12 easy desk exercises to keep you supple while you work

You probably know that sitting hunched immobile over a desk for eight or more hours a day isn't doing your body any favours. Research suggests that even going to the gym won't offset the damage already done by sitting all day. 

Even if your workstation meets the display screen equipment regulations, you still need to move regularly to reduce your risk of discomfort and injury. If you have a sit-stand desk, try to remember to stand up regularly for 10-15 minutes at a time. Get up at least every hour for a toilet, water, or walking break. Use facilities further from your desk; briskly march down the corridor and back, or climb a few floors to get your heart rate up.

We recommend cycling through a series of gentle desk exercises to keep your limbs, back and shoulders feeling relaxed and supple. Over the course of the day your muscles can tense up and become fatigued without you even knowing it, which can put strain on the musculoskeletal system and result in discomfort and longer term injuries, like RSI, carpal tunnel and back pain.

Desk exercises for your fingers, wrists and forearms

Finger exercise

  • Make a fist with your thumb sticking straight up, not tucked under your fingers.
  • Slide your fingertips up your palm, so your finger tips move towards the base of your fingers until you feel a stretch.
  • Hold this position for a slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Wrist stretch exercise

  • Hold your hand open, facing down and move your wrist from side to side until a stretch is felt at each extreme.
  • Hold at each side for a slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Wrist rotate exercise

  • Hold your elbow close to the side of your body, slowly rotate your palm upwards and then downwards until stretch is felt at each extreme.
  • Hold each way for slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Wrist bend exercise

  • Hold the upper part of your hand with your other hand and slowly bend your. wrist down and then upwards until a stretch is felt at each extreme.
  • Hold each for a slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Forearm exercise

  • Sit with your elbows out and your palms together, then slowly rotate your palms down until a stretch is felt.
  • Hold for a slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Desk exercises for your neck and shoulders

Neck stretch 

  • Sit or stand upright. Without lifting your chin, glide your head straight back until a stretch is felt (as if you are trying to make a double chin).
  • Hold for a slow count of 10.
  • Return to neutral position.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Neck exercise

  • Drop your head slowly to one side, taking your ear towards your shoulder until you feel a gentle stretch.
  • Hold for a slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Shoulder stretch

  • Raise your shoulders towards your ears until you feel a slight tension across the tops of your shoulders.
  • Hold up for a slow count of 10.
  • Return to neutral position.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times.

Shoulder roll

  • Sitting with your back supported, slowly roll your shoulders up and backwards in circular motion.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Desk exercises for your back

Back exercise one

  • Interlace your fingers and lift your arms above your head, keeping your elbows straight.
  • Pressing your arms back, slowly stretch to one side.
  • Hold for slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times to each side.

Desk exercises for your legs and ankles

Leg stretch exercise

  • Slowly lift one leg, straightening your knee.
  • Hold for a slow count of 10.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 times with each leg.

Ankle stretch exercise

  • Lift your ankle clear of the floor.
  • Alternately flex and extend ankle in a pumping action.
  • Repeat 10 times with each ankle.