6 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk

Published: December 11, 2020
Updated: April 22, 2021

woman sat in a chair

How do you use a pigeon to exercise?

If you’re sitting down right now, the answer will be particularly relevant to you.

After all, we tend to sit a lot. Whether it’s working at the desk or relaxing on the couch after a long day.

And all that time spent sitting is most often time spent not exercising. Time your bones and overall health crave.

So today, I’m going to teach you how to make the most of your time spent sitting. I’ll show you how to perform a series of easy exercises you can do at your desk or sofa to break up your day –– and help support your health.

And yes, one of them involves a pigeon…

Neck Stretch

Benefits of the neck stretch exercise:

This exercise helps to stretch the upper part of your trapezius muscles (the two large, triangular muscles that run from the base of your head, along your shoulders and down the top of your spine.) 

It’ll also help stretch certain fibers in your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle too. The SCM runs from the base of your skull, just below your ears, on both sides of your neck. It splits in two to connect to your sternum (breast bone) and clavicle (collarbone) on both sides.

The SCM helps you rotate your head from side to side, drop your chin down towards your chest, lean your head to one side to rest your ear on your shoulder, and even plays a part in breathing. 

So, by stretching your SCM, this exercise will help you maintain your necks’ range of motion –– particularly lateral motion. Plus, it’ll help ease the knots that can form in your neck when you sit too long.

How to perform the neck stretch exercise:

  1. Sit upright with your feet planted on the floor, shoulders width apart.
  2. Grip the underside of your chair with your left hand, and drop your left shoulder as far toward the ground as you comfortably can.
  3. Arch your right arm over your head to gently place your right hand on the left-hand side of your head, just above your ear.
  4. Gently guide your head toward your right shoulder and hold for 1 minute. If that’s too long, hold for as long as you can.
  5. Take deep breaths as you hold the stretch, placing your attention on the area you’re stretching.
  6. Return to your starting position and perform the exercise again, but on the other side.

Tailor this exercise to you:

The SCM is a very complex muscle. I could write an entire blog post about exercises for it! (Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see that). An important thing to note is that the SCM can develop pain, sensitivity, and tightness. This could be a sign of SCM syndrome. Exercises like this one can help, but you should always consult your healthcare provider first if you experience any symptoms.

Seated Cactus Arms

Benefits of the seated cactus arms exercise:

This exercise happens to be one of my favorite yoga poses. It helps strengthen your shoulder and back muscles while also opening up tight chest muscles. So, it’s a powerful tool for improving your posture.

And good posture benefits your body in many ways –– check out our posture exercises blog post for more information –– including reducing your risk of falls.

How to perform the seated cactus arms exercise:

  1. Sit upright with your feet planted on the floor, shoulder-width apart
  2. Raise both arms towards the ceiling, engaging your core to keep your shoulders or rib cage down
  3. Tuck your chin slightly and avoid bringing your head forward
  4. On an exhale, bend your elbows and bring your upper arms parallel with the floor with your palms facing forward. Draw your shoulder blades together, and lift your chest. (Do you see where the cactus arms name comes from?)
  5. On an inhale, straighten your arms again, engaging your core.  
  6. Repeat the exercise 10 times

Tailor this exercise to you:

Don’t worry if you can’t fully straighten your arms. Keep your arms further apart, with a slight bend in your elbows if that’s more comfortable for you.

Seated Pigeon

Benefits of the seated pigeon exercise:

The seated pigeon is another yoga exercise. The main muscles it stretches are on the back and lateral part of the hip joint. So, this exercise helps to open your hip joint and improve overall hip flexibility.

Plus, I find it helps to improve my posture and relieve lower back pain. So, it’s perfect during a long stint at the desk.

