Group of office workers exercising

Alleviating Aches & Cramps: Desk Exercises For Triage Nurses and Office Staff

Telephone triage nurses work all hours of the day and night, especially during the busy winter season. To stay motivated and keep energy levels up when faced with never-ending calls, there are plenty of quick exercises and stretches you can do at your desk to reduce the stress on the body that extended time spent sitting in a chair can bring. These simple exercises can also be used by anyone who sits at a desk all day in order to stay active and healthy at work, as well as a quick way to increase work productivity.

Neck & Shoulders

Neck Stretch: This simple stretch helps loosen up the large upper back and neck muscle called the trapezius. It can help ease tension, reduce stiffness, and prevent headaches.

  • Sit up straight in your chair.
  • Without lifting your shoulder to meet it, try to touch your ear to your shoulder.
  • Use your hand to push lightly until you feel the stretch in your neck.
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.
Woman stretching arms and neck

Shoulder Roll: Although not a stretch, this technique is another stress reliever. People often hold tension in their shoulders without realizing it.

  • Sit up straight in your chair.
  • Roll your shoulders forward 10 times. Take your time.
  • Roll your shoulders backward 10 times as well.


Overhead Triceps Stretch: Your triceps is the muscle on the back of your upper arm that helps extend your arm. After sitting at a desk with your arms bent for hours, it can feel unpleasant to straighten them out. Prevent the problem with this stretch!

  • Sit up or stand up straight.
  • Reach your arm behind your head as if to touch the opposite shoulder, but let your hand relax where it falls, usually mid-back.
  • Place your other hand just beneath the elbow.
  • Gently pull your arm toward your ear so that you can feel a stretch. Do not try to pull it past your ear, or force it farther than is comfortable.
  • Hold 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Woman stretching her arm up


Leg Lifts: One doesn’t make extensive use of their legs when seated. As such, it’s easy to end up with aching or sleeping muscles when the time comes to stand again. Leg lifts exercise the quadriceps, a group of muscles on the front of your thigh.

  • Sit up straight in your chair.
  • Slowly lift one leg until it is straight out in front of you.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Lower your leg until your foot almost touches (but doesn’t!) the floor.
  • Repeat 15 times, then do likewise with the other leg.
Woman sitting and stretching her legs

Calf Raises: This exercise requires standing up to be most beneficial, since it uses your own body weight as resistance. However, it can still be done seated as well! It is an exercise that works the calf muscles on the back of the lower leg.

  • Stand or sit up straight.
  • Slowly lift up onto the balls of your feet, as if walking tip-toe.
  • Slowly lower your heels until they almost (but don’t!) touch the ground.
  • Repeat 30 times.


While triage nurses are trained in excellent listening skills, sometimes triaging over the phone can be challenging, especially with patients who might be emotional. It can often be important to stop in between calls to put oneself at ease. Simple breathing exercises can help slow a racing heart rate and relieve tension.

  • Sit up straight in your chair.
  • Inhale for 5 seconds, making sure to breathe slowly enough to enable the full 5 seconds but quickly enough to fully expand the chest. Try to use the diaphragm to inhale.
  • Hold the breath for 3 seconds.
  • Exhale for 7 seconds. Again, do so slowly enough to use all 7 but quickly enough to empty the lungs.
  • Repeat 10 times, or as necessary.
Woman holding hands together with her eyes closed

Spending just a few minutes every day doing these desk exercises can help improve your mental and physical health, and keep you motivated during long winter-time shifts. When you start to feel sluggish and you haven’t moved from your desk in a long time, try one of these simple exercises to get you moving.

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