Pain Free Working

7 Leg Exercises to Do At Your Desk

Sitting at a desk all day can cause significant strain on our upper body and lower body. Our legs aren’t meant to be so stiff the whole day, and they need ample exercise and movement to get the blood flowing. If you’re feeling a little sore and want to relieve some pain, desk exercises are also incredibly helpful. They not only keep you fit, but stretch out your muscles too, which are in dire need for a good stretch after sitting at your desk the whole day or going through Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting. 

Everyone needs good exercises incorporated into their daily routine, even when working a desk job. We’re actually inclined to stretch even without knowing —simply stretching out our shoulder blades or putting our arms over our head can be a great desk workout.

So many people neglect their physical well-being when in office spaces or at work. Whatever the hassle is, you and your co-workers would do well to include physical activity in a typical work day. Some people even have a jump rope beside them or an exercise ball at the ready! There are a lot of ways to keep your muscles healthy without buying a lot of products. As long as your health goals are clear, you can start right away.

Your health should always come first, and having a fitness routine means taking care of your physical health as well as mental health. Yes, staying fit has significant effects on our mental health, too. So if you’re feeling a little emotionally bummed out from work, or you can feel your heart rate going up, you don’t have to leave your desk. 

Our legs can usually stay pretty still throughout the day. If you’re someone who wants to get toned legs or simply keep your legs fit, then this is the post for you. Read on to find out what 8 under desk leg exercises you can do every day for your legs.

High Knees

This first exercise incorporates a little bit of cardio, so make sure you do it when you’re okay with sweating a little. Start by standing up from your desk. Place your hands at your sides. Try to get each knee as high as you possibly can, using your hands to tap the palms with your knees. Think of jogging or running, but without the movement from one spot to another — in this exercise, you’re only staying in place. Repeat this 12 times for each knee, then take 30 seconds to rest. You can do as many sets as you want. This desk exercise is great for the heart and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease as well. Keep the mind to muscle connection intact so you get more out of these exercises.

Seated Leg Raises

This exercise is a killer compound workout, but it’s subtle enough that you can do it anywhere in an office, in a conference room, or at your home workspace during a lunch break. Compound exercises are workouts that target multiple muscles at once, and seated leg raises work your abdominal muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glute muscles. These are the front of your thighs, the back of your thighs, and your butt, respectively. 

Start by sitting upright at your desk chair, your arms at your side and shoulders relaxed. Raise your left leg up and straighten it so it’s parallel to the floor and forms a right angle with your body. Hold it in place for 10 seconds. Repeat with your right leg. Repeat 10 times or 15 times for each leg. Make sure to keep your abs tight and your back straight — you’re gonna feel this stretch in your hamstrings, which is great relief for your muscles that have been bent the whole day. Once you’ve built up strength, you can start adding weights to this exercise.

Calf Raises

This is another exercise that is done standing up. Hold onto your office chair or a wall with one hand for balance and keep your feet shoulder width apart. Once you’re steady, start lifting up to the balls of your feet and hold the position for 3-5 seconds. Go down, then lift up again, maintaining each pose for 3-5 seconds. Keep your core engaged, your shoulders relaxed, and your head tall — think of a graceful ballet dancer. Repeat 15 times, or do a set of 15 reps three times.


This one is another exercise-and-stretch combo that is great for your quads aka the back of your thighs. Get up from your desk and find a free space. Start with your feet flat and hip width apart, then bring one leg in front. Extend your other leg behind you, resting on your toes. Slowly lower your body and bend the knee of your front leg. It should then form a 90-degree angle. Bend your other leg until the back knee touches the ground and your whole body is lowered. 

Move your hips forward and down, making sure your knee doesn’t go past your foot. Stay on the floor; hold for 10 seconds. You can also do a rocking motion to sink deeper into the stretch. You can repeat this 10 times for each leg. You can try stretching your arms while holding the position and lifting them over your head. For an advanced version, hold a water bottle on each hand to act as a weight. Do a set of 15 reps three times.

4-Way Leg Lifts

This is another exercise that targets the front of the thighs as well as the back. Leg lifts are a great way to stretch your butt muscles as well. For your starting position, start with a standing position with your hands at your hips. Keep your feet hip width apart and slowly lift your right leg, keeping the leg straight and high as possible. Make sure your lower back is straight as you lift your leg higher. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Lower your leg down and go back to the standing position.

You can then repeat the exercise in different directions: lift your leg up to the side making sure your hip isn’t moving too much, then lower, then lift again to the back. When lifting for each side, make sure your hips are steady and not going too far to the side. For this exercise, you can also try to rest your leg on top of your desk in order to hold the position longer. This is also one of the best exercises for your core, as well as one of the best stretching exercises for your hamstrings.

Hamstring Chair Stretch

If you’re unable to do one of our standing exercises, you’ll definitely love this one that you can do while sitting at your desk. Simply sit at the edge of your chair with a straight back, chest out, legs raised slightly off the floor. Keeping your lower back upright, bend at the hips and lean forward, trying to touch your chest to your knees. Feel this stretch in your hamstrings and keep your core tight. You can try doing this with one leg at a time if doing two at a time is a bit advanced.

Chair Squats

This is another one of our exercises you can do without leaving your chair at all. When you’re in the need for a workout, simply stand up with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and push your hips back, then slowly lower your body onto the chair. Without sitting all the way down, push up on your heels and bring yourself back up to stand. Repeat the squats until you feel the burn! For an advanced version, move your chair out of the way and just do some good old fashioned squat exercises in front of your desk.  You can do a set of 15 reps three times.

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.