10 Simple and Effective Standing Desk Exercises

A man stretching his arm

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For many of you, finding time for exercise can be a challenge, as daily responsibilities and work demands consistently keep you busy. However, neglecting physical activity can lead to various health issues, one of the most common being chronic pain and stiffness in muscles and joints. Fortunately, there are plenty of exercises that can be done at work to alleviate this discomfort and improve overall wellness.

In addition to alternating between sitting and standing, taking regular breaks to walk around and stretch is important as it provides relief to muscles that become tight and strained from staying in one position for long periods and many other significant health benefits. 

In this article, we will explore various exercises that can be done at your desk to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Key Takeaways

  • Standing desk exercises uplift your energy and make you more focused at work.
  • These workouts not only enhance posture and strengthen your core, making daily tasks easier, but they also provide relief from the muscle stiffness and pain associated with too much inactivity and promote better circulation.
  • Regular standing desk exercise can decrease the risk of chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease.
  • Simple standing desk exercises include squats, calf raises, upper body pushes, leg extensions, hamstring curls, gluteal squeeze and lateral leg work.

The Health Benefits of Incorporating Exercise at Your Standing Desk

Incorporating exercise at your standing desk not only boosts your energy and productivity, but also improves posture and core strength. By regularly engaging in these exercises, you can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease and support your musculoskeletal health.

Hence, standing desk exercises aren’t just a way to break up the monotony of work; they’re crucial for maintaining long-term health.

Musculoskeletal  Health

While alternating between sitting and standing is a step towards combating musculoskeletal issues, it’s only part of the solution. Incorporating simple standing desk exercises into your routine goes a step further in promoting overall musculoskeletal health. These exercises encourage movement and contribute significantly to the well-being of our muscles, blood vessels and the rest of the musculoskeletal system.

Boosted Energy and Productivity

Person being productive at work

Regular exercises at your standing desk contribute significantly to increased energy levels, and with more energy comes greater productivity. These workouts help stimulate blood flow and improve oxygen supply to the brain, keeping you alert and focused throughout the day.

So not only do standing desk exercises aid in improving physical health, but they also play a key role in enhancing mental well-being. Instead of reaching for that third cup of coffee, try some squats or calf raises right at your workspace. You’ll find yourself feeling revitalized instantly and do the next task on your list with more focus.

Improved Posture and Core Strength

Maintaining good posture

Exercising at a standing desk directly leads to improved posture and stronger core muscles. By regularly performing exercises such as squats, calf raises or leg extensions, you initiate muscle activity in your abdominal region.

This engagement of the core muscles helps maintain a straight back and upright position, vital for good body alignment.

A strong core not only keeps you poised but also enhances functionality in day-to-day tasks.

Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases

The circulatory system of a human

These workouts boost metabolism and burn more calories per hour than just standing and sitting, thereby aiding in weight management and reducing obesity risk

Moreover, these mini exercise breaks help regulate blood sugar levels by promoting efficient insulin use in the body. They improve heart function through better circulation and lower cholesterol levels, which helps in avoiding cardiovascular diseases.

So stand up desk enthusiasts not only enjoy boosted energy levels but also contribute actively to long-term health benefits preventing chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes or coronary artery disease.

10 Simple and Effective Standing Desk Exercises

1. Squats

A person doing squats

Desk squats are a hassle-free way to integrate exercise into your workday. Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand in front of your desk, ensuring enough space for movement.
  • Position your feet hip-width apart, keeping them parallel.
  • Beginners can hold onto the desk for support.
  • Lower down like you’re about to sit on a chair, keeping your torso straight.
  • Your thighs should be as parallel to the floor as possible.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds before standing back up.
  • Repeat 8 reps or as many as you feel comfortable with.

2. Calf Raises

A person doing calf raises

Incorporating calf raises into your routine can provide a simple yet effective workout at your standing desk.

  • Stand up straight with your feet placed hip-width apart. Maintain good posture throughout the exercise.
  • Start by raising onto your toes, targeting the calf muscles.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down, feeling a stretch in your calves.
  • Do 8 reps for a complete set.

3. Upper Body Push (Including Desk Push-Ups and Chair Dips)

Two people doing desk push-ups and chair dips

Strong and healthy upper body muscles are vital for both posture and general health. Develop strength in these areas through standing desk push-ups and chair dips, which are effective workouts you can integrate into your workday.

Execute Standing Desk Push-Ups:

  • Place hands on the edge of the desk, slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Walk feet back to create an inclined angle with the floor.
  • Keep body straight, engage core, and lower chest towards the desk.
  • Push back up to start for one rep.
  • Aim for 10-15 reps per set.


