These standing desk exercises will help you prevent injury, improve your circulation, and keep your muscles relaxed and invigorated during your work day. These simple stretches will also help you enhance your overall health, elevate your mood, and strengthen your immune system.
As a standing desk user, you probably already know that sitting for hours, whether on the couch watching TV or at your desk working on the computer, can harm your health. In Chinese medicine the concept is even more important because sitting for long periods of time has two damaging effects on the body:
- Blood and qi become stagnant and cannot nourish your organs and muscles, leading to physical and emotional problems.
- Sitting compresses the spine. Qi flows up the back of the spine and down the front. If the spine is compressed, qi stagnates and cannot flow as needed.
You can learn more about how important the movement of qi and blood are in our article on the Difference between Chinese and Western Medicine.
Working at a standing desk is a great way to combat the sitting. To avoid some of the problems that come from standing for too long, it's important to move and stretch your muscles and even sit down every hour.
These simple, easy movements done regularly can have a tremendous, positive impact on your overall health and prevent injuries.
For strained eyes
Too much screen time can harm your eyes, and in turn your liver. Yes, your liver. The eyes are the conduit to the liver in Chinese medicine. Stagnated qi in the liver means your body cannot process toxins as effectively, including germs.
You should complete each of the exercises below, or others you like, at least twice a day.
What standing desk exercises can you do for your eyes?
Read and do - Reduce eye strain
- Rub your hands together
- Close your eyes and place your warmed hands over your eyes for 20 seconds
- Pat your eyes gently with the base of your palms
- Open your eyes
- Repeat 3 times
For a sore neck and tense shoulders
Tight muscles in your neck and shoulder inhibit the smooth flow of blood and qi, which can lead to puffy eyes, a stuffy nose, headache, and more. Even though you might have less tension with a standing desk, the muscles and shoulder still feel the strain that come from working on a computer.
What standing desk exercises can you do for your neck and shoulders?
Video - We have a series of videos designed to release tension in the neck and shoulders. If you watch this first video, you will be able to click on the others in our Standing Desk Exercises playlist.
Read and do - Neck and shoulder exercises
Neck and shoulder massage
- Sit or stand with your spine straight
- With your right fingers together, massage the right side of your neck with your right hand for 15 seconds
- Repeat on the left side
- Return to the right side, but this time you’ll use your left hand
- Put your left fingers together
- Put your left palm on your right shoulder and knead 10-20 times
- Repeat on the left side by kneading with your right hand
- In a sitting or standing position, interlace your fingers with your palms up in front of your belly button
- Lift your hands up to your chest
- Turn your palms up and out as you lift your hands and push them up over your head
- Hold this position for 5 seconds
- Separate your hands and bring them out in an arc, down along your sides
- Interlace your fingers again at your belly button
- Repeat the sequence 3 times
For a tight back and cervical spinal stenosis
These exercises are designed to stretch the spine, release tension that comes from standing, prevent discomfort and pain, allow qi and blood to flow from your head to your toes.
What standing desk exercises can you do for a tight back and cervical spinal stenosis?
Video - When you take a sitting break, this exercise will loosen up tight muscles along the spine and prevent lower back pain. When you reach back, you will stretch your cervical vertebra and open up the chest, preventing forward curvature of the spine.
Read and do - a tight back
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, or sit on the edge of your chair
- If standing, bend your knees slightly
- Tuck your chin into your neck and very slowly roll down
- If standing, roll down as far forward as you can go, resting your hands on your thighs, shins, or the floor
- If sitting, ideally roll down until your head is below your knees
- Take 3 long, slow breaths in this position
- Slowly roll back to standing or sitting, lifting your head last
Video - It's important to sit during the day. Standing for too long can also create physical problems and pain. This seated exercise is great to do when you transition from standing to sitting.
Simple stretches to Release your glutes and hamstrings
As you read, tight hamstrings can cause back problems. By strengthening and releasing your glutes and hamstrings, you take pressure off the back, especially the lower back.
What standing desk exercises can you do for your glutes and hamstrings?
Video - This Squat Break standing desk exercise releases tension in the lower back and strengthens your legs and glutes muscles. It also release tension that builds up at the back of the knees from standing for long periods of time.
Video - Forward folds and side bends stretch your muscles, relieve tension, and improve your circulation.
Read and do - glutes and hamstrings
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing forward
- Bend your knees to a squat, keeping your torso naturally erect
- Put your hands face down at your waist, hip-width apart, fingers facing forward
- Now turn your torso to the left, keeping your hands at the waist
- Next turn back to center, with your hands still at your waist
- Turn your torso to the right, hands at the waist
Don’t forget your feet!
Sitting for long periods restricts the flow of blood and qi to our feet. Moving your knees and feet will help loosen the muscles and open up the flow of vital energy in your body.
What standing desk exercises can you do for your feet and ankles?
Video - Walking on your tip toes stretches and reinvigorates your feet. It also releases tension in your ankles and stretches your toes. Look at a point in the distance to help you balance.
Read and do - Feet and ankles
Rotating the knees
- Stand up with your feet together
- Bend the knees in a squat, putting your hands on your knees
- Lean forward slightly from the waist, eyes looking in front of you
- Rotate your knees clockwise 6-8 times
- Rotate your knees counterclockwise 6-8 times
Raise and lower your heels
- Stand with your feet together
- Place all of the weight on the balls of your feet and slowly lift your heels as high as possible
- Keep your gaze fixed on one point in front of you to hold your balance
- Hold for 1-2 seconds and then release your heels to the ground
- Repeat 6-8 times
Doing these standing desk exercises will keep you healthy and better able to handle the stress and chaos of these changing times. These movements produce immediate benefits that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and full of energy!