Exercise at Work
The human anatomy is designed to be active. Early man did things like hunting and gathering, finding or creating shelter, and reproduction or procreation for survival. As humans have advanced and as food has become increasingly available, those old instincts have become less and less important.
Studies have shown that at least 30 minutes of strenuous activity a day is needed to stay healthy; an average of 5 miles needs to be walked daily (10,000 strides) to maintain an active metabolism and prevent the replacement of muscle mass by fat reserves. That’s right! 5 miles . . . WOW!
Now that society has become more automated, there are less active jobs available, and more sedentary work is becoming the “norm.” A great way to combat the effects of sitting for 8–12 hours a day is by trying some or all of the following exercises.
How to get your heart from rested to “revved” around the office
A great way to keep energetic while working in a nonactive environment is to perform cardio exercises whenever possible. If your boss or work environment allows it, take several small breaks as opposed to 2 or 3 longer ones and try doing some of these heart-pumping workouts:
Jumping jacks or running/marching in place can really get your heart pumping. This helps circulation and promotes oxygenation of all the cells in your muscles. If space is limited, while on break take to the break room, hallway, or stairwell.
Another great cardio workout that is friendlier to out of shape people is to go for a walk during your break or lunch.
If you find this form of exercise boring, bring a camera (or your smartphone) so you can take pictures while walking.
While in the stairwell, try climbing two steps at a time. This not only aids in a healthy heart but also tones your legs and booty (“It’s all about that bass,” after all) and strengthens your core.
How to work out your buttocks, core, and torso while sitting
Sitting at a desk every day for long periods of time can be harmful to your core muscles; Not to mention, everyone loathes the day they develop “secretary butt” or the dreaded “muffin top.” Core strength is important to prevent such ailments as obesity or long-term upper and lower back pains. The following exercises can assist in the fight to prevent weight gain and help keep you active while sitting:
Abs, butt, and pelvic clenches (kegels) can be performed at your desk without anyone knowing you are working out your core muscles. Tighten and hold each clench for 30 seconds alternating each core muscle group. You can implement these workouts throughout the day, even while on the phone, and you won’t sound like you are having an asthma attack (unlike more strenuous cardio exercises).
To work out the upper and lower back, you can apply a series of bends and twists. For instance, between tasks at your desk, stand up and try to touch your toes. You can also strengthen muscles while sitting; instead of twisting the chair around to reach for stuff, twist your core.
Do NOT bounce when reaching for your toes. This can cause injury. Stretch your hands toward the floor and hold the stretch briefly, no matter how far down you can reach. Do that 3–5 times a couple of times daily. You should be able to reach farther and farther toward the floor as the days (and weeks) continue.
How to exercise your arms and hands in your cubicle
To keep your arms flexible and from cramping up, arm and hand stretches are an essential form of exercise for those people “chained” to their desks. Here are a few examples of stretches you can perform while working:
Sit upright in your chair with your back at a 90-degree angle with the floor and reach as far into the air as possible. Hold this pose for 10–15 seconds alternating hands, reaching one just a little bit farther than the other. Repeat as many times as desired. This movement promotes stress relief and helps keep you limber and relaxed while working.
You also can clasp your fingers together and stretch both arms upward as shown here. Again, hold for 10–15 seconds and then release the stretch.Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/RuslanDashinsky
Pump your arms over your head for 30 seconds and then rest. Do this exercise a few times during the workday. This motion helps circulate the blood and gets your heart pumping.
Push your chair back further from your desk and try typing while stretched out, keeping in an upright position. Try doing this by increasing the distance in intervals until you are sitting as far as possible from your workstation. This stretch will help with proper posture and prevent back pain.
Pump your hands so that you make a fist and then release flattening and stretching your palm out. Repeat this between long periods of typing to help relax the fingers and prevent arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
How to shape your legs at your desk
Leg exercises may be difficult (to say the least) when stuck in your cubicle for the better part of your day. You can try some of these aerobic warm-ups while still maintaining a productive workweek:
Try stretching out and doing squats. Alternating your legs, place one foot in front of the other and lower your pelvis toward the floor squatting as deep as you can and holding the position for 15–20 seconds. Perform this motion 5 or 6 times for each leg. This exercise helps keep your legs limber so when you get up from your desk at the end of the workday, your legs are not stiff and unresponsive.
Tap your feet against the floor in rapid succession in 1-minute intervals. This not only helps increase blood flow and the delivery of extra oxygen to the rest of your body but also is a great exercise to perform along with your core and arm/hand workouts.
Another great way to exercise your legs while at your workstation is to scoot your chair back and place one heel on the edge of your desk. Stretch forward to do your computer work and you will feel a slight pressure to the back of your thigh. Continue to hold this position for 30 seconds and then change to the other leg and repeat. This movement helps keep you limber and helps tone your thighs.Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/endopack
To stretch your leg muscles as shown in this image, place on foot flat on the floor (do not lock your knee) and stretch the other leg along the edge of your desk as shown. Try to reach for your toes with the opposite arm (left arm toward right leg on desk or right arm toward left leg on desk). Hold stretch for at least 30 seconds and then repeat with the opposite leg.
Try to switch out your office chair for an exercise ball to promote better posture and put a bounce in your workout!
If you complete one or all of these exercises in a workday, you will not only feel more energetic and healthy, resulting in a more productive day, but you also will help prevent debilitating muscle and joint issues later on.