The Desk Jockey Workout: 8 Ways to Stay in Shape at the Office

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 24, 2012 · 93 comments

in Health & Sports, Wellness

For most of human history, work has been a physically demanding activity.  Our cavemen ancestors chased down mastodons and hurled spears into their tough, but tasty flesh, American homesteaders tamed the wilderness into productive farms with nothing but grit and sweat, and just 60 years ago, the majority of men in America flexed their muscles on factory floors or construction sites.

Fast-forward to today.

Instead of feeding ourselves by the sweat of our brows, most of us just slouch in a chair all day in a climate-controlled building while we push buttons and send documents through the ether. And the sitting doesn’t end after work. When we get home, we plop down in front of the TV to watch reality shows of men performing the kind of virile, physical, and often dirty work we fantasize about doing while answering emails in our cubicle.

Man’s transition from callused-handed, blue-collared laborer to soft-handed, white-collared desk jockey has done a number on us physically and mentally. Not only have our desk jobs made us weak, flabby, and stiff, sedentary work is sapping the very hormone that makes a man a man: testosterone.

What’s more, all this sitting is slowly eating away at our life meters. One study showed that men who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher death rate than those who sat for three hours or less. For the desk jockey, death comes wrapped in a Successories Poster and waving a USB drive.

“Ah-ha!” you say. “I work out out like a beast in the gym every day and have a physique that rivals Eugen Sandow’s. My hour-long, herculean effort counteracts all the sitting and slouching I do at work!”

Sorry to break it to you Mac, but your visits to the gym aren’t doing much to mitigate the damage that accumulates from all that desk jockeying.

Studies have shown that consistent, vigorous workouts don’t do much to offset the damage we do to our bodies by sitting down all day at our cushy Dilbert-esque jobs.

So what’s a modern man to do?

If you want to live to see your future grandkids and maintain your manly physique and sense of well-being, you’re going to need to stay active throughout the day.

That can be tough when you’re chained to a desk filling out TPS reports or attending unproductive brainstorming sessions on how to build more “synergy.” But with a little creativity, and a bit of gusto (along with a thick skin about what other people think of you), you can easily find ways to sneak some exercise into your work routine and flip the Physicality Switch of Manliness. Below we offer a few simple suggestions on how to stay active all day even if you’re a white-collared desk jockey. Incorporate them into your schedule and you’ll find yourself with hips as limber as an Olympic powerlifter and more energy than you had as a teenager.

1. Make Getting to Your Office a Challenge

Look for ways to make getting to work and into the corporate cave a challenge. Biking to work is of course ideal. If you have to drive, park at the far end of the lot so you have to walk further to the building, carry a giant Saddleback Briefcase (those suckers are heavy) filled with your laptop and small boulders, and hurdle over small hedges as you make your way to the door.  For extra challenge, throw in some parkour and scale the walls like AoM reader Jeremiah Jacques:

2. Take the Stairs. While You’re At It, Run Up Them

Instead of using the elevator to move between floors, take the stairs. Start off walking, but work your way up to a full out sprint. Don’t worry about looking like a crazy person. Most stairs in office buildings are hidden away as fire escapes and hardly anyone uses them. Once you reach your floor, pause outside the door to catch your breath, straighten your tie, and mop your forehead with a handkerchief. You just literally leveled up on your high intensity training!

3. Get a Standing Desk

One of the best things you can do to mitigate the health-sapping effects of your desk jockey job is to get a standing desk. The drain on your weight and health, including hip and back stiffness and pain, that comes from sitting down all day will disappear. While you might not be able to convince your boss to spring for an expensive hydraulic-powered standing desk (though I’d at least try lobbying him for it), you can jerry-rig your own standing desk in various ways (search for “standing desk” for ideas).

To learn more about the benefits of standing to work (and its manly history), check out this article from the archives on standing desks.

4. Maintain Good Posture Throughout the Day

If you want to avoid the Quasimodo shoulder slump that seems prevalent among desk jockeys, make the effort to practice good posture throughout the day. Yes, it’s hard and tiring at first, but the struggle is well worth it. Practicing good posture while sitting and standing can reduce tension in your neck, shoulders, and back, improve organ function, and strengthen your all-important core.

Check out this classic article for instructions on how to improve your posture.

5. Do 10 Push-Ups and 10 Squats Every Time You Take a Bathroom/Coffee Break

When I clerked at a law firm here in town, my office sat adjacent to that of the firm’s sole surviving founding partner. He was one of the coolest old guys I’ve ever met. He was sort of like Teddy Roosevelt in a lot of ways. The walls of his office were covered with stuffed and mounted wildlife from his many hunts; dropping memos off in his office was like stepping into the Museum of Natural History. Despite being nearly 80 years old, this old partner was spry as a young buck. I asked him his secret to his youthful vigor at lunch one day, and this is what he said:

“Maintain a sense of humor. You need it in the legal business. And do lots of push-ups while you’re at work. I always do ten anytime I get up from my chair.”

And he did.

Every now and then, when I walked by his office, I’d see a short, bald old man on the floor, cranking out push-ups in his waistcoat.

That little old man inspired me. I started a similar routine that summer at the law firm. Anytime I got up from my chair, I’d do 10 push-ups. I also added 10 bodyweight squats for good measure. The result? I felt more energized and less stiff. More importantly, I started losing some of the summer intern lunch chub that I had gained over the summer.

Stay active throughout the day by incorporating a similar routine.

6. Get Up and Walk Outside for 15 Minutes Every 45 Minutes

I’ve noticed that I’m more productive when I work in shorter increments and take frequent, small breaks throughout the day than if I slog through a project in a single sitting. Taking frequent breaks isn’t only good for your brain, it can also be good for your body, too.  To keep your brain and body running on all six cylinders, use the Pomodoro Technique when you’re working.

