Whether we work the traditional 9-to-5, or some more offbeat hours, one thing is clear…
We spend a lot of our time at work.
The struggle then becomes - how do you stay fit AND do well at work? It isn’t always easy to sneak away to the gym on your lunch break (come on, we all love to eat, too)!
Spending all day sitting down presents a host of potential health issues. But even if you’re spending much of your work-day sedentary, you can still add a workout into the mix by keeping some exercise equipment in your office!
From my experience and research, the best exercise equipment for the office cubicle includes resistance bands, under-desk ellipticals, balance and fitness balls, under-desk exercise bikes, and balance boards.
(Amazon links to my favorite:)
With these tools, you can stay fit at your desk, even during busy workdays.
The Importance of Staying Active During the Work Day
It can be difficult to stay active when you’re working. A sedentary lifestyle is dangerous. But did you know that staying active while at work can help reduce your stress, improve your productivity, AND make you more healthy?
To take advantage of the health benefits of working workouts (see what I did there?), you need to find equipment you can use right at your desk or in your cubicle.
Let me break down a couple of key things you should be paying attention to when you're shopping for what you need:
Make sure that the exercise equipment is constructed with high-quality materials. Because you’re going to be working out at your desk, you’re going to want exercise equipment that you can transport from the office to home (if you’re planning on using it elsewhere).
In addition to bettering your health, your office workout is designed to help reduce some of your stress during the day. Staying active - and not stressing out - can help with relaxation, lower blood pressure, and more. A resistance band snapping in the middle of your workout - or your balance ball deflating while you sit on it at the computer - are going to cause you more stress than benefits.
When you’re doing your research, consider some of the well-known brands, their reputations, and how they got those reputations. See what the customer service is like for well-known brands, and how they might help you if you are unsatisfied with your product.
Because you’re going to be working out in your office cubicle, there are a number of factors at play - product size, noise level, space. You’re going to want products that are of better quality, with better warranties, so that you can keep them if they’re working out - or return them if one of those factors gets in the way.
I understand how super low prices may call to you (believe me - I really do). However, don’t choose exercise equipment just based on cost. Consider how it might fit in with your current exercise routine, what impact you’re looking for it to have, how often you want to use it, and brand. If you’re looking for exercise equipment that you might only use once per week, it makes sense to spend less than if you’re trying to find something you can use daily. That’s not saying that all products with low costs are bad!
1. Resistance Bands
Overview: If you’re looking to stay in shape at work, resistance bands are key. They are easy to fold up and store when not being used. Resistance bands tend to be made of rubber or latex, and may include plastic handles. They can be used for stretching, weight loss, or body shaping. Exercises can include biceps curls, squats, lunges, or back rows.
Major Pros: Many high-quality exercise bands come at an affordable price, making them an option for all office workers or anybody looking for a good exercise. Exercise bands can also be used in a variety of ways. There is a multitude of information online with potential exercises. Even if you’re a beginner, you’ll be all set to get the most out of your workout! If you do not have a lot of extra time during the day, or a lot of cubicle space, these are great. You do not even need to stand up from your desk to workout! During your lunch break, or in between projects, you can stand and utilize the resistance bands for a full-body workout. You can also wear them around your knees and do stretches while at your desk.
Major Cons: One frustrating element of exercise bands is when they roll up during use. You don’t want to have to unroll your resistance bands if they scrunch up around your knees or thighs in the middle of an office workout. Thinner bands mean that there is an increased chance in roll up. Some of the heavier bands may get sticky, leading to the possibility of the band snapping or ripping. When it comes to exercise bands, it is important to check the material that they are made of, as certain materials are less durable and more prone to breaking.
Resistance Band Suggestion: High-quality exercise bands from Fit Simplify are an affordable option for office workers looking for an easy office workout. The Fit Simplify exercise bands come in 5 resistance levels. The company offers a lifetime money-back guarantee. At just 3.53 ounces, these lightweight bands can be easily stored in your desk when not in use. Unlike other resistance bands, these are made out of 100% latex.
