These no-equipment moves will help you tone up during work hours—without disturbing your cubicle mates.
Credit: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury

It’s no secret that a primarily sedentary lifestyle equals an unhealthy lifestyle. The more time you spend parked in a chair (or on your couch), the higher your risk for obesity-related diseases, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Yet despite the warnings, it’s hard to avoid a sitting-centric day, especially if, like the majority of Americans, you work a typical desk job.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Turns out, there are simple things you can do at your desk throughout the day to boost your fitness and combat the effects of a sedentary schedule. The even better news: no equipment (or workout clothes) are required.

Three fitness experts explain how it’s done.

Glute Tap

How to do it: Sit on the edge of your chair with your knees bent and your feet underneath your knees. Press down through your heels to stand up, then lower back down touching your butt onto the chair, then stand back up right away. Repeat 10 times.

Why it works: The dipping motion will burn your glutes, quads and lower legs, says Chicago-based personal trainer and fitness coach Stephanie Mansour.

Shoulder Squeeze

How to do it: After sending an email, reach your arms out to the sides and bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle, like you're a goal post. Squeeze your shoulder blades together 20 times.

Why it works: This move will work your upper back muscles while also improving your posture, says Mansour.

Reverse Crunch

How to do it: Sit up straight in your chair and squeeze your inner thighs together. Bring your knees up towards your chest and then lower them back down. Repeat 10 times.

Why it works: This reverse crunch motion targets your deepest abdominal muscles, your transverse abdominis, as well as your inner thighs, explains Mansour.

Seated Cat and Cow

How to do it: Sit up straight in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Tilt your hips forward, then slowly arch your back and raise your chin up until your shoulders are tucked back and your head is tilted all the way back. Take a few seconds to breathe in this position. Then, reverse the motion by tilting your hips backward and bringing your head down by tucking your chin towards your chest. Make sure to breathe as deeply as you can as you go through the motions. You shouldn't feel any pain while doing this. If you do feel pain, that means you've gone too far, and you need to dial it back. “If you're familiar with the regular yoga version of cat cow (done on your hands and knees), you'll have no problem performing this move,” explains Tyler Spraul, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and head trainer at

Why it works: It keeps your spine mobile and “breaks up the hunching pattern that we tend to get stuck in at our desks,” says Spraul.

Neck Stretch

How to do it: After hanging up your phone after each phone call, drop you right ear towards your right shoulder, and stretch the left side of your neck for two deep breaths. Come back to center, and repeat on the other side.

Why it works: You’ll stretch the side of your neck from your ear all the way down to your shoulder, says Mansour. “If you have chronic neck tension, or stress headaches, this stretch is great for you to loosen up the muscles of the upper back and neck,” she adds.

Seated Lateral Reach

How to do it: Sit upright in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Reach your left hand down on your left side towards the floor, stretching out the muscles on the right side of your abdomen and rib cage. Concentrate on using your side abdomen muscles (your “obliques”) to bring yourself back to an upright position. Keep your right shoulder aligned with your left for 5 reps. Then, do 5 more with your right shoulder slightly leaning forward. Lastly, do 5 reps with your right shoulder slightly leaning back. Repeat on the other side. Aim for 15 reps on each side every 2 hours.

Why it works: It brings mobility to your spine and strengthens the muscles in your
love handle” area, says Sergio Rojas, an Iowa-based personal trainer and USANA associate.