Set a timer for 45 minutes and work non-stop. When the 45 minutes are up, take a break for 15. Instead of surfing the web or chatting with Mark in HR, go outside and take a leisurely 15 minute stroll (unless of course you have a job where your boss expects you to be at your desk every minute). Plain old walking provides a surprising amount of health and mind benefits such as lowering our resting blood pressure, reducing obesity, and improving our working memory.

Doing your walk outside will also help you activate the Nature Switch of Manliness, which will reduce stress, keep you mentally sharp, and even boost your testosterone.

You can even make your walks productive by holding meetings with co-workers as you stroll. There’s something about walking and talking that gets the creative juices flowing. Steve Jobs was famous for his walking meetings. Instead of sitting at a table in a stuffy conference room, he’d ask the person he wanted to meet with to take a walk with him outside. Co-workers would go on to say that those “walking meetings” were some of the most productive meetings they ever experienced. Jobs was likely inspired by Aristotle’s peripatetic teaching. Instead of standing in front of a large group of students to lecture, Aristotle preferred to walk and talk to his students.

If it worked for Jobs and Aristotle, maybe it will work for you. Even if you don’t come up with a breakthrough business idea during your walking meeting, you’re at least staying active.

7. Perform 15 Dips When Leaving for and Returning from Lunch

Work those tri’s before and after lunch by cranking out a quick set of 15 dips when you leave for and return from lunch. Just place your hands on your chair and walk your feet out in front of you. I like to keep my legs stretched straight out while I perform the dips. Lower yourself until your arms form a 90 degree angle and then press up. Repeat 14 more times.

8. Perform 30-Second Grok Squats Throughout the Day

Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple introduced me to one of the best exercises to help alleviate the back, groin, and hip tightness that comes from sitting in a chair all day: the Grok Squat.

Also known as the Asian Squat or Indigenous Person Squat, the Grok Squat is a sitting position that you find in cultures that don’t have sofas or chairs like we do in the West. It’s something you did as a tot, and have forgotten; our almost two-year-old son, Gus, gets down into some really amazing Grok Squats all the time.

The Grok Squat is very similar to a catcher’s stance in baseball. Simply squat down until your butt touches your ankles. Keep your heels firmly on the ground and back straight. Hold that position for 30 seconds to a minute. You should feel your hamstrings, quads, Achilles tendons, lower back, and groin gently stretching. If you’re super stiff, it may take a few days of practice to sink into a full-on Grok Squat. Keep at it. Your back and hips will thank you.

To avoid the stiffness that comes from sitting and standing all day, incorporate several short Grok squats into your daily routine. A great time to do them is right after your 15 minute long walks. Before you resume working, simply crouch into a Grok squat and hold it for 30 seconds to a minute. For added effect, do the Grok Squat on top of your desk while holding a stapler above your head like that monkey hoisting the bone at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey

What do you do throughout the day to stay active? Share your desk jockey fitness tips with us in the comments.

Illustrations by Ted Slampyak

{ 93 comments… read them below or add one }

1 adam July 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

Great post! Now i can add some more exercises to my day!

2 Dave July 24, 2012 at 10:02 am

Ok, as a man and a manager, here’s my thoughts on these.
1 & 2 – no way. There’s nothing less manly in the office than the guy who’s already too sweaty and nervous the moment he steps in the door. If you walk in to the office like a man, you should look like you’re running the place.
The same goes for 5, 7 and 8. These are fantastic ideas, but much better if you can include them in your “out of work” routine. It’s not an issue of using work time, but if your boss walks into the bathroom and sees you doing Grok squats or pushups next to the stalls, chances are that you’re not the one that’s going to get upgraded to the Anderson account.
6 – Do this – but not this much. If you’re smelling the roses for 1/4 of the time that you’re supposed to be at the office, then people are going to assume that you’re not committed. You might be convinced that you only need to be working 3/4 of the time, but no boss is going to accept your quotation of productivity research as reason to believe that you’re just as effective as someone who doesn’t spend two hours a day wandering around.
3 – As a standing desk aficionado myself, I think it’s a great idea. But I’d have never risked it with my previous employer. Some employees are open to this idea, some are not. If upper management are going to only ever remember you as “that guy who kicked up a stink until we let him work while looking over everyone else’s shoulders” (and don’t forget that – it’s not just what your boss thinks, it’s your colleagues as well), then maybe this you’ll be losing more than you’ll gain.
4 – BANG! Here’s your winner. If you’re the boss, then a cursory glance around the office can immediately show you the people who are only there to put in the hours until the next pay check, and those that are committed to the cause. If your posture is good and you’ve got a firm stance (both at your desk and standing in conversation) then, not only is it good for your health, but you’re going to consistently be seen as a dedicated employee. And that’s a sure fire way to be put onto that Anderson account.

3 Chris Butterworth July 24, 2012 at 10:10 am

These are great – I’m going to start adding the push-ups & squats to my daily office-routine. I already go for short walks throughout the day, and I usually chase them with a round of shadow boxing or 100-ups (talk about looking like a crazy person – best to do these around the corner and out of site, or people really start talking!). And there’s no doubt that I feel better on the days when I’m more “active” at my office!

4 Jason July 24, 2012 at 10:13 am

Awesome post! I’ve been telling myself to be more active during the day and this is the inspiration I need. I work in a pretty casual and flexible environment, and my boss wouldn’t mind me doing any of these things–in fact he’d encourage it as he’s a fitness buff himself. Time to crank out some push-ups…

5 Joe July 24, 2012 at 10:18 am

Great tips here, a couple of them that I’m already utilizing. I sprint up the stairwell in my building at least a couple times a day, as well as getting out for a 20 minute walk when the weather is nice. Always park at the far end of the lot as well. Never use the elevator. It amazes me the number of younger people that use the elevator. I’m almost 50, so I can’t afford to be that lazy. :)

6 John July 24, 2012 at 10:29 am

Some really great ideas, thanks for this article. So many of these are simple things that, if we just got into the habit of doing, might even break us from our gym routine. I know that if I did all of these things every day I probably wouldn’t need to work out.

