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How to stay fit at your desk

Long periods spent hunched over a computer can leave you feeling tired, stiff and immobile

Woman at desk
Image Credit: Camera Press
At least every hour, get up and move away from your desk.

If you find that your working day is leaving you increasingly ‘deskbound’ then help is at hand. We have created a desk workout that keeps you energised throughout the day, leaving you feeling invigorated, not fatigued and includes ergonomics, exercise, mobility, hydration and nutrition. These all contribute to combating the effects of long hours spent toiling at a computer or completing mountains of paperwork.

ERGONOMICS: Are you sitting comfortably?

Correct ergonomics at your desk will go a long way to preventing aches and stiffness.

• Make sure that your chair, monitor, telephone and any other equipment you use are all correctly sited. As a guide, your forearms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes at the same height as the top of the computer screen.
• Check that there is clear space under your desk to move your legs freely.
• Your chair should support your back. If using a keyboard, have your arms roughly horizontal when typing. If your feet don’t reach the floor, use a foot stool. Ideally the chair height should be adjustable to suit all the people who use it.
• Good body posture is equally important, so try to avoid slumping over your desk. Sit upright on your chair with relaxed shoulders.

MOBILITY: Be active at work

The human body was both designed to be, and functions better, if we’re active, so at least every hour, get up and move away from your desk. Use lunchtime or a toilet/coffee/water break as an opportunity to get up, move around and get away from your desk. A few minutes is sufficient to get the blood flowing all around your body and you’ll return revitalised and with more energy. Additionally, a break from your work can often give you that ‘eureka! moment’, where the solution to a problem that you were previously struggling with suddenly becomes totally obvious.

EXERCISE: Do it ...

During long periods of inactivity, your muscles can become stiff, tense and immobile at your desk, with the key ones being the neck, shoulders, back and arms. Additionally, you may find that your legs stiffen up. Simply follow the exercise protocols outlined below and then consult the table for suitable mobility exercises to recharge your body.

How to stay fit at your desk

Exercise protocols. For all the exercises in the table, carry out the following routine to get maximum benefits from your desk break. The entire routine should take only a few minutes.

1. Stand up and move away from your desk in clear space.
2. Ideally, go for a short walk first to increase blood flow around your body before carrying out the mobility exercises.
3. Stand tall during each exercise.
4. Allow approximately 10 seconds for each movement.
5. Execute all movements gently.
6. Ensure relaxed breathing throughout the routine.
7. For maximum benefits, try and carry out the routine in the order below, which mobilises the larger muscle groups first.


Mobility exercise
Standing on one leg, lift one knee up towards the chest and then return it to the floor. Repeat with the other leg
Mobility tip For a variation: when your knee is at your chest, flex your knee in and out before swapping legs

Chest & upper back

Mobility exercise With straight arms, reach both arms out in front, palms together. Repeatedly open your arms out as far as comfortable and back to the start position
Mobility tip Try contracting your shoulder blades together to get more of a stretch


Mobility exercise Slowly circle your arms from the shoulders, stretching out as far as possible
Mobility tip Alternate between forward and backwards movements


Mobility exercise Stand with legs apart, hands on hips. Slowly circle the hips
Mobility tip Alternate between clockwise and anti-clockwise movements to keep the body in balance


Mobility exercise Bend your arms at the elbow to touch the shoulders and then fully straighten the arms again. Repeat
Mobility tip Can combine with the wrist mobility exercise


Mobility exercise Slowly circle your hands from the wrists both clockwise and anti-clockwise
Mobility tip Can combine with the arm mobility exercise

Neck 1

Mobility exercise Looking ahead, alternately angle your neck from left to right, trying to make your ear touch each shoulder
Mobility tip As your mobility increases, try and stretch a fraction further towards your shoulders on the last couple of repetitions

Neck 2

Mobility exercise Looking ahead, alternately bring your chin down to your chest and then look up to the ceiling
Mobility tip Avoid arching the back during this movement and overstretching the neck

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