23 exercise ideas and tips for remote workers
When you’re working from home, remembering to exercise is even more difficult. Plus, if you’re unable to get to a gym or sports center, you might not have much space to work with. But even if you don’t have a physically demanding job, keeping physically fit and active is still super important. Not just for your body, but for your brain!
Good physical fitness can reduce stress, increase productivity and inject energy. So with this in mind, we’ve put together the top 23 ideas and tips to help you keep your blood pumping, even if you’re working in a cramped home-office environment.
Exercises you can do at your desk
While some of these activities may need you to stand up, you should be able to do them without having to find any extra space. And even though some of them don’t even require you to get out of your chair, these ideas are very effective for pumping blood around the body, and reminding your muscles what they’re capable of.
1. Start the day by planking
Before you even sit at your desk, a great habit to get into is to start your day with a plank hold. Just move your chair to one side, and clear the floor a little around you – you only need enough space to lay down, and you won’t be moving much.
A plank hold is where you lay down facing the floor, and then hold your head, torso and legs in a straight, downward-sloping line by propping yourself up with your forearms and your toes. Then just stay there for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, two minutes, or however long you can.
This might sound easy, but give it a try before you make that assumption – planking is tough! The world record for holding a plank position may well be 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds… but you might find it difficult to hold for longer than a minute or two.
2. Do a few leg lifts
Leg lifts can be done while sitting, and are simple but effective. All you need to do is lift your legs off the floor, straighten them both and rest them on an imaginary stool, and hold still for 10 seconds. Then, slowly return your feet to the floor, and repeat around a dozen times.
This is actually really difficult, and gets harder with each repetition. But this will help to build strength in your legs, which is important if you spend a lot of time sitting down.
If you’re really struggling, try starting with just one leg. Of course, if you fancy a challenge, then add weights to your ankles!
3. Perform stationery curls
Don’t get up. Just search your desk, or your surroundings, for a small weight. A closed bottle of water will do, or perhaps some heavy stationery such as a large stapler. Hint: don’t use your coffee for this, unless you want to make a mess!
Now you’re going to hold the object in front of you, with your arm held out straight parallel to your thigh, and with your palm facing the ceiling. Grip the object you selected, and then bend your elbow to curl the object towards your chest. Pause where you are, and then slowly lower the object back down, so that your arm is parallel to your thigh once more.
Repeat this around a dozen times, and then swap hands. You might find you want to adjust the object depending on its weight – different weights will suit different people. But it doesn’t have to feel super heavy or challenging in order to be effective. What you’re trying to achieve, is to keep your arms – not just your fingers – active. So repeat this as often as you like throughout the day.
4. Try some shoulder blade pinches
Arms and legs are the obvious limbs to practice moving, but the torso and shoulders are often forgotten. So a great exercise you can do without leaving your desk, is the shoulder blade pinch.
To do this, simply push your shoulders back so that your shoulder blades “pinch” towards each other. Hold this for 10-15 seconds, and then slowly release. Keep this up with around a dozen repetitions, before giving it a rest.
If you’re not sure whether you’re doing it right – or if you just want to take this exercise idea to the next level – then try holding a (blunt) pencil between your shoulder blades, and see if you can keep it there until you start to release.
5. Run on the spot
It’s important to remember cardio activities. These are vigorous exercises that get your heart pumping blood around your body, which will help you to stay alert and
It’s important to remember cardio activities. These are vigorous exercises that get your heart pumping blood around your body, which will help you to stay alert and energized.
A great idea for cardio at your desk, is to simply stand up and jog on the spot for 60 seconds without stopping. Try to lift your knees as high as possible, to get the full effect – but be careful not to knock anything delicate onto the floor!
Ideally, you want to take a break from sitting at your desk every 45 minutes or so, but even if you don’t feel able to leave your desk, a vigorous 60-second on-the-spot jog may well be just enough to help you power through your next session.
Don’t forget to work your face
Many people think about exercises involving their most obvious muscles and body parts. But don’t forget to pay attention to your face! It’s so easy to sit scowling at a screen when you’re puzzling over something, without even realizing you’re doing it. But do that for too long, and you may end up feeling tight, achy, and contributing to wrinkles on your skin.