7 Evan July 24, 2012 at 10:42 am

I have a balance board at work that I like to get on a couple times a day. Good for posture, core strength, balance, and it’s great for clearing my head when I’m working on something difficult.

8 John July 24, 2012 at 11:30 am

Great post, I bike to work and actually have a sweaty hard labor job though, ha! My salesman brother bikes to work as well, and keeps reasonably well appearances by changing out of his biking clothing and grooming a bit to being presentable.

One caution regarding dips-don’t rely on the rolling chair!

9 Patrick July 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

Just tried the push-ups thing AND I’m working on my posture. Feels great! This is especially helpful in my job, where I’m behind a desk for 12-16 hours a day sometimes.

10 Peter July 24, 2012 at 11:36 am

Definitely going to start introducing a few of these in to my daily routine.

What about just plain exercising? I frequently go running in my lunch breaks. Others in the office swim or go to the nearby gym.

There’s nothing like a half hour run in the middle of the day to stave off the afternoon slump. :-)

11 Mike July 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

I couldn’t agree more with Dave’s opinion on this article. It is difficult enough to maintain a great posture throughout the day so I’ll focus on that one. Also I like my workout routine and there is no need to replace/support it with office “training” of which I think is neither fish nor flesh (not sure if this expression works in English).

If you really want to get paid for exercising join the military or get another physically challenging job.

12 Stephenie July 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

Dave, I get your point as a manager, but I don’t think the post was about “landing the Anderson account” but rather how to keep from killing over from a heart attack by 50. I may not be a guy, but women are just as guilty of not leaving our desks for hours at a time. This is where eye strain, back strain, carpo tunnel, angina, and general sleepiness (ie reduced productivitiy) come from. With the rising cost of health care, we should all be looking for ways to prevent bad health and some movement throughout the day might go a long way toward that goal. As for being a little sweaty? Keep some deodorant, a comb and some wet wipes in your drawer. Works like a charm!

13 Joseph R. July 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I have been considering doing some small exercises when I first woke up to be more active. Perhaps I will try to do something similar during the work day.

14 Mr Fix It July 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Great ideas in theory. I run every morning, bike to work and take the stairs to the 11th floor. But most of these ideas will work in a different way. If you do all of this, especially #6, for any length of time at the office and you will get great exercise packing you things when you get fired. Sorry but most businesses who aren’t really employee centered just wont allow, you will get canned and replaced before the seat is cold.

15 Jess July 24, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I’ve been doing Insanity workouts on my lunch breaks in my office. It’s been great.

16 Daniel Schroeder July 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Last year my personal trainer challenged me to do 50 push-ups and squats every day at work. I accepted the challenge and have done it pretty religiously since then. It makes me feel a ton better at work.

Don’t know if Mike read the whole article, but there’s convincing evidence that doing a single workout each day doesn’t totally counteract the ill-effects of sitting all day. Expecting anyone who doesn’t have a physical job like being in the military to sit like a stationery lump at their desks all day is unhealthy, unnatural, and unmanly (not to mention just plain stupid!).

17 Brent Pittman July 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I can see these as being much easier for work at home folks. The stand up desk is a easy one. I should really look doing a DIY stand up desk for home.

18 Jeff July 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Here’s a good tip…if your employer would fire you for doing push-ups in your cubicle, that’s not a place you want to work. Find a different job, or better yet, work for yourself.

After many years in the corporate world (although not with employers who would have minded me doing push-ups now and again), I now work at home. But I’m still largely shackled to a desk. So I take a few small walks during the day and also use some resistance bands for various exercises. Certainly makes me feel less slug-like.

19 Cameron T. July 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm

A 15 minutes walk for every forty five minutes isn’t at all practical unless you work somewhere that requires you to work outside walking.

20 Andrew July 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Some of these wouldn’t work at my office. Running up stairs would be looked down upon and asked to stop pretty quick. And I can’t leave the office for 15min every hour.

But, my routine is get to work between 6:30 and 7:00am. Smoothie on the drive in everyday (mixed wild berries, banana, greek yogurt, egg, OJ, frozen cube of spinach, spoon of natural peanut butter). Work until 9:00am, go for a 4-5km run, takes less than 25min to run, have a shower at the office, and back at my desk in 30-35min total. By this point I’m pretty hungry and will eat a single serving of homemade plain oatmeal (no sugar, sometimes add fruit but I’m not a fan of hot fruits) and a cup (250ml) of coffee with a little 1% milk. Work until 1:00pm and have lunch (or whenever I’m hungry), which is usually chicken, tuna, or salmon (unless leftovers are filling the fridge at home), with salad greens (usually include asparagus, carrots, cherry tomatoes, etc in the salad) and homemade vinaigrette dressing, bottle of water, homemade protein nut bar. Work until anywhere between 5:00 and 6:30 (work later/ more if I plan on leaving work early Friday or take the whole day off) and have a V8 vegee shot mid-afternoon. Dinner is typical dinner, but always follow the same health trend has the rest of my day. At 9:30 I run again, usually go for 8km but depends how I’m feeling. Then do simple dumbbell and self weight workout at home after the run. Most nights I blend watermelon with a few ice cubes for some amazing juice, and will have a snack (omelette or something)

That’s my typical mon-fri routine. And I’m feeling pretty prep’d to run ToughMudder Toronto next month! Weekends I’m typically out of town at my cottage or someone else’s and eat what everyone else is eating and the extent of exercise is activities during the day and a good 30min swim every morning to shake off the beers from the night prior…

21 MrAd@m July 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Be careful when doing the Grok Squats on your desk while it is in the raised position, so not to hit the lights or ceiling above… also, don’t staple yourself in the head.