2. Under-Desk Ellipticals
Overview: An under-desk elliptical is a sturdy, low-impact machine that offers a great cardio workout. The amount of calories burned by an elliptical trainer is similar to the number of calories you’d burn if you went jogging. However, you can now get an effective cardio workout at your desk while reducing the impact on your joints, knees, and back. Many under-desk ellipticals can be used either sitting or standing, making them a great fit for office users regardless of their desk height
Major Pros: An under-desk elliptical is a convenient way to fit in a great cardio workout into your day, all while also improving muscle tone and strength. You can sit at your desk and pedal forwards or backward to engage different muscles in your legs while increasing your stamina. A lot of ellipticals come with the ability to adjust the level of tension, meaning that you can create a workout that suits you.
You can also stand, whether you are somewhere in your cubicle or at a standing desk, and use the elliptical for a full-body workout. This makes an under-desk elliptical extremely versatile, as it can adjust to being used in whatever setting you need it for. Once done, you can tuck it away under your desk, in the corner of the cubicle, or just simply place it under your standing desk for storage!
Major Cons: Have you ever had a coworker with an extremely loud keyboard? Anything in the office that makes extra noise can be exasperating. But some people say that under-desk ellipticals can be a little squeaky, making it a lot harder to exercise discreetly. Not only while squeaking pedals make it harder to focus on your workout, but it may cause your coworkers to get angry with you as well. Some under-desk ellipticals are also on the larger side, weighing upwards of 15 or 20 pounds. Although they are still movable and portable, the added weight could make it harder to move them around. If you have it under your desk, the possibility of having to move around the weight could make it less likely for you to want to pull it out for a new or innovative workout.
Under-Desk Elliptical Suggestion: Try the Stamina InMotion Elliptical Trainer. It sells at an affordable price point, which makes it a good option for people who may be new to using an elliptical or are looking for a good in-office workout. This elliptical offers adjustable tension, a fitness monitor, and non-slip, textured pedals. It is easy to assemble, but may have a problem with squeaking.
3. Balance & Fitness Balls
Overview: A balance or fitness ball goes by many names - you may know it as an exercise ball, a stability ball, or a physio ball. You can find them in many gyms and, maybe soon, your office! Most balance balls are made out of durable rubber, designed to withstand a lot of weight without bursting or deflating. Some balance balls come pre-inflated, but many need to be pumped with air. Balance balls are generally fairly affordable and are also easy to use for both new and seasoned individuals.
Major Pros: If you’re looking to work on your core muscles and your flexibility, a balance ball is a much-needed tool. By sitting on it and not having something to rest your back on, your core muscles must engage in order to keep you upright. In doing so, you are strengthening your core, back, and even shoulders. Using a balance ball will help you better your coordination and your balance. These effects, while helpful at work, will also create a more relaxed and stronger “you” while out in public.
A balance ball is a great tool, as well, if you have issues with lower back pain. By adjusting your spinal alignment, and improving muscle strength, your mobility will improve. If you have space in your office cubicle, you can also do more than replace your office chair with the ball. Part of the fun of a balance ball is its versatility, as it can be used while sitting, standing, or in the midst of a variety of workouts (crunches, planks, hip abductors, and more)! Have a good time with it - and better your health while you do.
Major Cons: A balance ball can be slightly large, and might take up space in your cubicle or office. Because it has to be inflated in order for you to use it, it is inefficient to inflate and deflate it every day. So keeping it in your office might mean that you have less room. Low-quality balance balls may not hold their inflation very well, meaning more frustration if you have to consistently pump it up. Finally, you need to make sure that your balance ball is round, rather than oblong or any other strange shape, so that you can get the best results.
Balance Ball Suggestion: For a great balance ball, try the Epitomie Fitness Active Balance Fitness Ball. This budget ball includes 13 exercises printed right on the side of it, as well as an overview of proper balance ball form. Even if you’re just getting in a quick workout, you’ll be sure that you’re doing exercises that count. The Epitomie fitness ball comes with a free eBook, an air pump, two air plugs, and an air plug remover. It can hold over 2,000 pounds - Epitomie even ran a car over it to see if it would burst (it didn’t)! But if it doesn’t hold up for you, they have a lifetime guarantee.
