Exercises for Writers and Other Desk Slaves

~ Eyes | Neck | Shoulders | Arms | Wrists | Fingers | Butt | Stomach | Back | Legs and feet ~

I know writers have very hardworking fingers, but writer’s cramp can affect various parts of your body.

Those who know me well will know that I love yoga. Many of these exercises are yoga poses and stretches, and I acknowledge the many yogis and teachers who pass on the knowledge of these peaceful exercises. Others are physiotherapy exercises.

If you have any existing injuries, illness, or weaknesses in muscles or joints, please discuss these exercises with your doctor first.

None of these exercises should hurt. The point of yoga, especially gentle practices such as these, is to improve circulation and the supply of oxygen to your body. You don’t need to feel much more than the lightest of muscle stretching for the exercises to be of great benefit. If you feel any pain, come out of the exercise slowly and safely, being sure to protect your back and joints.

Remember to breathe. Focus on what you are doing and how it feels to you. Talk to your body – is it happy with being in this position?

We’ll start at the top:


Staring at that screen? Do you remember the last time you looked away? How about the last time you blinked?

Turn away from the monitor. Focus on something in the middle distance. With your head still, move your eyes up and down and side to side. Now draw a circle with your eyes, clockwise and anticlockwise. Do this for a few minutes, closing and resting your eyes if you feel any aching or if they start watering.

(Note: See your optometrist for a check up if these eye exercises hurt again when you do them, or if you have a headache developing either when you are working or when you stop and try to focus on a more distant object.)

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Gently move your neck from side to side in a smooth motion. Repeat for a minute or so.

Drop your chin towards your chest (as far as is comfortable, but without touching your chest with your chin) and slowly move your chin from your chest, across your collar-bone, to your shoulder.

Now slowly lift your chin up from near your shoulder to point towards the ceiling. Stop and reverse if you feel any discomfort in your neck.

Reverse this movement to come out of it, returning your chin to your chest, and then repeat on the other side.

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Give yourself a hug. Wrap your arms right around your shoulders as far as they will go.

Now, still holding your arms up around shoulder height, swing your arms out and back and gently squeeze your shoulder-blades towards each other.

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Lift one arm up to point at the ceiling. Bend at the elbow and position your hand behind your head. Put your other arm behind your back, bend at the elbow, and attempt to touch or take hold of your other hand.

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Make circles with your hands by rotating at the wrist as far as the joint will easily and comfortable go in each direction.

Hold one arm out straight in front of you, palm perpendicular as if telling someone to “stop”. Press gently with your palm on a wall or door, or your other hand. You should feel a stretch in the muscle of your forearm.

Now drop your palm down so that it is in the opposite position and press gently against the wall with the back of your hand. Repeat with the other hand.

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Alternate making a tight fist and spreading and stretching your fingers out as wide as you can.

With each finger in turn, make a circular movement both clockwise and anti-clockwise from the main knuckle joint.

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Prevent writer’s butt! And the good news is you get to rest a while. This exercise is best done lying on your back on a bed or on the floor.

Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the bed. Now lift one leg, bending at the knee and out at the hip as if you were going to sit cross-legged. Place your ankle on your other knee. This might be sufficient stretch for you.

If you feel more flexible, place your hands around the knee of the foot still flat on the bed. Slowly raise that foot off the bed and pull the leg towards you until you feel a stretch through the buttock and thigh of the leg that is crossed.

Hold for a few minutes but do not allow the stretch to become uncomfortable. Repeat with the other leg.

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No need to get up just yet – you can work your stomach lying down too.

Bend your right knee and lift your leg to your chest (other leg straight and resting on the floor). Stretch your left arm up above your head.

Now do an extended bicycle motion with your legs: straighten the bent right leg so that the ball of your foot points towards the ceiling, and start moving your left arm up to point to the ceiling. Gently lower your right leg to the floor while bending your left leg and raising towards your chest, and switch arms – lower your left arm to the floor while raising your right towards the ceiling and lower to the floor above your head.

Repeat for ten revolutions and try to keep a smooth constant motion as you cycle, timing your arm to reach the ground at the same time as the opposite leg.

(Note: this exercise is a little gentler on the back than sit ups are, but if you do feel any back pain or joint ache, stop the exercise and discuss it with your doctor.)

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Ready to get back to work now? Here are two exercises you can do while you’re working. You may find them a little distracting at first, but you will be amazed at how quickly it becomes second nature, especially during mini-breaks when you need to stop to think about a scene. And the bonus benefits are improved posture and less back ache.