22 Murray Lunn July 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I’m at the computer for the vast majority of the day since I do a lot of freelancing.

Over the last two weeks, I switched to a standing desk (well, the counter top) and it’s had a pretty significant effect on my overall mood to be honest. Not entirely sure why but I think that since, while standing, a slightly rock back and forth, it calms me (similar to sitting in a rocking chair).

Likewise, since you’re standing, you find yourself doing a few “laps” around the place since you’re already mobile (for the most part). Add in a few leg ups and stretching – it’s awesome.

23 John July 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Great advice! When driving, you can do isometric resistance exercises using the steering wheel every time you stop at a stop sign or red light. You can hang a pull-up bar in the doorway. Every time you walk under it you do x-number of pull-ups.

24 PASunter July 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm

A quick walk every hour. That sounds reasonable, especially compared to the amount of time people waste during their smoke breaks.

25 Larkin July 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I too sit at my desk most of the day when I am not out and about in the community. I hate my chair and I hate my desk. I have been thinking about building a new one. I had never heard of a standing desk and I really like the idea. Your previous blog post ( was great on the topic. Do you happen to have plans for such a desk or know where I might find some ideas and/or dimensions? I could Google for images and attempt a lot of trial and error, but this might be another good “how to” tutorial.

26 Cyrus July 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm

The only problem with the advice here is that all of these exercises get one sweaty, which is both physically uncomfortable and unprofessional in an office atmosphere.

27 Lean Muscle Matt July 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm

These are some awesome tips, and I’m crazy excited to see a post on desk jockeys from you guys! Kudos to you!

I can’t say I’ve ever done the “Grok Squat”, but I’d probably fit in rather well with the co-worker who frequently does wall sits next to the coffeemaker.

To Mike and Dave above – I’d say that you’re concept of employment is focused on presence rather than performance. You (and/or perhaps your boss) may want to checkout the book, “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It”. More and more companies are choosing to focus on performance rather the presence when assessing an employee’s contribution to the company. I’m not suggesting that all of the above recommendations would fly in all offices exactly as suggested, but reasons like your declaration that, “…no boss is going to accept your quotation of productivity research…”, remind me of “why work sucks” for some people.

I work on the 12th floor and every bathroom break I take a detour down the stairs and back up. It’s a wonderful little distraction that wakes me up better than coffee, and gets my heart rate going. I’ve never once come back where I didn’t feel more focused.

On a completely unrelated topic, I’m going to be touring a local manufacturing facility that makes a really nice desk that can switch nearly effortlessly between the seated and stand positions. The goal is to price them out at the request of my boss, but I really hope that we make them available for all of the benefits you’ve mentioned.

I hope that all the desk jockeys in the world end this year in better shape than they started it.

Best wishes,


28 Dave July 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I stand radio watch for the US Coast Guard… so 12 hour watches, sometimes at night can be very tedious. After about hour three I start doing any of the following:

50 pushups on the hour until I reach 300 or muscle failure.

Dumbbell training with 20 pound weights.

Dips, squats, and pullups.

And if I am really bored I’ll go walk six flights of stairs.

29 Brad Alexander July 24, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I discovered Grok Squats recently. They have done wonders for releasing the tightness in my hips which in turn has helped my lower back. And all in a few weeks.

Great post. I’d be curious what you think about sitting on a swiss ball.

30 Garrett July 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Great post! As a former shop laborer who has recently been transferred to the front office, I’ve been startled at how lethargic I am on a regular basis. The sedentary routine of the office has left me feeling more tired at the end of the day than working in the shop at manual labor ever did! I’m excited to try some of these suggestions tomorrow. Thanks.

31 Brett McKay July 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm


I was intending on making my own standing desk and then came into a pre-made one, and thus lost motivation to do it. I’d still like to feature a guest post on it sometime though. The plan I was thinking of using comes from an old Popular Science:


I’ve only sat on a Swiss ball a few times, and it just made me feel a little silly and not in the work mindset. But some people swear by it, and certainly I wouldn’t think any less of a man who used one.

32 Michael H July 25, 2012 at 1:02 am

I’d like to point out that another hazard of modern desk jobs is staring at a computer monitor all day. I’ve recently started using a timing utility that forces me to take a 1 minutes “eye break” every 30 minutes (this can be set to whatever you want this works for me).

Be fit! Be healthy!

33 Gerhard July 25, 2012 at 6:39 am

I really struggle with this since i started a new job 2 months ago. I have to sit all day 8-10h. It can be an instant mood killer, but during my bathroom breaks i will perform 20 squats and at home&gym I’m gonna focus on doing exercises without sitting down. Good luck to you all

34 Gary Conway July 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

Great article. I hate to think how much of my life is spent in front of a desk. It seems such a waste of your body. I try to get up every 45 minutes and take a walk around. Would love a standing desk.

35 AC July 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

“One study showed that men who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher death rate than those who sat for three hours or less.”

Who has more than six hours od lesisure time each day?

36 Evan M July 25, 2012 at 9:27 am

@ Cyrus
If 10 push ups is enough to make you sweaty, you need to do more of them.

I have to agree with the people saying that if your boss would fire you for doing a few quick exercises at work, I don’t know if they’re worth working for since your well being is clearly not important to them. And while that may sound entitled, I think every employee is entitled to a workplace that doesn’t want to push them into an early grave.