*This is a more challenging exercise. Especially if your hips aren’t that flexible. If that’s the case, you may want to hold off trying this one until your hips are a little more flexible.*

How to perform the seated pigeon exercise:

  1. Sit upright with your feet planted on the floor, shoulders width apart
  2. While engaging your core, lift your left leg and rest your ankle above your right knee
  3. Flex your left foot so that the toes move back towards the left knee
  4. Let your left knee drop down to the side until you feel a stretch near the outside of your hip.
  5. To intensify the stretch, hinge at the hips (not your waist), and bring your chest forward towards your leg with a straight spine 
  6. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
  7. Return to your starting position and repeat the exercise with your opposite leg

Tailor this exercise to you:

You may be unable to bring your knee down very far, to begin with. And that’s completely fine. You can keep your knee upright and it will lower over time as your hips become more flexible. Never try to push past any discomfort in the knee.

Seated Leg Raise

Benefits of the seated leg extension exercise:

The seated leg raise (or seated leg extension) works your quadricep muscles –– the group of muscles on the front of your thigh. This set of muscles is important for obvious reasons, like walking, standing, etc.

But having strong quadriceps appears to be extra important for avoiding a fall too! A large study concluded that older people with weak quadriceps were the most likely to fall.

How to perform the seated leg raise exercise:

  1. Sit upright with your feet planted on the floor, shoulders width apart.
  2. Grip the underside of your chair with both hands.
  3. Engage your core and slowly raise your right leg in front of you, toes pointing toward the ceiling. (Or the wall in front of you if it’s uncomfortable to point higher).
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds and then slowly return your leg to its starting position.
  5. Complete steps 2-4 with your left leg.
  6. Repeat the exercise 10-15 times with each leg.

Tailor this exercise to you:

When you start finding the leg extension a little too easy, try to lift your leg an extra inch or so, and/or hold for a few more seconds.

Seated March

Benefits of the seated march exercise:

The seated march helps improve the strength and mobility of your hips. Plus, you should feel your abdominals getting a work out too.

How to perform the seated march exercise:

  1. Sit upright with your feet planted on the floor, shoulders width apart
  2. Grip the underside of your chair with both hands
  3. Keep your back nice and straight and engage your core
  4. Keep your knees bent and lift your left leg about 10 inches
  5. Hold for a couple of seconds before returning to your starting position
  6. Repeat the exercise 10-15 times with each leg.

Tailor this exercise to you:

You can add ankle weights if you find this exercise is becoming a little easy. Or, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise by lifting your leg a little higher.

Tennis Ball Grip Strength

Benefits of the tennis ball grip strength:

As the name suggests, this is a great exercise to increase your grip strength. So, it’ll come in handy for everyday activities like opening doors, carrying groceries, and twisting that pesky lid off the pasta sauce jar. 

Plus, handgrip strength is an indicator of potential fracture risk since it’s linked to fragility and increased likelihood to fall. 

In fact, some studies show those with weaker hand grip strength tend to have lower bone mass in the hip and the spine. Decreased grip strength indicates impaired muscle strength, and therefore diminished physical ability, which causes greater mortality risk in older people. The bottom line is, once your grip strength starts to weaken, it’s generally a sign of worse things to come.

How to perform the tennis ball grip strength exercise:

  1. Grip the tennis ball in one hand
  2. Slowly squeeze it as hard as you can, and hold for 2-3 seconds
  3. Slowly release your squeeze
  4. Rest for 3 seconds and then repeat 10 times
  5. Switch hands and repeat steps 1-4 above
  6. Repeat twice on each hand (for 3 sets in total for each hand)

Tailor this exercise to you:

I used a tennis ball for this exercise as it’s an object most people will have. But, a softer ball, like a foam stress ball, works better if you have one. A softer ball will mold to your palm better and provide a more tailored workout.

Desk Exercises Takeaways

These desk exercises are a great way to break up long bouts of sitting. They’ll help relieve the lower back and neck pain that come with hours of hunching over a computer. And, many offer posture and stability benefits to help keep you on your feet!

Let me know what you think of these exercises in the comments below, and if you’re looking for more exercises to improve your bone health, click here.

And remember, I recommend consulting your healthcare provider before adding any new exercises to your regimen.