Back and stomach

Are you slumping when you sit? Or having to support your back with cushions?

Breathe in and consciously straighten your spine until you feel that you are sitting up straight. The stronger you stomach muscles the more effectively they can give additional support to your spine, so gently pull your tummy in and hold it in. Breathe into your chest cavity without letting your stomach relax.

After a few minutes, counter this rigid posture by actively breathing in as deeply as you can while distending your stomach, and breathe out fully while pulling your stomach in as far as you can.

But do remember to give yourself a break and settle into those cushions for a few minutes to relax.

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Legs and feet

You’re sitting on the blood flow to half your body! Prevent deep vein thrombosis and other circulation problems by taking a real break at least every hour – preferably every twenty minutes if you can. Get up, walk around, drink a glass of water, and stretch.

If you don’t want to get up just yet, raise your feet onto your toes, tighten all your legs muscles, and lower your feet again – repeat this several times.

Bounce yourself in your chair by tightening and relaxing your butt muscles.

Put your feet up on your desk whenever you have to read something instead of writing.

Lift each foot at a time and make circular movements, clockwise and anticlockwise.

Point and flex each ankle several times.

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You may want to take just one exercises or one part of your body at a time during each of your writing breaks. By the end of the day you will have completed a mini body workout, and you should be feeling much stronger and more comfortable in your body after a few weeks.

If you have any questions or comments, or any new exercises to share, I'd love to hear from you.

copyright © Elsa Neal 2006

Try these books for more exercise ideas:



14 thoughts on “Exercises for Writers and Other Desk Slaves

  • Sunday at 11:36 PM

    Res. Mam,

    I am from a middle class indian family, working as a computer operator. I’am suffering from full body cramping desiase when i get enger or any difficult condition and at the time of writing or handling a cup of tea, my hands cramping soundly. how can i beat this.

    Please help me.

    Sincerely : Dheeraj K. Soni, Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA

  • Monday at 9:31 AM

    Hi Dheeraj

    I am not a medical professional, but this sounds to me like a mineral deficiency – often it is a lack of magnesium that causes muscle cramping. You can try pure sea salt added to your food or a pinch of sea salt added to a glass of water or tea. Sea salt is rich in magnesium but only if it looks “wet”; salt that looks dry and very white has had the magnesium stripped out of it. Foods containing magnesium include spinach and tofu. Alternatively you can take a calcium and magnesium supplement, but, in that case, I would suggest checking with your health care provider first and having some tests done to be sure.

    Your job sounds stressful. I hope you find some relief soon.

  • Sunday at 5:30 AM

    Respected Ma’am
    I think i am suffering from writer’s cramp. I am facing difficulty in writing and working with my right hand on computer though i can do certain other functions with ease. I have researched that there is no effective treatment of this disease. I am Just 23 years old and at a very crucial stage of my career. Please help.


  • Wednesday at 4:23 PM

    Hello Rohit

    (Note that I am not a health professional.)

    It sounds like you might be suffering from either Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or Repetitive Strain Injury. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the nerves in your wrists become inflamed or pinched, usually when you work for long periods with your wrist(s) bent at an angle (like typing with your wrists resting on the desk). Repetitive Strain Injury is inflammation caused by small repetitive movements made over long periods. Working with a computer mouse can also cause these issues.

    You can see an osteopath or chiropractor for these types of injuries. Acupunture might offer some relief as well. With Carpel Tunnel Syndrome you can support your wrists with a bandage while you work so that they are kept straight to prevent further pinching.

  • Sunday at 6:45 PM

    Res. Mam,

    i’ll found your suggetion, i think this works to me. after getting any responce i’ll comment here..

    with regards….


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  • Monday at 1:12 AM

    Respected Mam
    I am 21 years old and Suffering from writer’s cramp, i am not able to hold the pen between two fingers while writing and this leads to ugly writing.I consulted doctor and she said to practice with left hand.But this is not the time to practice for me.So, please kindly give me some advices because from next month i had exams and i am worrying about it.
    Thanks in advance……

  • Monday at 4:07 PM

    Hi Ramana
    I wonder if yoga would help you? I try to do a session of yoga every day because I find poses like Downward Dog and Plank and lunges help to stretch out the joints and muscles in my hands, wrists, and fingers. I really feel it in my writing if I miss a day.

  • Tuesday at 3:00 AM

    Respected Mam
    I followed ur suggestions and doing yoga daily.But now a days my hands are shaking while writing, can u please tell me the remedies for it…

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