If you think you will have trouble with your boss, maybe try running it past them before you start. Explain that you’ve been feeling a little less than energized and that you think doing a few quick, unobtrusive exercises will make you a better employee. If you get their okay and then prove that your productivity hasn’t been compromised (or even show and improvement) I would think they’d be happy to let you continue. Hell, they may even want to encourage other employees to get in on it.

37 Debbie M July 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

I don’t see myself doing most of these. (Your cubes are big enough for push-ups?)

But I could get up every hour and run up and down the stairs. I can take the outside route to the second-nearest bathroom. I can work on posture. I can get a box to set my keyboard on so I can stand at my desk.

I already visit co-workers in person instead of e-mailing them, volunteer for delivery duties, wiggle my feet and do leg-lifts under my desk, do squats and wall push-ups in the bathroom stall, and go walking during lunch. Yes and take the stairs instead of the elevator–if I’m with co-workers, I’ll say, “Meet you up there!” (unless we’re into a really interesting or important conversation).

38 Debbie M July 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

I once had a teacher who said that humans can’t do grok squats; we have to lift our heels off the floor. Back then I did not have the guts to demonstrate a counter-example.

But everyone says that it’s dangerous to let your knees get in front of your feet when doing gym squats, and the knees definitely go in front of the feet during grok squats, so am I missing something?

39 Tim Brearly July 25, 2012 at 10:56 am

I would love it if you could turn this post into a desktop background, with just the pictures and a sentence or two of instructions for each activity, it would be a great reminder whenever we look at our computers!

Thanks for keeping up such a great site!

40 J.James July 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

Good advice. At our office, we periodically break for push-up contests, climb the walls, etc. (It’s a pretty great work environment)
One comment on #6; Google Pomodoro. It is a productivity technique that is build around this idea. There are even a couple different apps you can get (most are free) that help.
To be honest, I tried it and found that as soon as I was building up some good inertia, the timer would go off. Not a great fit for me, but if you are interested in trying it, I found Pomodairio to be the best of the free apps.

41 Doc July 25, 2012 at 11:19 am

We have a similar set up at the Army’s Practical Nurse course. We have 50 minutes of class, and a ten minute break where we can go outside and stretch or grab a smoke or whatever we need to do. The only catch is that every time we walk through the door, it’s 20 push-ups. so that’s 80 push-ups a day with the lunch break, and another 40 anytime we go out and come back in. It certainly keeps the blood pumping throughout the day.

42 Jason H July 25, 2012 at 11:46 am

@Dave & Mike–

Your take is that of management at stifling, inspiration-sapping, innovation-killing enterprises. When I see employees taking the initiative as described above, I may not agree with it (depending on exactly how the employee implements it), but I mark the employee as one to watch for–all other things being equal–possible promotion. (“All other things” being, of course, “performance.”)

43 Jerome Kurliak July 25, 2012 at 11:51 am

Don’t forget that equipment exists to help you maintain an exercise regimen while getting work done. Here’s an example:

44 Jack B July 25, 2012 at 11:53 am

One easy thing I like to do is use the copier, break room, and conference room farthest from my office.

It adds in a bunch more walking throughout the day.

45 Jerome July 25, 2012 at 11:54 am

It isn’t worth any about of pay to work at a company where thinking like Dave’s and Mike’s is prevalent.

46 Kamron Kunce July 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Personally, I can say #3 (Get a standing desk) has been a life-changer for me. There continue to be a lot of reports about the health risks involved with prolonged sitting. We’ve found that people are motivated to stand up by pain or prevention. Either their back hurts and only feels better when they stand up or they want to make sure they’re healthier and choose to sit less by getting a desk that gives them the option to stand.

By the way, the post mentioned “expensive hydraulic-powered” desks. The market is actually shifting on this point. A few years ago you would have needed to spend at least $1,500 to get a adjustable stand up desk. Today there are a few companies (like us) who are trying to get the price down. We have PowerUp models under $1,000 and our manual adjustment version (the CrankUp models) for under $700.

While that’s still out of some people’s price range, it’s certainly giving more individuals and companies the option to have a stand up desk at a price that more similar to what you would buy a traditional desk for anyway.

Kamron Kunce
Director of Social Media at UpDesk
(typed while standing up)

47 Rob Dyson July 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

You say studies show that exercising an hour a day doesn’t overcome being sedentary at work. But what studies have shown is that there is a huge benefit for those who exercise regularly, whether it happens at work or elsewhere. And obviously you can do a more complete workout elsewhere. I’m sure you are recommending these office exercises as a complement to a regular workout routine. I just don’t want those who ARE regularly exercising OUTSIDE of work to be discouraged.

48 J.R. Hoeft July 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

If you feel like mixing it up or adding another element to the push-ups, add a minute or so of planking. At my old office, our whole cube farm did this and it added to esprit de corps and productivity. Great tips – even a five minute walk on the hour is better than nothing!

49 Bryan July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm

From reading this and the many other great workout tips and suggestions over and over again and finding new ones everyday on AoM I’m generally just more motivated to exercise and workout. Maybe it’s cheesy but it’s making me healthier but I think finding some of those old school type work outs like the Bulgarian bag or Indian clubs or the train like a fighter series makes working out more fun and more likely to actually make me do it. Doing repetitive gym workouts with machines and treadmills just gets boring and makes you lose motivation due to the lack of excitement. I’ve been doing a heavy sledge hammer workout for a few months now (seen on here and other sites, can’t remember which post) and have added some of the workout tips from the train like a fighter series and other general stuff from here (like doing dips in my office chair) and have managed to shave some belly pounds and build muscle. Thanks for posting.

50 Noah Stevens July 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Thanks to my sedentary lifestyle, I ripped a giant hole in the seat of my pants trying to Grok squat.