Here are some simple facial exercises to help strengthen your muscles, tighten your skin, and reduce your chance of wrinkles, increase blood circulation, and release tension in the face and neck.
6. Do a cheek workout
OK, this one starts with a big wide smile. Once you’re smiling, push the fingertips of each hand, into the folds between your nose and lips. Then, use your cheek muscles to keep pushing “up”, while pushing down against this movement with your fingers. This will strengthen your cheek muscles, and keep you looking bouncy and fresh.
7. Tighten your neck and jowls
This one feels a little uncomfortable, but is easy enough to do. First, you need to push your tongue into the roof of your mouth. Then, look up at the ceiling. Now smile, and swallow. It might feel a bit silly, but keep going for 30 seconds, and repeat this as often as you like throughout the day.
8. Give your forehead a workout
Another one that might make you feel a bit silly, but don’t be shy. To work the skin and muscles around your forehead, start by frowning as deeply as you can, while pushing your eyebrows down. It helps to imagine you’re trying to cover your eyes with your eyebrows. Then, do the opposite – lift your eyebrows up as high as you can get them, and open your eyes nice and wide. Do both of these activities five times.
9. Tone your lips
To exercise and tone your lips, sit down and look forward. Now tip your head back a little, and pucker up – push your lips as far forward as you can get them. Hold this for around 10 seconds if you can, then take a short break, before repeating five times.
Ideas for people with a little more space
If you have a little bit of floor space, or perhaps some garden space, then there are more things you can do to stay fit and active while working from home. Here are some of our favorites.
10. Join an online yoga class
You don’t have to go to a physical yoga class to get the benefits of yoga. Many instructors offer yoga sessions via video conferencing services like Zoom. You can of course follow pre-recorded sessions via sites like YouTube, but we think it’s better to get some interactivity, and join in with an active group of people who will be able to encourage you and keep your spirits high.
You don’t need too much to join in with yoga. Just a mat of some sort, especially if you have a hard floor, and plenty of water to hand – it’s thirsty work.
11. Try some couples yoga
If you live with your partner, there is a ton of material out there offering ideas on yoga poses you can benefit from as a twosome. There are too many individual techniques and poses to list here, but websites like Ryan and Alex have a load of really cool ones to get you started.
The great thing about couples yoga, is it offers unique new challenges, which keeps things fresh if you’re already used to the traditional yoga poses. And you may find it’s a great way to bond and connect with your significant other, especially if you’re spending lots of time cooped up together.
12. Have a dance party
Who says exercise has to be all about structured routines and professional techniques? Many people swear by starting the morning with a solo dance party, to add a bit of positivity and energy into the day. Just flick your favorite upbeat song on, and dance like nobody’s watching. You’ll get your blood pumping, and your body will thank you with plenty of endorphins.
Of course, if you’re feeling a little self-conscious, then you might want to close the curtains.
13. Give the seven-minute workout app a go
If you search “seven-minute workout” on your app store, you’ll find a fantastic app that will guide you through various workouts that you can do in your own home, which take just seven minutes at a time.
“I do a few of these a day,” writes one reviewer. “They really work up a sweat and have me gasping for air at the end.”
The best thing about the seven-minute workout app, is that their programmes are designed especially for people who are doing the workouts at home, and who have no special equipment. And while there are some in-app purchases available, you can use the app completely free – so there’s nothing stopping you getting started.
14. Get an at-home spin bike
Cycling is great exercise. But it’s not always possible to get out and ride your bike. The weather might be terrible, or you might have to stay at home to look after the kids.
If you can afford it, get a stationary cycling machine that you can use from home to do your own personal “spin” workout. You could follow a YouTube video as a guide, or just hop on and start cycling.
Make sure you actually use the bike every day though – you don’t want it to become a permanent coat hanger!
15. Do a video workout with your kids
If you have kids, then finding time to exercise can be tough. So why not get them involved? There are plenty of workout videos available on YouTube that are perfect for kids, but which will give adults some really good exercise too.
This kind of workout routine became particularly popular during the COVID-19 lockdown, with people like Joe Wicks streaming regular live workouts aimed especially for kids who were missing out on PE. But the surprising thing was that just as many adults were getting involved with it, and it proved a really good family-friendly way to get the daily workout done.
