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Deskercising 101

Exercise balls, standing desks, pedal exercisers — there have never been more options for squeezing in a little activity at your desk.

It even has a name: deskercising. Doctors agree that the human body wasn’t made to sit for extended periods of time, so deskercising — getting your blood pumping and/or strengthening muscles while you work — may be a step in the right direction for us office workers.

Here are some of the latest trends and their pros and cons.

Standing desk

What is it?

We’ve done an intensive look at the standing desk, but as a common way to make the workplace less sedentary, it’s a good place to start. The equipment itself is exactly what it sounds like — a desk made for working while standing up or while sitting on a high stool. Many traditional desks can be made into standing desks using a converter (an adjustable work surface that rests on top of your desk).


  • Standing burns .83 more calories per minute than sitting, and increases the heart rate by 10 beats per minute
  • It also engages more muscles, which can help build strength and may keep you more alert


  • Standing too long can increase leg and foot soreness
  • It can also cause varicose veins, or enlarged blood vessels that have lost their natural elasticity

Exercise ball

What is it?

An exercise ball is made of soft, elastic plastic and is filled with air. It is typically about the diameter of a pothole, though they come in different sizes. It is used in physical therapy and exercise, and air pressure can be customized to be firm or soft.


  • Balancing on a ball engages and strengthens the muscles in your core
  • There’s nothing to lean back on and you have to work to balance, so it may improve posture
  • It takes pressure off your bottom and lower back because the ball has some give where a chair wouldn’t
  • Bouncing or readjusting from time to time may stimulate your brain


  • In rare cases, the balls may pop, which could cause injury
  • The balls do not offer any lumbar (lower back) support
  • You may have trouble finding a ball that gets you high enough to work

Pedal exerciser

What is it?

Pedal exercisers work in a similar way to a stationary bike but are much more compact, with many fitting under a desk or table. Sit, slip your feet into the straps and start pedaling.


  • The benefits are the same as those of biking or spinning (burning calories, building muscles, raising your heart rate), dialed down as resistance and intensity will likely not be as high
  • Some models let you put the exerciser on a desk and use your hands to spin the pedals for an upper-body workout


  • Depending upon how long you pedal and at what intensity, you may break a sweat, which isn’t always ideal at work
  • Some pedal exercisers make noise, especially at higher resistance levels


What is it?

A device for walking, running or climbing in place. Obviously, most people don’t have a treadmill at work, but there are attachments you can use to safely work on your computer while walking, which might benefit those who work from home, or those whose gyms are flexible.


  • You get every benefit of walking, including burning 160-180 calories per hour


  • By multitasking you may see a decrease in quality of work
  • It may present safety challenges for people who have trouble balancing

Whatever your fitness level, there are plenty of things you can do while working to add activity to your day without any equipment, from wall sits while reading to taking hourly walks. Try out a new tactic every week and find what works for you.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.

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WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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