If you’ve been savvy enough to invest in a standing desk while you work from home, well done to you. Doing your 9-to-5 on two feet—for at least some of your day—comes with a multitude of benefits. There's the boosted productivity as your energy soars, reduced back pain from better posture, and improved weight management as your activity levels increase.
And, guess what? You can enhance those positives of a sit-stand workday even further by adding in some standing desk exercises. Now, answering emails whilst standing might be better than spending all day seated (although, we can understand why you’d be tempted to stay glued to one of these best desk chairs)—but it can never replace that sweaty spin class in terms of calorie burn.
However, there are some simple movements that can help look after your body in another way. “Being in a static position for too long—even if you’re standing—can actually risk joint pain, as well as muscle imbalances if you're leaning,” says Lewis Paris, personal trainer at fitness platform Gympass (opens in new tab). “We are designed to move and flex consistently. Therefore, using simple exercises while you work, and even on your break, can help combat this by helping to activate your muscles and encourage a good range of motion.”
Here are some expert-approved standing desk exercises that you can try today...
Standing desk exercises try while you work from home
1. Glute squeezes
Working your glutes isn't just about building a shapely, Kardashian-esque behind. (Though here's the Kim Kardashian workout routine, if that's what you're after.)
“If you live a sedentary lifestyle, it's the muscle group that suffers most,” warns Alex Parren, a personal trainer and blogger for sustainable activewear brand Sundried (opens in new tab). He suggests those working from a standing test should try glute squeezes, explaining: "There's no need to pause what you're doing—just squeeze your glutes, hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat this ten times every hour, and you will find your glutes are more active and engaged at the end of the day."
He continues: "Over time they will become stronger and you'll have better posture. You'll also find it helps to improve your form doing things like running and lifting weights."
2. Calf raises
Another move that doesn't require you to take your eyes off the screen (although a break is always good!) is the standing calf raise.
"Rise up onto your toes and lift your heels off the floor," advises Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, GP at Prescription Doctor (opens in new tab). "Try to do it whenever you feel yourself tire and you need to stretch out and give your body a quick boost. It's also a good one for keeping your leg muscles and core engaged."
3. Walking (on the spot)
Add to your step count by marching in front of your desk. "It's a great way to stay active while you work," notes Samantha Robbins, a personal trainer at Gympass. “Walking gets your blood pumping—boosting your heart and lung health. You can start with a minute or so. For more of a challenge, you can go for longer, lift your knees higher and swing your arms." Your smartwatch will love you...
4. Ankle rotations
"While it's really important to keep your body moving, rather than staying sedentary, sometimes all it takes is some gentle stretches while standing at your desk to assist with aiding blood flow and preventing stiffness in the legs,” explains David Harvey, a chiropractor and the co-founder of HEALTH SHAK (opens in new tab). “Try slowly rotating the ankles clockwise then anti-clockwise—and support yourself with a wall if necessary." Footwork, indeed!
5. Arm stretches
Similarly, after a full day of typing away, your upper body will be ripe for some feel-good release too. "Clasp your hands in front of you,” explains Harvey. “Then, stretch the arms forward, before gently raising them overhead. This will keep you agile and stop your upper body rounding forward after several hours in front of a screen.”
Remember those highly neglected glutes? Well honing them with desk-side squats can also help ward off lower back pain from WFH. "The best way to perform one is to keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and slowly bending your knees and moving your posterior backward, as if you were sitting down in a chair,” says David Wiener, a training specialist at fitness app Freeletics (opens in new tab). “The goal is to keep your knees behind your toes, so take a quick glance down to check on this. Do 12 to 15, have a rest, and then repeat up to three times.”
7. Hamstring curls
As well as your hamstrings, this move also targets your (you guessed it) glutes, and it can also help relieve quad tightness and back pain.
“Start by holding onto the desk in front of you,” says Katrin Schlee, personal trainer at Gympass. “Raise one heel straight up to your bum, while keeping your thighs aligned with one another. Squeeze the hamstrings hard at the top of the movement and then lower your leg in a controlled manner. Repeat the process for ten or more reps and then switch to the other leg and do the same. Remember to always keep your torso upright and your core engaged.”
8. Side bend and twist
This one will feel dreamy if you've forgotten to move in a while. "Start by standing facing your desk, place one hand on it and then lift the other arm up to the side and over to the high diagonal,” says Jo-Leigh Morris (opens in new tab), a personal trainer. “Hold for three breaths, and bring it back to center and then repeat on the other side. My tip is to keep the weight even on both feet the whole time.”
Warning: make sure your desk is sturdy first before trying this exercise. “Then hold onto it and assume a similar position to the one you usually do with a regular push-up," says Schlee. “The only difference now is that you are positioning yourself at an angle—in other words, you are not in a horizontal position. Ensure that your arms are straight, to begin with, and that your hands are positioned just outside shoulder width. Then, perform your push-ups by bending your elbows and lowering your chest to the edge of the desk. Keep your elbows slightly tucked, and do not allow them to flare out to the sides.”
And perhaps ensure you've left the Zoom call...
Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. Most recently, she has been the Acting Commissioning Editor of Women's Health—where she co-produced the Going For Goal podcast—and has previously also written news and features for titles including The Telegraph, Grazia, Stylist, Dazed, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. She covers all aspects of lifestyle, specializing in health, beauty, and travel. Can't live without: oat milk lattes, new podcast episodes, long walks, and great skincare.
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