Having an office job, with a few exceptions, often means sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week. This helps explain why an estimated 83 million people in the United States in 2014 were considered to have a sedentary lifestyle. Some people hear “sedentary” and think “lazy,” but it's more a marker of health. A sedentary lifestyle is attributed to a variety of life-threatening conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, so desk jockeys should try to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting. These five “deskercises” can help.

You’ve probably heard by now that the human body was not designed for sitting. Nevertheless, the average American spends 70 percent of the day sitting. What is it about sitting that's so unhealthy for us? The electrical activity in our muscles is disrupted, and our calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute as soon as we sit down. After three hours of sitting, our blood flow also plummets because artery dilation drops by 50 percent. It only gets worse from there.


Experts have even started calling sitting the new smoking. Researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany recently conducted a study that called attention to the link between sitting and various types of cancer. Results showed that for every two-hour increase in the amount of time we spend sitting, we increase our lung cancer risk by six percent, colon cancer risk by eight percent, and endometrial cancer risk by 10 percent.

Thankfully, there are options for reversing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle for people who spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk. In fact, research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise revealed that a mere five-minute walk every hour can reverse the unhealthy side effects of prolonged sitting. Here are five desk exercises that will help you break out of that sedentary lifestyle.

1. Leg Raises — Depending on how you perform this exercise, leg raises at your desk are a great way to engage either your core or upper leg muscles without ever getting out of your seat.

2. Desk Chair Swivel — It may seem silly, but use your arms and momentum to swivel your chair in a 180-degree motion every once in a while to target your obliques.

3. Dance Break — Pretty self-explanatory. Just get up and dance like no one is watching (except your entire office).

4. Book Curl — Grab a book you are confident you can lift more than once. Perform curl motion and repeat. Don’t be afraid to slide your mouse pad down to your elbow to soften your desk’s unforgiving surface.

5. Squats — Squats can be performed anywhere and, contrary to what the gym rat at your local Crunch thinks, can be performed without any weight. Stand up for five minutes every hour and squat it out.