51 Doug Simpson July 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Just a heads-up:

From what I understand dips shouldn’t be performed with both hands behind you as pictured. Doing them in this fashion creates unnecessary strain on your shoulders and could result in injury; best to grab someone else’s chair and perform the dips with hands by your side rather than behind you.

52 James S July 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm

@Debbie M: Grok squats are good for holds, as explained in the article, but for repetitive squats, do them like they teach you at the gym: butt out.

I personally don’t have a private work area. Clients can see me at all times. I’m going to try to incorporate some of these things, however, in an altered fashion. There are only 2 guys here, so the men’s room is pretty private. I refuse to touch bathroom floors, so I’m going to do push-ups on the sink (dips, too, I guess!), squats followed by a grok everytime I need to pee, and a 15-minute walk every 2 hours. Posture I work on constantly. And I might be able to get the company to pay for a standing desk if i push for an ergonomic assessment.

53 Michael July 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I haven’t read all the suggestions, but I find that when trying to work on your posture, raising your monitor to where you are almost looking up at it helps me remember to sit up straight.

54 ACC July 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Stretching every now and then is good too if you are not able to do some of the suggested movements from above. Simple leg and back stretches that improve flexibility are great.

55 Greg July 25, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I flex my stomach muscles every time I go through a doorway – been doing it for years!
I also have a make-shift standing desk I use for iPad work and reading. I find it keeps me more alert than when slumped reading or using my desktop computer at my sit-down desk.

56 bobster July 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

Re: unaccepting bosses: Evan M is right … head off the objection by going to your boss at the outset and explain it simply:
-gonna do some exercise during the day
-it will enhance my productivity
-stick with me on this for 6 months
then go out and prove yourself to them by being manly productive!
(and don’t be public about it; some lazy employees will get a whiny critical attitude about you)

Re: Sweaty worker syndrome:
I try not get cardio at work, leave the cardio for the gym or road. Instead, just get some strength, flexibility, and circulation. frequent small things will keep you limber and the blood moving; that’s all you need at work.

Re: Weights tip:
I keep 2, 15 pound dumbbells behind my door. I take them out a few times a day, partly close the door, and do each of the following 10 times:
Inner lift (raising up to arm pits)
Outer lift (curls)
Upper lift (pressing over head)
Cross lift (crossing the weights in front of me)

seems simple and light-duty, but it gets the blood moving and you don’t feel like a sweat hog.

57 bobster July 26, 2012 at 9:28 am

I forgot to include in my previous post:
If your company has a wellness program, try to nest what you do within that.
if your company doesn’t have a wellness program, maybe you can start it (and add that to your resume’ to boot!).

>most americans know that they are sedentary and need more exercis. when clients or customers come in and they see the weights behind your door, it subconsciously raises you in their estimation just a bit because you are doing what they wish to do. If they make a comment about it, just humbly say something like “yeah, I try to do a little something to stay fit.”
And, if they exercise themselves then you have a point of commonality!

58 T July 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

I’ve used the behind the desk/office kitchen push-ups on many occasions, especially on those days I don’t get to the gym or those later evenings when I’m tied to my desk, waiting for my computer to crunch some outputs until after dinner.

Walking is nice, but agreed with the others – 1/4 of your work day simply cannot be spent away from the desk.

One additional note: I live and work in DC, where it gets HOT in the summer months. That said, sometimes I’m contained to my pedestrian commute for outdoor time. Taking a sweltering stroll more than once per day is not going to look great on the pit stains…

59 Albert July 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

This is certainly great advice for women in the workplace as well!

60 MVP July 26, 2012 at 10:44 am

I want to work at the company where you work that allows me to be gone from my desk 15 minutes out of every hour – if i did that I would have plenty of time to exercise because I’d be unemployed.

Bottom line is that our employers, despite at the “feel good” HR BS, simply DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR PHYSICAL WELL BEING. All they care is that you work at your desk, work more hours than scheduled, and if that means you lose your health (and even your family), well then tough crap – we have shareholders to please. Corporate America is becoming more draconian every week, and the bad economy enables this, because “if you don’t like it, there’s a bunch of unemployed folks who will love it.” Now get back to work and shut up.

61 Ruben July 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

Here’s another one to add to the list…. Keegles!!! Enough said ;-)

62 David Collins July 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Seriously Cyrus…these get you sweaty….start with smaller amounts…5 mins walking…5 squats….5 pushups…5 gronks……it gets the heart pumping. And you can find a small meeting room. Point is to get heart pumping, stretch your joints and muscles, and relieve stress on eyes and mind to be more productive.

63 JoeOvercoat July 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Is running up stairs really more effective than walking, given the net distance & work is the same? The idea is to get your metabolism going, as opposed to burning calories/increasing fitness directly, isn’t it?

64 Boetie July 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Already do push-ups at work – up to 150-200 a day. Not sure how the grok squat would go over.

65 Eric July 26, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Great article. As a Construction Inspector even though I am out in the field I still have paper work to do in the office. I have moved my desk to a small raised plan table for a standing desk and moved the contents of my desk in to a four door standing cabinet next to the standing desk. When out in the field I try to park on the far side of the project and walk the site. PS now use my old desk when i put my feet up on them and do push ups. grok squats are tough.

66 SoundRider July 27, 2012 at 7:12 am

II envy you guys who get to sit all day at your desks and worry about getting enough exercise. I’m 60 years old, and work at a retail grocery store. I stand, lift and bend for 8 hours a day. Even my work station is a standing size table, as is our communal computer station.

Yes, I’m in great shape for my age and I have no problem keeping up with my coworkers young enough to be my children and grandchildren. But some days, it would be nice to sit!

67 Debbie M July 27, 2012 at 10:02 am

@James S, thanks for the clarification that grok squats are not for doing reps. Makes sense!

