Exercises you can do while sitting at your desk

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People who spend long hours sitting at their desks run the risk of developing ailments, from simple fanny spread to a serious, potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. To keep moving, desk-sitters can perform simple but effective exercises while seated at work.

Strengthen your hands

To prevent injury from repetitive hand movements, try simple exercises several times daily. Rotate your hands clockwise, then counter-clockwise, to relax your wrists. Make a fist by wrapping your thumb around your finger, then release and stretch your fingers. Bend your fingers until the fingertips touch the fingers' base. Hold the position for up to 60 seconds, then release and stretch. Repeat the exercise using your thumbs to touch the fingers' base. For another way to stretch your fingers, place your hand palm down on a table or your desk, then raise each finger and lower it.

Strengthen your hands' grips using a soft ball. Squeeze the ball hard for several seconds, then repeat on each hand 10 to 15 times.

Work on your legs and feet

Give your legs and feet a workout, starting by marching in place. Lift your knees and stomp your feet alternately for 60 seconds, and work your way up to running in place.

Keep your ankles limber by rotating your feet in circles clockwise 10 times, then rotate counter- clockwise for another 10.

Start with a beginner's version of jumping jacks: extend one foot to the side and bring it back, while raising one arm overhead. As your endurance improves, put the "jump" in jumping jacks. To stretch your legs, extend one leg out in front of you and hold it for a few seconds; lower it without touching the floor; extend again, hold, lower. Alternate legs for 15 times each.

Get up and try a few leg stretches standing beside your desk. Kick your own buttocks: hold onto a sturdy chair and kick one leg behind you, aiming for your rear end. Alternate legs and work up to 15 times on each leg.

Incorporate stretches into your normal activities: while talking on the phone, turn your body to one side and your head to the other, then switch. Sit up straight and try to press your shoulder blades toward each other. Let your head droop gently toward one shoulder, then lift it and drop it toward the other shoulder. Extend your legs and rotate your feet clockwise, then counterclockwise.

Target your upper body

For an arm and shoulder strengthener, sit in a chair with arms. Grab the chair arms and slowly raise your body off the seat, hold for several seconds, lower without touching the seat and repeat up to 15 times.

Try desk pushups to stretch your calves and strengthen your arms and shoulders: place your hands flat on your desk and step backward as far as you are comfortable. Then push yourself up, hold, and release.

For a standing version of the desk pushup, stand about a foot away from a wall, place your hands flat against the wall at shoulder level, then lean forward and push away 5 to 10 times.

Practice invisible exercises like the buttock clencher; tense your buttock muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then release. Move upward to sucking in your ab muscles and holding for 10 seconds. Women can also practice Kegel exercises by pulling up their pelvic muscles (pretend you have to urinate but there's a line for the ladies' room) and holding for a few seconds.

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