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Pilates Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

Extra stress at work? Try these exercises.


When you spend your day at a desk, hunched over a computer, your upper body starts to round forward, your shoulders start to get tight, and good posture goes out the window. You can do these Pilates exercises at your desk, and they’ll help strengthen the upper back muscles and stretch stiff muscles. The following instructions guide you through these Pilates exercises and the accompanying video provides a helpful visual.

The first of these exercises is called a Spine Stretch Forward. It's performed sitting in your desk chair, with your arms relaxed at your sides.

  1. Inhale, stretching your spine as tall as you can.
  2. As you exhale, nod your chin down toward your chest and slowly round your body forward, one vertebra at a time, holding your abs in. Relax your shoulders to get a nice stretch through the upper back.
  3. Inhale as you slowly lengthen your way back up, growing two inches taller at the top.

The next of these Pilates exercises you can do at your desk is a sitting version of The Spine Twist, and it also strengthens the upper back muscles. Sitting in your chair, position your arms straight out in front of you.

  1. Bend your left elbow and twist your upper body to bring your elbow back. Perform this movement on three short exhales, pulling your abs in and twisting to look all the way behind you.
  2. Inhale as you return your arm back to center, getting taller.

Perform the same movement with your right arm and then alternate between arms.

Another Pilates exercise you can try at your desk is a side stretch that helps lengthen through the sides of the body. To begin, go into a sitting version of Mermaid.

  1. Inhale, and reach your right arm up toward the ceiling.
  2. As you exhale, reach your right arm up and over to the left, stretching the right side of your body as you let your head hang down to the left.
  3. Inhale as you lift back up.

Repeat this movement on the other side and then alternate between both arms.

The final exercise is designed to stretch the front of your legs, which can become tight when you sit for many hours at a time. It's performed standing up, holding onto the back of your chair for balance.

  1. Bend your right leg at the knee, pulling it back, and grab onto your toe with your right hand.
  2. Squeeze your glute and press through the front of the hip, holding the foot a little bit away from you, pressing forward and scooping the tailbone under.

Hold the stretch, then turn to face the opposite direction and repeat with your right leg.

For best results, these Pilates exercises should be performed daily or even several times throughout the day. They'll help you strengthen your upper back, elongate your spine, and improve your posture after a long day sitting at your desk.

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