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Discreet Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk (Seriously!)

Ever worry your desk job is doing a number on your physical health? If the answer is yes, you’re not the only one and you’re not wrong. Research shows that prolonged sitting can increase  your risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes and even death. “Being in a chair for eight hours or more a day does a lot of harm to your body,” says Saara Haapanen, a personal trainer and appointed member of Colorado Governor’s Council for Active and Healthy Lifestyles.

One popular way to combat all that stationary time–doing little bursts of exercise at work. However, while it might sound like a good idea in theory, nobody wants to be that person awkwardly doing squats next to their desk for the whole office to see. Luckily, you can be a lot sneakier than that. “I like to encourage doing secret moves at work,” says Haapanen. “Every little bit of movement you do gets your blood moving and stretches out your muscles. It’s also good to mentally take a break from work for a few minutes!” 

Read on for six desk exercises you can try throughout the day that can help you strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility without breaking a sweat (or clueing your coworkers into what you’re up to).

The Secret Desk Workout:

Seated Secret Core: Sit tall in your chair with your pelvis slightly tilted forward. Pull your belly button up and in. Remember to brace your core (imagine getting ready for someone to hit your belly). Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then relax for a breath or two. Repeat five times.

Marching Core: Move forward in your seat so that you’re sitting on the edge of it. Engage your core and lean slightly back while keeping your back straight. If that’s challenging enough, hold there for 10 to 15 seconds. You can make this harder by lifting one foot off the ground at a time as well. Relax and repeat five times.

Hand Behind Back Chest/Shoulder Opener: Sitting at your desk can make you hunch forward slightly, which tightens up your shoulders and chest muscles. To counteract this, sit in your chair and place one hand on the small of your back, palm facing out. Press the back of your hand into your back while attempting to pull your elbow and shoulder backwards. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 3 times, then replicate on the other side.

Shoulder Blade Pencil Pinches: Think of this as an instant posture improver. Sit up tall, as if you’re balancing a glass of water on your head. Engage your core, then pinch your shoulder blades together (imagine squeezing a pencil between them). Relax and repeat 20 times.

Seated Torso Twist: Sit as tall as possible (pretend there’s a string on the top of your head and someone is pulling it up). Inhale, and when you exhale, twist to one side. While twisted, take five deep breaths, trying to twist a little deeper with each exhale. Repeat on the other side.

Million Dollar Quad Pulses: Sit up as tall as possible and squeeze your inner thighs together (imagine you have a million dollar bill between your legs and you don’t want to let it drop). Straighten one leg and pulse it two to three inches up, maintaining the thigh squeeze the entire time. Pulse 20 times, then repeat with the other leg.

Million Dollar March: Start out the same way as the previous move (sitting tall, squeezing thighs together). Straighten one leg, engage your quad, flex your foot, then return to floor. Repeat on the other side, keeping thighs squeezed together the entire time. Alternate legs, doing 10 times on each side.

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