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Being sedentary puts people at risk for all sorts of ailments, from back pain and stiff joints to poor circulation and obesity. Studies have even shown a link between sedentary living and the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.


Desk jobs make it difficult to stay active during the work day. Ideally you should leave your desk every hour to walk and stretch a bit. When that is not possible, try the following series of exercises, which you can do while seated. Aim to do the exercises once every hour – they only take a few minutes and will save you discomfort while giving you renewed vigor to stay alert and productive.

  • Seated calf raise – keep the balls of your feet on the floor and raise both of your heels. Pause, then lower. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Seated foot raise – keep your heels on the floor and raise the balls of your feet. Pause, then lower. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Leg lift – grip the seat of your chair and raise one leg while you flex your foot. Hold for two second, then slowly move your leg outward, then back toward the center. Repeat 5 times then switch legs.
  • Abdomen isometrics – keep your lower back pressed against your seat, pull in your abdominal muscles. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times.
  • Buttocks squeeze – squeeze your buttocks muscles as tight as possible for 3-5 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times.
  • Seat walking – shift the weight from the right to the left side of your buttocks, rocking back and forth for 10-15 seconds.
  • Pelvic tilts – press the small of your back forward to create an arch. Then reverse the movement, pressing your lower back into your seat and pushing your hips forward. Repeat 5 times.
  • Upper body stretch 1 – sit on the edge of your chair, grip the chair’s back and straighten your arms. Keep your body straight and let your upper body gently pull you forward. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Upper body stretch 2 – reach above your head, then reach forward and down toward the floor. Keep your arms parallel to each other and let your chest fall forward; your hands should hang down comfortably at your sides. Hold for 15-45 seconds. Come up slowly and finish with slow, deep breaths.
  • Upper arm stretch – place one elbow behind your head and clasp the elbow with your opposite hand. Pull down toward the back of your neck. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with other elbow.
  • Shoulder shrug – lift your shoulders as high as possible, then release slowly. Repeat 5 times. For variety, slowly circle your shoulders forward and backward.
  • Neck stretch – slowly drop your head to your chest, then tilt your head toward your right shoulder. Return chin to chest, then tile head to left shoulder.