Article Comments

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  1. Elizabeth R Bradford

    December 13, 2020 , 6:08 am

    Thank you. I appreciate each of these exercises and am sure they will be very helpful.
    Elizabeth

  2. Blaire AlgaeCal

    December 15, 2020 , 12:27 pm

    It’s our pleasure, Elizabeth! You might also enjoy some of the other exercises on our blog. ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  3. Jean Larson

    December 13, 2020 , 8:04 am

    These are absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much!

  4. Blaire AlgaeCal

    December 15, 2020 , 12:29 pm

    We’re so glad you liked them, Jean! ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  5. Les Leslie

    December 13, 2020 , 10:30 am

    Great exercises and demonstrations(easy)…. keep sharing with us! Thanks so much and I am using Algae Cl and Strontium supplements.

  6. Blaire AlgaeCal

    December 15, 2020 , 12:36 pm

    We’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed these, Les! Feel free to check out more exercises on our blog here.

    Les, it’s so great that you’re taking our Bone Builder Pack! Have you joined AlgaeCal’s Facebook Community yet? It’s a supportive space for AlgaeCal customers to learn and grow together! Join here.

    We hope you’ll keep us updated on your progress – and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns along the way ❤️

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  7. DRust

    December 13, 2020 , 12:19 pm

    These exercises are great and so easy to do. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 15, 2020 , 11:28 am

    Thanks for the feedback, Debbi! 😀

    You can find more of our exercises here.

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  9. Laura Theis

    December 13, 2020 , 1:35 pm

    Enjoyed exercises not hard to follow would like more of them ☺️

  10. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 15, 2020 , 11:31 am

    Yay, glad to hear this Laura!

    If you’re interested, we have more exercises here. Feel free to browse through and try a few! 😀

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  11. vanessa cobb

    December 13, 2020 , 7:56 pm

    great exercises

  12. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 15, 2020 , 11:25 am

    Glad you enjoyed this article, Vanessa!

    Feel free to check out more of our exercises here. 🙂

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  13. Evi Wingate

    December 13, 2020 , 8:14 pm

    Thank you so much for sending these
    exercises!!
    Just received them!
    I tried these exercises and they are perfect
    for me!
    Thank you again!
    Sincerely
    Eva Maria

  14. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 15, 2020 , 11:26 am

    So happy to hear this, Eva!

    Hope you enjoy adding these exercises to your routine and feel free to see more of our exercises here. ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  15. Stephanie Willett-Shaw

    December 14, 2020 , 7:25 am

    Interesting about grip strength…I did the ball squeezes however, since I have the typical and widespread osteoporostis in the thumb and area below that…the upshot is that my hands are extremely painful. So, I’m not sure the tradeoff is worth it.
    Also, hard to believe, but I do not have a chair. I have padded benches.
    Also, Seated Pigeon is fairly easy on the left, but my right hip is so tight that I cannot perform it. I am 78 and a lot of people my age are not able to perform some of these exercises. I did what I could and they seem good, but please, a lot of people who need AlgaeCal are much older than you, not as slim as you are nor in the same shape.
    Is there a way to save this document so I don’t have to keep queing it up on my laptop—it’s not very convenient and if you enlarge the type, the page gets messed up. Older folks need accommodations; and eventually we ALL get older and the simplest seeming things are no longer easy or even do-able. Thanks

  16. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 18, 2020 , 9:43 am

    Hi Stephanie, thank you for your feedback!

    If you’re unsure about any of these movements for you, please do check in with a health professional who can assess what’s appropriate for you at this time.

    To save this document, look for the little green printer icon (typically on the left hand side of the page). You can click this to print out the document or simply save it as a PDF. Hope this helps! ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  17. Loretta Johnson

    December 14, 2020 , 10:25 am

    Great exercise. Sure relieves tension in upper back
    .I have trouble with R arm hand tingling due to pinched nerve in C 5 area of neck> i am hoping the arm exercises will help. Thank you. Loretta

  18. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 18, 2020 , 9:52 am

    Happy to hear it’s helping relieve tension in your upper back, Loretta!