Perform Chair Dips:

  • Sit on the edge of a stable chair or desk seat.
  • Hands on the edge, fingers forward, legs extended with heels on the ground.
  • Slide off the seat, supporting weight with hands.
  • Bend elbows to lower body, keeping them at a 90-degree angle.
  • Straighten arms to lift body back up.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set.

4. Leg Toning (Including Leg Extensions and Hamstring Curls)

People doing leg extensions and hamstring curls

Leg toning exercises like leg extensions and hamstring curls are accessible, beneficial workouts that you can incorporate into your day at a standing desk. These exercises not only target your leg muscles but also help improve circulation, enhance your balance, and contribute to overall lower body endurance.

Leg Extensions:

  • Position yourself at the edge of your chair.
  • Keep your feet parallel on the ground, hip-width apart.
  • Extend one of your legs straight out in front of you while keeping the other foot on the ground.
  • Hold this position for three seconds before lowering it back down.
  • Repeat with the other leg for a total of 8 reps on each side.

Hamstring Curls

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, using a standing desk or chair for support if needed.
  • Bend one knee and try to lift one foot up to your backside as close as comfortably possible, aiming for your heel to nearly touch or get as close to your backside as your flexibility allows, without moving your upper leg.
  • Keep the rest of your body still while performing this movement. The lifting and lowering should each take about 1-2 seconds.
  • Do around 12 reps for each leg.

5. Gluteal Squeeze

Illustration of the gluteal muscles of the human body

The gluteal squeeze is a subtle yet powerful exercise to enhance glute strength, suitable for moments between tasks at your desk. Strong glutes are important for maintaining proper posture, supporting lower back health, and improving overall stability and performance in physical activities. Here’s how to execute it effectively:

  • Can be performed while seated or standing.
  • Sit or stand up straight, ensuring hips and knees are at a right angle.
  • Squeeze the glutes as hard as possible without engaging thighs or abs.
  • Hold the squeeze for five seconds.
  • Relax for a moment before the next squeeze.
  • Aim to include these squeezes in your routine for a total of 15 minutes each day.
  • This can be done in one session or spread out over the day.

6. Side Lunges

Man doing side lunges

Side lunges are a beneficial exercise that can be performed even while at a standing desk, offering a convenient way to stretch and activate the muscles in your legs. Here’s how to do them:

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Take a wide step out to the side with one foot.
  • Bend the knee of your stepping leg to squat down, keeping the other leg straight.
  • Push off with the bent leg to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Aim for several repetitions on each side for a balanced workout.
  • It is recommended to perform them in the range of six to fifteen repetitions per side.

Remember to keep your back straight and chest lifted throughout the exercise, and go as low into the lunge as is comfortable for you.

7. Arm Circles

Illustration of a person doing arm circles

Arm toning exercises are a crucial component of any standing desk routine. Not only do they help fight off fatigue, but also they strengthen your shoulder, upper back, chest, and arm muscles, and enhance your posture. 

Doing arm circles targets your shoulder muscles, improving their strength and flexibility. Here is how to do them:

  • Stand straight with feet hip-width apart.
  • Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height.
  • Begin by making small circular motions forward with both arms.
  • Continue for about 30 seconds, then reverse the direction of the circles.

8. Classical Balancing Exercises and Balance Board Exercises

Person doing exercises on a balance board

Incorporating balancing exercises into your standing desk routine can provide you with significant health benefits. These exercises aid in improving core strength and stability as well as amplify balance and coordination.

Classical Balancing Exercises:

  1. Single Leg Stance: Lift one leg off the ground and hold the position for as long as possible. This exercise enhances balance and strengthens leg muscles.
  2. Heel-to-Toe Walk: Imagine walking on a straight line, placing one foot directly in front of the other. This enhances coordination and lower body strength.


Balance Board Exercises:

  1. Basic Balance: Stand on the balance board, feet hip-width apart with arms extended to help maintain balance. Try to hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  2. Squats: While maintaining balance on the board, perform squats to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core muscles.

9. Neck Stretches and Twisting Back Stretch

Illustration of performing neck stretches and twisting back stretches

To combat stiffness and tension, incorporate neck and back stretches into your standing desk routine. 

Neck Stretches:

  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Tilt your head toward one shoulder until a gentle stretch is felt on the side of your neck.
  • Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Twisting Back Stretch:

  • Stand straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and raise your arms to the sides.
  • Bend and rotate your torso to the right, trying to touch your right foot with your left hand.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Alternate sides for a total of 10 to 15 repetitions, holding each stretch for about 2 to 10 seconds.

