Upper Body Exercises to Do at Work

Upper Body Exercises to Do at Work

Have you heard that sitting too much can lead to a variety of health problems? Many scientific studies suggest that the longer we sit, the more damage we do to our bodies. One of the most disappointing findings of these studies is that a few trips to the gym doesn’t make up for the negative effects of sitting. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, says, “The default has become to sit. We need the default to be standing.” He and other scientists note that most people sit all day, with very short walks to the restroom, to the break room, or to the parking lot. And evidence suggests that brief exercise won’t counteract the negative effects of hours of sitting.

When you’re sitting, you’re usually fairly still, and it’s the lack of movement that causes problems over time. Sitting impedes proper circulation and can also lead to reduced mobility, flexibility, and even muscle loss. When you consider that office workers sit for most of their 8-hour workday, then sit in a car, bus, or train for a commute—and then sit in the evenings while browsing the internet or watching television, that adds up to a lot of sedentary hours each day.

We’ve got some suggestions for upper body movements you can do during your work day:

Chair Dips

An effective exercise for your triceps. With your legs out in front of you, sit on the edge of your chair. Place your hands behind your hips and grab the edge of the seat. Lower yourself down and back up again. Start with 6 to 8 repetitions until you can challenge yourself with more as your arms become stronger.

Desk Push-ups

Without placing your hands on the dirty office floor, here’s how to get strong, toned deltoids and triceps. Place your hands on the edge of the desk, shoulder width apart. Stretch your legs out behind you, lower your chest to the desk, and push up. Continue for a minute or two.

Shoulder Stretch

Here’s an exercise to help release tension and reduce back pain. Stretch one arm across your chest and bring your other arm under and in front of it. Pull your arms close to your chest and hold. Reverse the stretch and repeat.

Side Reach

This one requires a 1- to 5-pound hand weight. Stand with your feet together, hold the ends of one dumbbell with both hands, with your arms extended overhead. Slowly lean to left and hold for one count. Return to start. Repeat on right side to complete one rep. Do 10 repetitions.

Forward Bend

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and your knees slightly bent, with your arms overhead with palms facing in. Lift your right leg and bend your knee so your thigh is parallel to floor. Keeping that knee lifted and your arms raised, bring torso and knee toward each other as close as you can. Return to your starting position, then switch sides and repeat for one repetition. Do 10 repetitions.

Rubber Neck

Stand or sit up tall and drop the right side of your head down towards your right shoulder (they don’t have to touch) and hold for a few seconds and repeat for the left side. For a deeper stretch, place your hand near the opposite ear, and gently pull your head toward your shoulder. Do 3 – 5 repetitions. 


Raise both of your shoulders at once upwards towards your ears and hold for a few seconds then release. Repeat 3 to 5 times.


Stretch your arms out straight parallel with the floor. Then clap, as if you’re trying to motivate a crowd. As your hands return to the starting position, squeeze your back muscles together by pinching your shoulder blades. You'll feel a good burn through your upper back. Continue for 1 – 3 minutes.

Knee Hugger

Lift your right leg up with your knee bent, grab it with your arms, and pull it in as close to your chest as you can. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, return to starting position, then switch to the left for one repetition. Do 3 – 5 repetitions. 

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