The best 5 exercises to do at your desk




The tips and ideas in this article have come courtesy of Michael Morton of Bushey Osteopathic and Sports Injury Clinic.


Do you sit down for a living? Surely that can’t be that bad for you can it? Unfortunately having an inactive desk job can contribute to chronic back and neck problems. It’s estimated that 4 out of 5 of us work for 9 hours per day at a desk, so it’s not surprising that we are a nation that suffers with back and neck pain.


Inactivity and poor posture at our desk will inevitably cause stress to be put on certain parts of our body. This will usually cause pain or discomfort to build up around our neck & shoulders and in our lower back. This unwanted extra tension can lead to headaches and can also contribute to stress, which is certainly an escalating problem within offices today. Not only do many of us sit during work but we also sit whilst commuting to and from work then spend the evening sitting in front of the TV.

 Funny businessman

It is extremely important that we have our office chair and desk set up correctly at work. Ask your HR department to give you a work station assessment to check yo have everything in the optimal position- this includes your desk, chair, monitor, keyboard, mouse, phone etc.. However once you have the perfect work station setup and perfect posture we still can’t expect to sit consistently for 9 hours per day without any ill effects. Our bodies are just not designed to be inactive for such long periods. The most important piece of advice I often give my patients at the Bushey Osteopathic Clinic is to get up from your seat every 20-30 minutes even if you don’t have time to wander around the office to grab a drink or do some photocopying you still need to get up from your chair, stretch your body from side to side and then sit down again.

Whilst we are inactive certain joints and muscle groups in our bodies start to stiffen up so here are 5 exercises to do at your desks:


(1).   Neck Side Bending Stretch

With one hand hold the seat of your chair, with the other hand place the palm over your opposite ear and gently pull your head to the side until your feel a stretch on the side of your neck. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat to the other side and perform a stretch each side 5 times.


(2).   Neck Flexion

Interlink your fingers behind your head. Slowly nod your head forwards so your chin is resting on your chest. Then from this position slowly slouch forwards in your chair so your head is travelling towards your knees. As you stretch forwards you should feel a stretch throughout your back but especially between your shoulder blades. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times.


(3).   Shoulder Circles

woman stretching in office

Whilst sitting up straight shrug both your shoulders up towards your ears then push them backwards whilst squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then force them downwards towards the floor and then finally force them forwards. This completes one circular motion and each of these circles should take you about 10 seconds to perform. Repeat 3 times then perform the movement in reverse again taking about 10 seconds for a complete circle and again repeat three times.


(4).    Lumbar Spine Rotation

Cross your right leg over your left. Place your left elbow on your right knee. Place your right hand on the seat next to your right hip. Turn your upper body to the right as far as possible, pressing with your left elbow. Hold the final position for 5 seconds. Repeat to the other side and do each side 3 times.


(5).   Lumbar Spine Side Bending Stretch

Sit with your hands interlinked on top of your head. Whilst keeping your bottom sitting squarely on your seat slowly bend over sideways to the left so that your left elbow is travelling towards the left arm of the chair. You should feel the stretch through the right side of your rib cage. Hold the final position for 5 seconds, then repeat to the opposite side. Perform each side 5 times.


Ideally all these exercise should be performed every couple of hours throughout the working day. During these exercise you should feel a stretching in the relevant parts of your body. However if at any time you feel pain whilst performing any of these exercise then you are best to seek advice from a professional like an osteopath or chiropractor as you may have an underlying problem which needs treatment.