10. Warrior Pose

Demonstration of Warrior pose 1 and 2

Doing the Warrior Pose can be a simple yet effective addition to your work routine. This yoga pose involves different stretching and strengthening movements that target the legs, hips, and core, promoting better posture and alignment which can indirectly benefit the neck and back. Here’s how you can do it:

Warrior I:

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart near your desk.
  • Step one foot back about 3-4 feet, keeping the front foot facing forward and the back foot angled outwards at about 45 degrees.
  • Bend your front knee to a lunge position, ensuring the knee is aligned with the ankle.
  • Raise your arms overhead, keeping your shoulders relaxed and your gaze forward or slightly upward.

Warrior II:

  • From a standing position, step one foot back about 3-4 feet, keeping your front foot facing forward and your back foot angled outwards at 90 degrees.
  • Bend your front knee to a lunge position, keeping the knee aligned with the ankle.
  • Extend your arms parallel to the floor at shoulder height, one towards the front and the other towards the back.
  • Turn your head to gaze over your front hand, keeping your shoulders relaxed and chest open.

When doing a Warrior Pose, try to stay in that pose for around 30 seconds.

Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Your Workday

Schedule regular breaks for standing desk exercises. Opt for a variety to accrue maximum benefits. Always listen to your body and start with small, manageable routines.

Set Reminders and Schedule Breaks

Incorporating exercise into your workday gets simpler with setting reminders and scheduling breaks. Utilize digital tools or smartphone apps to send notifications for break time. This strategy keeps you consistent, ensuring you take a breather from continuous standing or sitting at regular intervals.

Breaks are vital for the exercises that are an effective and easy way to combat the consequences of prolonged stationary postures which may lead to discomfort or health issues in the long run. It’s recommended that you plan these breaks evenly throughout your day, so there’s a balance between productivity and physical wellness.

A general recommendation is to aim for a break of 5-10 minutes every hour, during which you can do some exercises and walk around a bit.

Vary Your Exercises for Maximum Benefits

Switching up your exercises not only keeps your workout routine from becoming boring, but it also engages different muscle groups for more balanced health and strength. During your 5-10 minute breaks, it’s a good idea to do a variety of exercises, doing one set of each so you have enough time for many different exercises . This way, you work different muscle groups and make the most of your short workout time. 

Listen to Your Body and Start Small

Exercising while standing at your desk has its challenges. One of them is knowing your limits. It’s crucial to pay attention to the signals your body sends out during physical activity. Ignoring any discomfort or strain can lead to injuries, putting you out of action for some time.

Starting small with exercises at your workspace helps condition your body without overstrain. If you haven’t been active in a while, don’t rush into demanding workouts on day one.

Start with only a few reps of each exercise you have chosen, taking into consideration your current fitness level and your body’s capability to withstand a full set. The goal is to gradually progress to completing full sets of as many different kinds of exercises as possible. If in doubt, consulting with a fitness professional to determine the right starting point based on your individual circumstances is advisable.


Incorporating these standing desk exercises into your routine can significantly enhance your overall well-being. Start embracing this healthy lifestyle today to experience a more energetic and productive workday.

Remember, you owe it to yourself to keep moving, no matter how busy you are. Make exercise part of your daily office routine for improved health and productivity!


1. What exercises can I do at my standing desk to strengthen my hamstrings and get a stronger backside?

You can place your hands behind your hips, straighten one leg while bending the other, then contract your butt muscles. This simple exercise will help strengthen your hamstrings and give you a stronger backside.

2. How can I improve my balance with standing desk workouts?

Raise your heels off the floor and stand up straight to stretch your legs. Doing this helps improve balance while also giving you a quick standing desk workout.

3. Are there ways to stretch without leaving my desk area?

Yes, try extending one arm across your chest and hold it using the other hand close to the chest level; twisting of torso for few seconds is also effective in stretching without having to leave the work station.

4. What are some easy leg exercises that need minimum space at work?

Pacing or marching in place beside the desk; raising legs alternately by bending knee towards hip level could boost blood flow effectively during office hours; these can be done without any special equipment and require minimal space!

5. Can doing exercises at work really benefit me health-wise?

Absolutely! By simply taking breaks we allow ourselves not only physical relief but mental recharge too – this way we’re making progress towards healthier lifestyles even whilst tackling job responsibilities. Properly making use of a standing desk is not just about how you stand at it but also about your entire routine.