4. Under-Desk Exercise Bikes
Overview: Under-desk exercise bikes are small, portable stationary bikes designed to fit under small surfaces. These bikes offer a low-impact cardio workout that can be performed while sitting at even the lowest of desks. Many mini exercise bikes offer varying levels of resistance and tension. By changing the settings, you can create a more challenging and intense workout. This will help increase your energy expenditure and release stress while at work, making for a more productive workday.
Major Pros: Generally speaking, under-desk exercise bikes are fairly quiet. This is especially great for an office, because you don’t want to annoy your coworkers with your workout. It’s hard to reduce stress when everybody else is getting upset! But the silence of the under-desk exercise bikes mean you can really tune into your work (and your workout) without causing problems. Many exercise bikes for your office cubicle also offer digital monitors, meaning you can track calorie loss, speed, distance, and more - all without leaving your desk!
No more having to pretend running around all morning looking for coffee is your daily cardio! If your mini bike is portable and lightweight enough, you can also move it on top of your desk and pedal with your arms in your free time, strengthening arm muscles.
Major Cons: Unfortunately, not all mini bikes work with all desk levels. Some bikes may be a little too tall for low desks, meaning that your knees are going to get knocked against your desk. Let’s be serious - nobody wants to work out if it’s going to be painful or inconvenient for them. So finding a mini exercise bike that fits under your specific desk may be a bit of a hassle. Under-desk exercise bikes may also be somewhat slippy, meaning they will slide away if not firmly placed on a surface or backed against the wall.
Under-Desk Exercise Bike Suggestion: If you’re looking for an under-desk exercise bike, consider the Sunny Health & Fitness Mini Exercise Bike. This mini bike comes with a handle and is easily portable. It offers a LCD display screen, 8 levels of tension, and pedals that work for both hands and feet! It supports a maximum user weight of 220 pounds.
5. Balance Boards
Overview: A balance board, sometimes referred to as a “balance disc,” is a circular-shaped disc that can be used to (surprise!) improve your balance. These discs can be inflatable and full of air or can be made from other materials such as wood. When you spend much of your day sitting at your desk, you might feel your posture slip. What you want to be doing is engaging your core muscles instead, which your body must focus on while balancing on the board. These discs are often small, easily portable, and easy to store, making them a perfect fit for your cubicle.
Major Pros: If you’re looking for something easy and portable to bring into your office to also help keep you active, a balance board is a great fit. Whether you’re looking just to focus on balance, or to also improve strength and flexibility, a balance board helps work your muscles. Because of their size, many balance boards are extremely affordable. This is a great way to jumpstart your exercise routine while at work without breaking the budget. If you struggle with your posture, strengthening your core muscles is also a good way to help you maintain the proper spinal position.
You can also choose to take your phone calls while standing on the balance board. If you have some additional free time (or are by yourself in your cubicle/office), you can use the balance board as a platform to place your hands on during pushups.
Major Cons: A balance board may be hazardous if you are slightly older. Additionally, it cannot be used if you are wearing heels, as that will throw off your balance even more. For those of you who wear heels to the office every day, this may be frustrating, as you might not want to have to take your shoes off - at your desk - to get a little workout in (and I don’t blame you). If you struggle with balance, using a balance board can also be dangerous if you are in a small and enclosed space. Slipping and falling could mean harming yourself on the area around you. If you do not have a lot of space in your cubicle or office, you may not want to utilize a balance board.
Balance Board Suggestion: If you’re looking for a good balance board for your office use, consider using the ProFitness Wooden Balance Board. This wooden board weighs just 3.1 pounds, but can hold up to 330 pounds! Some people have said that it might be better to use this board on carpet, as it may slip otherwise. They offer a 30-day money back guarantee.
It can be difficult to stay active, especially when your job takes up a good chunk of your day.
Luckily, if you utilize the right tools, it isn’t impossible!
Working out in an office cubicle, both during your working hours and when on breaks, can help provide you with a multitude of health benefits. So don’t let a sedentary lifestyle take over.
Depending on your office layout, different exercise equipment may be necessary. The best equipment for your cubicle is going to depend on what you’re working with. So take a look at your space and plan accordingly!
For my money, if I had to pick one thing, I would probably spring for a nice set of resistance bands (Amazon link).
These are a low-budget option, but they have so many potential uses. These would help improve muscle tone and strength, even if I couldn’t leave my desk.
Hope this helps!