developing chronic heart conditions.

How often should I do this workout?

It is recommended that you get up once every half an hour for five minutes to stretch out. We understand that on busy days this might not be feasible. In this case, aim to perform the workout once every two hours and adjust your timeframe the following day or week when things quieten down.

If you’re struggling, remember to stand up away from your desk regularly, and try setting a recurring alarm on your phone to go off every hour. If you suffer with chronic pain, you can even keep a pain diary (this can be as simple as numbering your days 1-10 depending on how severe your pain is) to chart the success of your new office workout routine.

More office exercises

If you’re finding our five minute office workout beneficial, see below for some more stretches you can perform in your office or at your desk.

You can adjust any of these exercises to work for your environment and requirements. The most important thing is that you are taking the time to get a bit more active in the workplace.

The dynamic chest stretch

  • Reps: three to five
  • Equipment required? no

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

The squat

  • Reps: five to ten
  • Equipment required? no

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

The resistance band stretch

  • Reps: five to ten
  • Equipment required? Resistance band

Keeping a resistance band in your top drawer is a great way to alleviate tension in your back and shoulders.

Choose a strength that works for you (not too loose or tight) and grasp one end in either hand. Raise your arms into a “V-shape” above your head and slowly pull on either end of the band. Your elbows should gradually decline on either side of your head. Squeeze the band tight and release.

Why something is better than nothing

If you can’t commit to a five minute workout break, remember that something is better than nothing. 

Even taking an extended walk around the office, or standing to stretch regularly can help prevent sitting still becoming a problem down the line.

I don’t have the space

If you don’t have space, there are plenty of alternatives. Take a look below for some quick and easy suitable suggestions.

  • Resistance bands: Keeping a resistance band in your top drawer is a great way to stretch out your chest, shoulders and arms from your desk.
  • Stand up and stretch your hamstrings: Sitting for long periods puts a lot of pressure on your glutes and hamstrings. Stretch these large muscles out by standing in place at your desk on straight legs. Reach down each leg slowly, feeling the stretch in the back of your leg.
  • Get more active in the workplace: start to take the stairs over the lift and walk the long way to the coffee machine. These small changes go a long way over the course of a day
  • Use your lunch break: stop working through your lunch break or eating at your desk. Something as simple as a fifteen-minute walk around the block has proven benefits when it comes to long term cardiovascular health.

Last updated Tuesday 24 October 2023

First published on Wednesday 23 September 2015