10 Easy Stress Relief Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk or Anywhere

Exercise is a great stress-buster. Even moderate physical activity will increase your blood flow, bringing more rejuvenating oxygen to your brain. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that lift your mood and wash away stress. Strength training exercises relieve muscle tension created by the stress response. Flexing your muscles will boost your overall sense of peace and well-being. However, finding room in your schedule for regular workouts can be a challenge

The American Heart Association recommends you get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day and suggests you engage in muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. This may be a tall order if you are already overbooked, but the good news is, you can spread out your exercise throughout the day and still get the same benefits. Take advantage of “gap” times in your schedule, those in-between times when you are waiting for the photocopier to print up a job or riding an elevator, to get in some exercise. Below are 10 exercises that you can do almost anywhere to get the blood flowing and calm the stressful chatter in your mind.

Lower body

  1. Walking lunges — increase the length of your stride while walking. Pause with each step to lower your hips, making a 90-degree lunge with your forward leg.
  2. Calf raises — place your hands on a desk or the back of a chair for balance. Raise your heels until you are standing on your toes. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then slowly lower your heels to the floor.
  3. Leg extensions — push your chair away from your desk. Extend one leg until it is level with your hip. Point, and then flex your toes four or five times. Repeat with other leg.
  4. Plié squats – take a Sumo wrestler stance (feet more than hip-width apart, toes pointed out.)  Place your hands on your hips, tighten your abdominal muscles and bend your knees into a squat, sinking your hips as low as you can go. Slowly rise up to starting position.  

Upper body

  1. Chair dips — sit on the edge of your chair. Grip the sides of your chair seat beside your hips. Slide your bottom over the edge of the chair, slowly lower, and raise your body in front of your chair.
  2. Standing push up — place your hands flat on a desk or tabletop. Lean into the furniture, and then push yourself away from it.
  3. Arm swings — hold your arms out from your sides so they are parallel to the ground. Swing them across your chest as if giving yourself a hug.
  4. Necks rolls — tilt your head to one side as if trying to touch your shoulder with your ear. Gently roll your head forward, down towards your chest, and bring it back up by your opposite shoulder. Return your head to its normal position and repeat.


  1. Oblique twists — sit up straight in your chair. Reach behind your back with your right arm to touch your left hip, following the movement with your shoulders and head. Hold this position for a few seconds. Release and repeat with left arm reaching to right hip.
  2. Abdominal stretches —sit or stand up straight. Lace your fingers together as if in prayer. Stretch your arms forward while rotating wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you body. When arms are completely extended, raise them up over your head while contracting your abdominal muscles. Hold for five seconds, then lower arms into starting position.