16. Take some trampoline time
On the subject of kids, if you have a trampoline, this is a great form of exercise – either with your kids, or without.
Put some fun music on if you can, and then get yourself bouncing. Whether it’s a small exercise trampoline, or a gigantic number in your garden, a 15-minute trampoline break can help with lymphatic detoxing, can build your muscles, and generally makes you feel good.
17. Do a quick jump rope workout
Get a skipping rope out, and do bursts of skips – 20, 50, or 100 at a time, depending on your level of fitness and how much time you have available.
The good thing about skipping ropes, is that as well as being very effective, they don’t cost much. And if you really don’t want to buy one, you can even make your own.
A great way to maximize this technique’s effectiveness, is to do some lunges to recover after each repetition, and have a little stretch, then repeat two or three times.
Getting out and about
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you have to stay in the home. But sometimes, finding time to actually leave the house for exercise can be a challenge. So here are a few tips for getting a bit more outdoor exercise during your daily work from home routine.
18. Do the school run on foot
It may sound obvious, but if you normally do the school run in the car, you could simply switch to walking. It’s really good to get some walking into your daily routine, and for many, the school run is a great way to do this.
You may already be walking to and from school to deliver or collect the kids. But if you’re not, give it a try – even if it feels like you live too far away. A 30-minute walk each morning and afternoon is a really great way to make sure you’re moving those muscles every single day.
19. Jog to the shops instead of walking
Whenever you might normally walk to the nearest shop for something, make a point of jogging instead of walking. This simple change in habit will help your body get more active, and deliver better blood flow around your body.
20. Hold ‘walking meetings’
Walking meetings are already a thing for people who work in the same office. But there’s no reason why you can’t adopt this practice even if you’re a remote worker – and you can encourage your colleagues to join you.
Whenever you are due to take a call that does not require you to look at a screen, make a point of setting off walking while you talk. Keep walking the whole time, taking care of course when crossing roads!
There are a number of benefits to walking meetings, beyond just improving your physical health. In fact, according to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche way back in 1889, “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
A study by Oppezzo and Schwartz from Stanford University looks deeper into the benefits of walking on creativity, concluding that 81% of people demonstrated more divergent thinking after walking. So if you are trying to solve a problem with colleagues, make sure you walk and talk!
Extra tips to help you move more when you’re remote working
Here are some other great tips and ideas we’ve come across over the years, which we know can be really helpful for remote or home workers.
21. Wear your workout clothes during the day
This odd little tip is actually really effective, and some people swear by it.
Quite simply, when you get up in the morning, commit to getting dressed into your workout gear. It’s an easy commitment to make, and an easy commitment to keep – so already, you’ll feel like you’re doing something proactive towards staying fit and healthy. But as well as helping you get into the positive workout mindset, it also has a really practical benefit, too.
You see, the next time you find you have 10 minutes free to go for a jog, you won’t need to worry about changing out of your stuffy work clothes and into something more comfortable. You’re already ready to go!
Committing to wearing your workout gear when you wake up, isn’t an exercise in itself. But it certainly makes daily exercise far more likely.
22. Set alarms to remind you to stretch
There’s a lot of debate about how long each ‘burst’ of work should last, before you stand up and stretch. Experts argue that you should work in bursts of anything from 20 minutes to 90 minutes, before taking a break. But whatever chunk you choose, a great approach is to set a series of alarms throughout the day, which simply remind you to stand up and stretch.
It’s so important to take a break from sitting during the day, and while you’re up, it’s a great chance to stretch out those muscles.
23. Stand up to take calls
Whenever your phone rings, make a habit of standing up before you answer it. At the very least, this will help you to break the sit-down cycle more often. After all, even an action as simple as standing up and sitting down has some positive impact on your body.
But you might just find that when you stand up to take a call, you don’t sit down until the call has ended. And you might even find yourself pacing around the room, the house, or even the neighborhood, while you have your conversation.
What exercise tips and ideas have worked best for you?
If you’re a remote worker, we’d love to hear what methods have worked best for you, to keep you fit and healthy during the day. Do you do any of the techniques listed above? Or maybe there’s a trick we’re missing? Get in touch and let us know – we’ll update this article with your ideas!