68 Dirk Spittle July 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

This is the most phenomenal site; thank you.
As for the grok squats, my old knees won’t allow a deep squat unless I have help getting back up. I have, however, come up with an alternative. I go to the men’s room, enter one of the toilet stalls and place one foot on each side of the toilet seat. I lower myself until my thighs are almost but not quite parallel to the floor, then rise up rapidly to standing position. My head usually goes well above the wall dividers, rather like a jack-in-the-box, so in case there are other people there, I shout, ” I SEEEE you!” with each rep.
The practice gives me quad strength, flexibility, balance ( to avoid a splashdown) and enhances my reputation of being an unpredictable and fun kind of guy. Or a borderline psychotic, whichever.

69 Blossom Bains July 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I completely agree with exercising in office, especially when you can do push ups and chair-dips easily. I remember reading an article where they told you to perform dips while waiting at the bus stop. OK. i agree it will make you look stupid to people around you, but its worth it,especially when you can show off your pumped-up triceps to people.

70 Mark August 3, 2012 at 4:14 am

As a college professor I guess I’m really priviledged – to get to work, I cycle for more than half an hour, take two trains (2 hours in all) then hike up a steep hill. In addition, I teach standing up and walking back and forth. ONe suggestion to offset sweatiness – wear a tee-shirt or undershirt under your suit. Normally, if you’re used to physical activity you sweat less. Remember, our forefathers did all their work wearing longjohns… even in the summer!

71 Chris August 3, 2012 at 10:57 am

One way I’ve seen to incorporate #6 without getting in trouble is to simply do your work WHILE walking. Obviously, you’ll miss out on the “nature” part, but sometimes there’s the possibility to simply walk around inside your office / cubicle. Think of it as a more mobile version of the stand-up desk. Your boss may see you, but if your nose is still in the files you’re supposed to be reviewing, you’re still getting the required work done, and the only difference between you and your coworkers is you’re walking about while they’re sitting, they can’t complain that much. I’ve occasionally benefitted from magnifying the document on the screen, and then using a wireless mouse to scroll through it while I walked back and forth. The job got done, and I was able to stretch my legs.

72 Richard August 4, 2012 at 10:56 am

I am not desk bound, infact I work in a import repair garage. However I have found that many of my tasks require leaning into an engine compartment or leaning back working under a vehicle extended for extended periods of time, which causes back and muscle strain.
To combat this I door wall slides down to the ‘grok’ position, and I also do one arm doorway pushups by placing my heels against one side of the doorway and doing a pushup against the other side of the doorway with one arm. Doesn’t seem strenuous until you try about a dozen reps.
The door pushups help tone back muscles, the wall slides gives a gentle stretch to cramped or sore muscles.

73 Eric August 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I’m fortunate to have an active outdoors job, but just yesterday watched a Stuart McGill DVD with a friend on low back health and the importance of maintaining proper posture throughout the day. My friend is constantly dealing with tightness throughout his low back and we’re both starting to think that a lot of it is from the result of the posture he maintains at his desk throughout the day. Hopefully having an increased postural awareness helps him, but I’ll definitely pass along some of the other tips to him.

74 Scott September 19, 2012 at 4:48 am

It would be cool to have a one page pdf of this workout to post up at work.

75 jax September 22, 2012 at 10:56 am

Some of these guys above are such pussies. Stop whining and just do the exercises.

76 Trista September 22, 2012 at 11:34 am

Some of these seem a little silly. For me, it’s simple. I send out a lot of mail throughout the day. The mail basket is at the very BACK of the office and I sit at the very FRONT. So, whenever I have a piece of mail to take back (usually 8-10 a day), instead of waiting till the end of the day and taking them all at once, I take them one at a time, as I do them. I get up, stretch, walk to the back of the office and drop off the piece of mail, stretch, walk back to my desk at the front of the office, stretch, and sit back down. Doing this 10 times a day definitely makes a difference. Also, with sitting at the front of the office, I get a lot of people bringing things in for other people in other parts of the office, so I make it a point to take it to that person. I also volunteer to take other people’s mail back, etc. It helps a lot.

77 Kevin September 23, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Check out simplefit for bodyweight exercises that can be done anywhere with a little creativity. I did them in my server room at work for years.

78 Phil Weaver September 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I’ve been tracking the attitudes on exercising in the office for about 8 years now. I can say with certainty that there has been a transformation in people. It was only three years ago that 80 percent or more of the people we were in contact with on the subject would tell us they could never do that and we were stupid for suggesting it. Nowadays we never get the “stupid for suggesting it” and only get the “what if I’m the only one doing it” response and that’s not that often.

The idea is not that far off from being mainstream.

We also were wrong in assuming that it would be mostly women interested. Not so.

I recommend Chi Kung (kinda like Tai Chi but more strenuous) based exercises. They are a serious leg and core workout without sweating. The breathing principles involved activate the diaphragm and keep the blood more oxygenated all day. So add a high degree of mental clarity to the mix and you’ve just dramatically increased productivity and you’ll feel better all day.

The downside? They are difficult to coordinate and may make you look a little silly and feel like a klutz even if you are highly coordinated. If your ego can’t take that then it’s not a fit.

Great article and thanks for bringing the very important subject up

Phil Weaver
Break Pal

79 Kawana September 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm

please don’t run up or down stairs!!!!!!!! very dangerous to slip, trip, and/or fall!!!!!

80 Stealth Star September 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm

And after all that is done….., your FIRED for not working! But at least you will be in shape to kick your bosses ass after your terminated…..?

81 The Anderson Account September 29, 2012 at 9:46 am

It’s great to walk up the stairs… but don’t run.