    Feel free to take a look at more of our exercises here. ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  19. Claire Zaehringer

    December 15, 2020 , 1:49 pm

    Thank you for sending these news exercises!

  20. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 18, 2020 , 9:51 am

    You’re very welcome, Claire!

    Hope you find them helpful 😀

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  21. Kay Larson

    January 11, 2021 , 8:44 am

    How about someone who is over 50 doing some of your exercises. If I take the 2 capsules at lunch I get loose stools. How does that work. I have not sent this before. Thanks KL

  22. Blaire AlgaeCal

    January 11, 2021 , 1:23 pm

    Hi Kay,

    Thanks for reaching out to us!

    These exercises should be safe for those who are over 50. That said, as everyone has different limitations, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a new exercise regimen.

    We’re sorry to hear that you’re experiencing loose stools, Kay. This is not something we expect from AlgaeCal, however, we recently identified the reason some people do experience this – plus a simple solution!

    There is a bio-active form of vitamin B6 our body creates called pyridoxal-5-phosphate (otherwise known as P5P) that’s essential for magnesium absorption. The problem is, ~25% of the population don’t do a good job of converting vitamin B6 to P5P, which means when they take magnesium their body is unable to absorb it. This can lead to side effects like loose stool, diarrhea, muscle cramps, headaches, etc. If you’re part of this 25% of people, you can take a P5P supplement which will help your body absorb magnesium properly. Taking 50mg of P5P with your first dose of AlgaeCal Plus should do the trick.

    Hope that helps! Let us know if you have further questions 🙂

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  23. Mary Ann Kotylo

    February 7, 2021 , 6:34 am

    I would like to see exercises for knee strengthening.I have bad knees and need to excerise them.Going up the stairs is very hard. Thank you

  24. Megan AlgaeCal

    February 9, 2021 , 2:52 pm

    Hi Mary, thanks for your feedback!

    We encourage you to take a look at our Bone Health Workout here. It includes the following exercises, which are great for strengthening, stretching, and stabilizing the knees and the muscles surrounding them: Standing Hamstring Stretch, Lunges, Clamshell, Front Squats (you can do this without a band as well), Glute Bridge.

    Hope this helps! 🙂

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  25. Jill Glaser

    May 10, 2022 , 3:54 am

    I thought bone building exercises had to be weight bearing. Many of the exercises appear to be strength building?

  26. Kirby Johnson

    May 11, 2022 , 3:52 pm

    Jill,

    You’re absolutely right – the exercises detailed in this article aren’t designed or purported to increase bone density. If you’re interested in such exercises, we have a thorough article on our blog HERE. Instead, these movements are designed for those with limited mobility or as a way to practice flexibility in a seated position. Hope this help clarify the intent of these exercises!

    – Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  27. Julie walker

    April 25, 2021 , 5:02 am

    Please send over the knee exercises I also have bad knees ,be glad of some help,I have been taking AlgaeCal for 4 years ,very happy with them thankyou Julie walker

  28. Megan AlgaeCal

    April 26, 2021 , 2:51 pm

    Hi Julie!

    Click here to see the article we referred Mary to. As mentioned above, it includes the following exercises, which are great for strengthening, stretching, and stabilizing the knees and the muscles surrounding them: Standing Hamstring Stretch, Lunges, Clamshell, Front Squats (you can do this without a band as well), Glute Bridge. ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  29. Theresa Holbert

    April 23, 2021 , 6:06 am

    These look perfect for me!! My Mom has been in the hospital for about 5 weeks and I have been sitting for about 12 hours a day with her! So I am going to try and do these while sitting with her. Thank you for sharing!!

  30. Megan AlgaeCal

    April 23, 2021 , 10:14 am

    Glad to hear this article is helpful for you, Theresa!

    Wishing you and your mom all the best ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  31. Karen Jacobson

    April 23, 2021 , 1:17 pm

    Thanks for the exercises I feel they are very helpful. We are going on a long road trip so I am going to use them at the end of the day!

  32. Megan AlgaeCal

    April 26, 2021 , 2:48 pm

    Perfect timing, Karen!

