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The Secret To Getting Fit At Your Desk

3 MIN READ • 9th February 2017

Chained to your desk from now until Christmas? Don’t despair if you can’t work out as much as you’d like – there are other ways to burn calories and work muscles!

Scientists can rave about how bad sitting is for the body but, when you’ve got a desk job and deadlines to meet before Christmas, you simply have to sit for hours and hope for the best.

Or do you? Actually, no, you don’t have to leave your health in the hands of fate. While you’re not going to blitz as many calories sitting as you may crush doing a HIIT workout, there are plenty of sneaky ways to burn fat, boost blood flow and tone muscles without leaving the office. So, if you’re snowed under by end-of-year targets, follow these rules to undo some of the negative effects that long hours spent parked at the desk may have on your body.

  • Fidget
    Tap your feet. Drum your fingers on the desk. Life’s fidgets have been found to be naturally-born slim bods. That’s according to an Iowa State University study, for which researchers discovered that those who fidgeted, stood up and walked around intermittently could burn an additional 300 calories per day compared to those who sat still. The take-home message is that lots of small bouts of activity – wiggling in your chair, swinging your legs – can have as great a calorie-burning effect as one large bout of exercise. “Reclining your chair can help to relax the lower back muscles, while tapping your feet or drumming the desk works the larger muscles that help circulate blood around the body,’ explains Katherine Lewis, clinical director at Working Health ( “Gently wiggle your spine or circle your pelvis in the chair to keep your back mobile, not to mention working muscles in the trunk and buttocks.”

  • Squeeze
    You may not be able to see them but you will notice the benefits of working your pelvic floor muscles. Not only do the deep core muscles play a role in reducing incontinence and improving sexual health, but they also help with core stabilisation as well as lessening hip and back pain. Unfortunately, research in the Australian Journal of Physiotherapy shows that sitting in a slumped position or with back support can decrease the amount of pelvic floor muscle activation, which could weaken the core muscle group. Why not work the muscles instead? It’s easy to exercise the pelvic floor group discreetly – simply, squeeze the muscles while sitting in your chair. If you’re unsure about how to find your pelvic floor muscles, download Innovo’s pelvic floor podcasts from for easy-to-follow instructions.

  • Laugh
    The workplace may be one of the last places you expect to have a laugh but, actually, having a sense of humour can be key to success. One study even shows that those who have more fun in the office take fewer sick days, work harder and are more productive. And what’s more, data from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in America reports that laughing for just 10-15 minutes per day can boost your body’s energy burn by an impressive 40 calories. Laugh for 40-60 minutes daily and you’ve blitzed a whopping 160 calories (the same number of calories that a 155Ib person would burn rowing for 20 minutes). How does it work? Experts surmise that laughter increases both the heart rate and body’s movement, which results in up to a 20 percent increase in calorie expenditure. Try starting each day or work meeting with a funny quote to up your giggle count.

  • Switch
    Want to cram some sneaky core exercise into your work day? Lose the office chair and switch it for a stability ball. Sitting on a chair makes your abs switch off, as you slouch towards the desk. But sitting on a moveable platform, such as a stability ball, will encourage you to use good posture, which could work the core and help to prevent back problems. “To stay upright on the ball, your body will naturally perform a series of micro-movements that activate the core abdominal and lumbar muscles,” says master trainer David Howatson. Want a comfy seat? Howatson recommends trying the Technogym Active Sitting Ball (£230; Research shows that it increases trunk motion by 66 percent, which means your muscles spend more time working and less time being inactive while you’re sat at your desk.

  • Rise
    Don’t just sit there! For good health, the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends spending two to four hours standing each day. Fortunately, you don’t need to leave the office to reap the rewards of getting out of your seat. “Our bodies instinctively know how and when to stretch, so listen to your body and move away from your desk every 20-30 minutes,” recommends Lewis. Want to set your watch by it? Research from NASA has shown that standing up for two minutes 16 times a day will help to maintain muscle and bone density.
    If you want to use energy and activate muscles, do some discreet exercises like balancing on one foot or doing calf raises while making the tea. And stretching helps, too: “Standing up and bending backwards is also a great way to alleviate the [muscle-tightening] effects of prolonged sitting.”

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