Throughout the pandemic, more people have been choosing to exercise at home. And recently, certain market trends and projections in Europe have seemed to indicate that the change, to some extent, is permanent. Specifically, this past February a report indicated that the European e-commerce fitness product market is expected to grow from USD 256.1 million in 2019 to roughly USD 447.9 million by 2027.
This is due in large part to the isolation and physical distancing imposed in the earlier days of the pandemic. Gyms and other public workout spaces were closed, and people figured out ways to exercise at home as well (in some cases, no doubt, by looking through some of our own home exercise programs!). It is also likely part of a natural progression, however; with virtual exercise classes and ever-improving home equipment available, a transition toward more home workouts makes some sense even without consideration of the pandemic.
Beyond this general trend toward at-home exercise, however, we also know that more people are working at home. According to survey data at WeForum, some 12.3% of Europeans had switched to at-home work as of the spring of 2021. That was up from about 5% before COVID-19.
Now, ideally, people working from home are finding time to fit in their exercise as well. But we understand that an at-home job can still mean a lot of hours and that it can be difficult to leave your desk over the course of the day. And this leads us to a simple question: Can you still work to burn calories and build muscle while at your work desk?
The answer is yes, and to help get you started we have a few simple exercise suggestions.
This one is as simple as it sounds. Believe it or not, simply contracting your glutes repeatedly as you sit can build strength. In fact, a study on gluteal squeezes found that this exercise is every bit as effective as bilateral bridges (despite how easy squeezes are to do!). Working in just 15 minutes of squeezes each day can result in stronger gluteal muscle, as well as improved hip extension strength (both of which can also help to protect your back from strain).
The leg lift is a suggestion we found in a Gala Bingo article on toning up, which was aimed specifically at people who sit at their desks for lengthy gaming sessions. Whether you’re sitting for repeated online bingo games or just doing your job from home though, the occasional set of leg lifts makes for an easy way to build muscle. As the aforementioned article explains, the exercise is simple: Stay seated with your back straight, lift one or both legs until they’re parallel to the floor, then lower and repeat. If you’re up to it, you might also consider adding a small ankle weight for added resistance and greater results.
Isometric holds can actually account for a number of different exercises, working different muscle groups. This idea comes from a Healthline piece on static strength training, essentially pointing to exercises people can do without space or tools. In general, an isometric exercise is simply one in which you hold a position with your muscles contracted –– but you do not move. One example at your desk would be to hold the bottom of your chair, keep your back straight, and raise your shoulders, holding them with resistance. Another would be to place your hands palm-up under your desk, and raise them against the resistance as if you’re doing a curl. Exercises like these will build muscle over time, almost like an isometric lifting routine.
The beauty of the exercises above is that they don’t require equipment. At the same time, however, it’s easy enough to invest in a few dumbbells to keep on the floor beside your desk. With such weights on hand, you can pause your work for brief intervals to do straightforward bicep curls. Keep your back straight, hold the weight tightly, and lift with the elbow bending. Lower slowly, repeat, and figure out how many reps to start your sets with.
If you do invest in dumbbells, you can also go a step further than those isometric poses tugging at the bottom of your chair. Instead, you can sit up straight, hold the weights out to the sides (elbows out, parallel to the ground), and lift them up, slowly, until your arms are nearly straight. From there you can lower them slowly, and repeat to your point of resistance. This too will help you to build arm and shoulder muscle while at your desk.
Again, the ideal situation when working from home is to be able to find time for full, at-home exercise routines. For those times when you can’t step away though –– or if you just want to keep your blood pumping throughout the day –– desk workout options like these make for excellent solutions.