82 Allison September 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Taking the stairs is always better for you than taking the lift although I would never run up them taking 2 or even 3 stairs at a time is a great alternative. Also the grok squat is not a rep routine but instead more like a stretch. Even doing things like thing like flexing you abdominals every time you open a file or a new screen is better than nothing. And if you are worried about sweating use deodorant, put on an undershirt, and carry the things you might need to pull your self together; a comb and hand towel or tissues in the brief case. And for those concerned about appearance, a fit and polished appearance speaks better than a bulbous belly and tired eyes.

83 Anastasia October 1, 2012 at 4:23 am

I’ve really put this article to work for me. (Women can get fat too, we just don’t like to admit it) I wanted to add in my two cents.
I’m luckly enough to have a standing desk, so I’ll spend 30 seconds to a minute standing on the balls of my feet or doing calf raises.
Don’t forget to add in some stretching. Just a few basic toe touches(or as close to your toes as you can get), helps get the blood moving and loosens the muscles you’re working.
Finally, #5. Yeah. Not happening. I can’t do pushups for two reasons. First, Tendonitis in both my wrist, bad enough that push ups would actually make it worse. Second, I have weak little girly arms. My solution is to do push ups against the edge of my desk. I actually get more in, and it’s less strain on my wrists!

84 Glen Roys October 5, 2012 at 7:45 am

Last year my personal trainer challenged me to do 50 push-ups and squats every day at work. I accepted the challenge and have done it pretty religiously since then. It makes me feel a ton better at work.

Don’t know if Mike read the whole article, but there’s convincing evidence that doing a single workout each day doesn’t totally counteract the ill-effects of sitting all day. Expecting anyone who doesn’t have a physical job like being in the military to sit like a stationery lump at their desks all day is unhealthy, unnatural, and unmanly (not to mention just plain stupid!).

85 Jog Freak November 4, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I am really kinda liking what Greg said about flexing his stomach muscles every time he goes through a doorway. Might implement that one myself.

Wanted to mention – there’s a more stealth-friendly alternative to the swiss ball as a replacement for the standard desk chair: the stability cushion. It inflates just like the swiss ball but just sits on top of your chair instead of replacing the chair. It sort of looks like a fat, inflated frisbee. If you google “stability cushion” or “wobble cushion,” you should get a bunch of different options. I tried one for a while, and it seemed to work pretty well. I definitely could feel my muscles getting tired, anyway, so you gotta figure it was doing something.

86 @Dave November 17, 2012 at 11:03 am

@Dave, it’s called deodorant and an extra shirt.

87 richie November 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm


88 Trent December 7, 2012 at 8:21 am

Only go out to eat once a week if possible. If you bring your lunch you can eat smaller portions and the food will be much healthier. it’s tough to cook something as unhealthy as restaurant food.

Move all your joints. Rotate your ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, wrists, fingers, toes, neck and jaw in all 3 dimensions and full circles depending on the joint. Takes about a minute and can be done before your pushups and squats.

Stretch at Lunch! This is one that cannot be stressed enough. It doesn’t have to be a full yoga cycle. Just take a few minutes and stretch all your muscles. If you’re bringing your lunch you should have plenty of time for this.

Like it said at the top of the article, have thick skin and don’t get embarrassed. A lot of people will give you a good ribbing for any of these habits from this article.

89 Michael Higgins January 12, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Yea, I am so far gone that the squats are not possible unless I hold on to something.. and standing more than 30 (really more than 15-20) minutes bothers my back! I guess I could start out just walking up and down the stairs an extra time – anything after that will be extra sweat!

90 Brad Jones January 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I didn’t read all of the comments, so forgive me if I am repeating anyone. I recently got a convertible sit/stand workstation that mounts to almost any desk. So far I love it, it came with a hefty bill, but I think it definitely worth looking into for any of you “Desk Jockeys” who want to have to option to stand, but not necessarily all the time. They are available at multiple online stores, but the one I found to be the cheapest was at:

They offer a variety of styles and optional add-ons. . . so far it is awesome.

I was already using the stairs and trying to get up and walk around outside as much as I could, but the standing desk has greatly improved my focus and energy throughout the day.

91 Aaron J. Berg February 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I really appreciate this article. I have been making a concerted effort to stand as much as possible when at home and work for over ten years now. I was self employed for 5 of those years and I would use counter space for my computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

When I first tried standing for longer periods ie. 30 minutes I would actually start sweating. That is how out of shape I was getting. I have more energy and feel a lot less tired by trying to stand or be mobile as much as possible.

One warning which I think is important is that I did start getting swelled ankles at first when I started standing for hours at length. Basically, I learned that it is not good to put your weight on just one foot. I would try alternating every half hour or so which foot your placing most of your weight on.

Another way I guess is to stand flat footed with your feet apart so that your weight is balanced on each leg if possible. I have had to get a corporate job now, but I am still able to stand at my desk and get my tasks completed. Also, I have lived in quite a few different places ie. apartments, town home, and a duplex and each time I was able to find some counter space usually in a kitchen for my computer. I’m a shorter male so actually a kitchen counter is almost perfect for me to be able to type and use a mouse.

I would never go back to my old sedentary lifestyle. As a matter of fact I can stand some days nearly 16 hours straight or close to with a few breaks on a chair or couch. I burn more calories and actually lost quite a bit of weight over the years doing this.

92 David May 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Great Post! I’ve been sitting at work a lot lately and feel I’ve been getting lazy so I will definitely give some of these a try. My coworkers might think me a bit crazy for some of them, but its about keeping healthy. Thanks for sharing!

93 Comprehension August 8, 2013 at 5:33 am

When I first tried standing for longer periods ie. 30 minutes I would actually start sweating. That is how out of shape I was getting. I have more energy and feel a lot less tired by trying to stand or be mobile as much as possible.

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