    Happy to hear you’ll be trying these out and hope you have a fantastic roadtrip 😀

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  33. Mary

    May 10, 2022 , 3:57 pm

    Thank you

  34. Cathy

    April 24, 2021 , 4:47 am

    Wonderful easy exercises that I can do while watching TV. I love your exercises. Please more for weak wrists. Thank you so much.

  35. Megan AlgaeCal

    April 26, 2021 , 2:50 pm

    So happy to hear this, Cathy!

    Thanks for your feedback and your suggestion. We’ll be passing this along to our team to consider for future articles 😀

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  36. Marggy Peralta

    May 4, 2021 , 9:44 am

    great sitting exercises. I work 7 hours sitting with my computer. great moves. Keep it coming. I need it.

  37. Cherry

    May 1, 2021 , 3:23 pm

    I like to walk most days. But these are some good ideas for days when that’s not possible.

  38. Suzy Crews

    May 8, 2021 , 10:44 am

    Just tried the Seated Desk Exercises. Not to hard and feels great to stretch these muscles.

  39. Dr. Emma Gasinski

    May 8, 2021 , 2:51 pm

    Hi Suzy!

    That is fabulous – isn’t it crazy how a few exercises at the desk can make such a big difference? Keep up the good work and thank you for the comment! 🙂

    – Dr. Emma Gasinski @ AlgaeCal

  40. Debra

    May 14, 2021 , 10:03 am

    Excited to review the exercises.

  41. Gabrielle Hochberg

    May 29, 2021 , 5:02 pm

    As someone who always worked out and is thin, I have broken bones and find strength exercises do not help either. I can do 50 pushups in one setting and about 130 in any given day. The one thing that has helped in algaecal plus and strontium boost. I was osteopenia 8 years ago and after taking both vitamins for one year and continue to take algaecal plus, I do not have that anymore. I am so grateful for a natural vitamin to help me stay strong. Thank you.

  42. Sharon H.

    May 30, 2021 , 4:31 am

    I’m a past aerobic instructor and I think the exercises look good.

  43. Doreen Pinkerton

    December 7, 2021 , 2:26 pm

    Thanks! These are something you can do while watching a television show.
    Doreen

  44. Joyce

    May 10, 2022 , 3:36 pm

    When I saw a picture that was taken recently of me and friends, I was shocked that my head was tilting so far forward. Some of these exercises will help with that. I think I need more specific exercises for strengthening the upper back and neck.

  45. Sherryl Rampton

    May 10, 2022 , 4:43 pm

    I love these exercises! Helps to change up what I do. Thank you!

  46. Mahin

    May 11, 2022 , 11:05 am

    Thank you very much for guided us with detailed
    to do these helpful exercises.
    I love the support team, they are friendly

  47. Mahin

    May 11, 2022 , 11:08 am

    Thank you very much for guided us with detailed
    to do these helpful exercises.
    I love the support team, they are friendly and so patient as well as the company

  48. Susan Hardt

    May 14, 2022 , 12:52 pm

    These exercises are very helpful to relieve stiffness in my hips.

  49. Julie Arneson

    May 15, 2022 , 4:48 am

    Thanks for these. I’m interested in more exercises for osteoporosis. I think planks are good.

  50. Isna

    May 21, 2022 , 8:56 pm

    Great exercises to do several times a day thank you for the explicit instructions

  51. Nadine

    May 15, 2022 , 4:54 am

    These exercises are doable and worth trying to help build my bones along with my regular Zumba classes.

  52. Mary Lou Vigesaa

    May 16, 2022 , 11:48 am

    Great info on types of osteoporosis and exercises.

  53. Debbie

    May 16, 2022 , 3:19 pm

    For sure going to use these when watching TV

  54. Mary Lou Henderson

    May 26, 2022 , 6:39 pm

    Good ideas for seated exercises

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,
Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, PhD - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Dr. Carole McArthur
MD, PhD - Professor of Immunology, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City; Director of Residency Research in Pathology, Truman Medical Center.,