An introduction to 'deskercise'
‘Deskercise’ is a popular topic these days, with so many office workers struggling to fit exercise into their busy daily schedule. However, many suggested exercises are a bit unpractical for the average office worker: if you have a private office with a door then you might get away with doing squats or lunges by your desk, but many of us work in shared office spaces or cubicles – and no one wants to be caught doing a downward-facing dog in the middle of the office floor.
Nevertheless, promoting circulation in the legs is vital for preventing discomfort and stiffness, as well as the development of varicose veins, so you should try to do some leg exercises at your workplace where possible. Our recommended leg exercises are therefore simple and subtle, so you can get away with doing them under your desk without receiving any strange looks.
8 desk exercises for your legs
Here are our suggestions of simple, practical exercises for your legs that you can do at work without looking crazy or disturbing others:
#1 – Leg lifts. While sitting at your desk keep one foot on the floor and raise the other leg straight out in front of you so it’s parallel with the floor. Hold for five seconds, then lower and repeat with the other leg. Keep going until you have raised each leg 10 times. If you want to make this a little more challenging, try tracing a circle with your toes while your leg is lifted.
#2 – Ankle flexes. With your feet pressed firmly on the floor and your legs at a 90 degree angle, lift both heels up off the floor, lower, and then lift both toes up off the floor, pulling them towards your shins. Try to keep a steady rocking motion going. Or, you can alternate your feet so the toes on one foot are raised while the heels on the other are raised.
#3 – In a similar exercise, stretch your legs out in front of you with your feet hovering just above the ground. Raise the toes of your right foot towards your shin, bending your ankle – you should feel your calf muscle stretch. Simultaneously stretch the toes on your left foot towards the ground. Then switch, simultaneously lowering your right toes to the ground and raising the left ones towards your shin. Try to keep a steady rhythm going for 30 seconds.
#4 – Thigh squeeze. Take a small ball to work with you – something with a little give, like a tennis ball. Hold the ball between your knees and squeeze it for 5 seconds. Then relax your legs a little – but don’t drop the ball! Repeat 10-15 times.
#5 – Calf raises. Not really a desk exercise, but perfect for when you’re waiting by the printer, copier or microwave. Simply lift both heels off the ground so your weight is on your toes, and then lower and repeat.
#6 – Foot taps. Rapidly tap your toes for 30 seconds (or longer if you like) to keep blood pumping. Or, if you want to engage your core muscles, try tapping your whole feet as though running on the spot.
#7 – Walk. This is an easy one! Whenever you get the chance to, try to fit in a short walk. This could be by going to visit a co-worker instead of emailing them, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or taking a five minute walk after lunch.
#8 – Lastly, wiggle your toes. While not as effective as some of the more challenging exercises, keeping your toes moving will encourage good circulation, and it’s so easy to do.
Are there any herbal remedies that might help?
If you find that a long day sitting at your desk leaves you with stiff, aching legs, you might want to try an extract of Horse Chestnut to complement your leg exercises.
Our extract of Horse Chestnut, Venagel, is great for relieving tired, aching legs. Just rub a little on the affected area to relieve your symptoms.
Other handy tips for good health at work
Other ways to boost circulation and improve your overall health at work include:
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed at the knee as this slows down circulation. If you have to cross your legs, cross them at the ankles
- Suggest ‘standing meetings’ with your boss – it’s worth a try, and everyone would benefit from it!
- Drink plenty of water – not only does this help improve circulation, but the extra trips to the bathroom are a good excuse for a quick walk
- Correct your posture. Make sure you sit up straight – no slouching! Adjust your chair height so that your knees are in line with your hips and your hands are in line with or just below your elbows. If your desk is too high, add a foot rest to bring you knees in line with your hips
- Your computer monitor should be about arms-length away and the top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level
- If back pain at work is your problem, have a look at Earle's blog post on exercises for back pain at work.