9 Easy Ways to Burn Calories at Your Desk

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Sitting behind a desk all day can be taxing on both mind and body. From back pain to brain fog, a day at the desk can take a toll! And, finding time to schedule a workout when you’re working full-time can be just as challenging. Our goal is to put the “work” back in “workout” by providing you with some quick and easy calorie burners to do during your workday at your desk, kitchen table or office. And doing this has double benefits – not only will you increase your physical activity and break up the harmful effects of sitting all day, you’ll improve your focus and energy as well. Talk about efficiency and productivity!

Why Pair Work with a Workout?

Again and again, studies have demonstrated how important regular exercise is to our health. Well, there’s also lots of good news and great benefits around moving more at work. Researchers showed in a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that adults who move more in their free time are leaner as they age. The researchers studied activity during free time, but if your job doesn’t allow for a lot of free time, why not incorporate that physical activity during work?

Reduce Stress 

Adding physical activity to your day is a great way to reduce work-related stress, improve mood and energy, increase your metabolism and promote good posture. It can also break up how much sitting you’re doing, as studies have shown the negative effects of sitting on your health. Thankfully, the movements below are easy ways to break up that sitting, and burn extra calories, too!

Small Changes, Big Rewards

Now, the good news is that we’re not asking you to run a mile around the office or do lunges over your entire lunch break. Studies have shown that making small changes that stick are the best way to create healthier habits, which is why we’re sharing easy tips to incorporate more physical activity into your workday. For example, try a standing desk for half an hour. Or, replace your chair with a stability ball, as stability balls are great for engaging your core and burning extra calories – and they can literally keep you on the edge of your seat! And don’t worry about running a mile. Maybe try a brisk walk every hour, or get up to visit your coworkers with questions, instead of chatting or emailing them. If you’re working remote and a drive-by coworker exchange isn’t on the table, we understand! Give them a ring and walk and talk, instead. Any increase in your physical activity, even if it’s just a tiny percent increase, can be a calorie burn and energy boost!

If your schedule is always packed with meetings, you can at least walk between conference rooms at a brisk or moderate pace, flex your leg muscles while you’re sitting, or squeeze in a couple of stretches before you sit down. If exercising at work just isn’t your jam, but you’re still looking to increase the number of calories you’re burning at work, we recommend drinking green tea at your desk. Some studies have shown that green tea can help boost your metabolism, which means you’ll burn more calories. However, while green tea can give your metabolism a temporary jump-start while you’re drinking it, the best way to increase your basal metabolic rate is through exercise.

Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning while your body is at rest. At rest means you’re not executing any extra effort – so, two good examples are sitting at your desk or in your living room. Even something like a brisk walk is not considered at rest, because when you’re walking, you’re temporarily increasing the energy you expend, and thus your metabolic rate. While exercise can temporarily boost your metabolism, the best way to increase your basal metabolic rate is by increasing your muscle mass, as recent studies have shown that muscle burns extra calories, compared to fat. So the more muscle you have, the more percent increase you’ll receive on your metabolic rate. That’s why we recommend the exercises below, particularly strength-training, muscle-building exercises like lunges, push-ups and wall sits.

The information in this article is intended to help you move more at work. If your goal is significant weight loss, these exercises can definitely help, but we’d recommend incorporating gym time and potentially a calorie deficit diet, too. There are a lot of things that contribute to overall health, and different factors work for different people. We think that the below exercises are a great way to break up your sitting habit and keep physical activity in your health journey, even when you’re in the office. Let’s check them out and give them a try!

1. Quick Bursts of Cardio

One easy, fast way to get your heart rate up is with some jumping jacks or a jump rope. We understand that keeping a jump rope at your desk might be tricky, but you can always just jump in place. We recommend trying one minute of cardio for every hour you work to get your heart pumping and decrease stress. If you want to up the ante on your desk workout, you can hold a pair of light weights. It won’t be much time before you’re really sweating!

2. Use The Stairs

Taking the stairs is so common for us that we often don’t think of it as physical activity. Unlike being at your house or apartment, our jobs don’t always give us a reason to visit additional floors, so this is a great way to create your own! You can start using the bathroom or drinking fountain on another floor and take the stairs to get there. We recommend taking two at a time for an extra energy boost.

3. Exercise Ball Chair

Replace your desk chair with a balance ball (also called a stability ball or fitness ball). Sitting on a balance ball requires us to engage our core, unlike sitting on a chair. Balance balls are a great way to help improve your posture, too! If you have a balance ball at your house, you can sit on it in your living room while watching TV for the same effect.

4. Office Yoga

Try desk yoga with seated half moon pose. (This exercise will also be more subtle than standing up and performing jumping jacks!) Interlace your fingers overhead, and start by releasing your thumb and pointer fingers. Extend your arms straight, biceps by your ears. Square shoulders and hips. Point your fingers up and slightly back. Lean to one side. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side. This stretch is a great way to boost your energy and feel refreshed.

5. Chair Lunges

Your desk chair can be your worst enemy or your best friend. Let’s make it the latter with one-legged chair lunges, a move that many personal trainers consider to be a great workout for stronger leg muscles. Stand up, and take one step away from your chair. Bend your right knee, and place the top of your foot on the seat behind you. Place your hands at your hips, or clasp them in front of your chest, and lower down to 90 degrees on each leg. Rise up, and repeat 15 times, and then switch legs. If you do these every hour, we recommend keeping the same order between your right and left leg.

6. Go Ahead and Fidget

Here’s a fun piece of fitness information: Did you know that people who fidget burn more calories? They do this because they’re constantly moving. Do this while you work: from seated, lift your heels about one inch off the floor. Then begin to move your knees up and down, coming up onto your toes. Move faster or slower, or take one leg at a time. This is a great way to incorporate physical activity into your day when you don’t have the energy for jumping jacks or lunges. We wouldn’t recommend to try this during a board meeting, as it can be a little distracting so save this reco for solo desk time. 

7. Desk Push-ups

Use your desk like a piece of gym equipment, such as a bench, by doing push-ups. Place your palms on the edge of your desk, and walk your feet out until your body is in a diagonal, straight line. Lower your chest, bending at your elbows. Push up to the starting position. Repeat until exhaustion.

8. Engage the Booty

We can’t forget about the booty! You don’t even have to get up from your desk for this great lower body exercise. Practice engaging and disengaging your glute muscles (pro tip: you can do this with your abs). For the best results, engage and hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat until exhaustion.

9. Wall Sits Work

Everyone loves a good wall sit. Find some quality wall space during your next water cooler gab sesh. Better yet, get your co-workers to do it with you; they’re sure to appreciate this move. Place your back against the wall with your feet about 1-2 feet away from the wall. Slowly lower down. Aim for a 90 degree bend in the knee. Hold until exhaustion.

There you go! Nine activities you can use to burn calories while at your desk. You can perform these once an hour, or start by doing them once a day before your lunch break. Here’s some helpful information: getting up every 30 minutes will help increase your productivity and focus. So really, there’s no reason not to try these great moves at work! Don’t forget that these tips aren’t just for the workday, either. If you’re having a relaxed day at the house but still want to incorporate physical activity, you can give all of these a try in your living room. Go forth and work(out)!

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