Contributor: Dr. Chris Oswald, President of Centre for Fitness, Health and Performance Author Stretching for Fitness Health and Performance, CEO & Founder MuscleCare and President of JustStretch®.
Exercising is one of the most important things people can do for their health; however, even the most health-conscious among us often find that there is just not enough time in our days to accomplish what we want at the gym. The hustle and bustle of everyday life does not have to interfere with your physical well-being.
Work Smarter and Outfit Your Office with Ergonomics
Most people who work in an office spend much of their day sitting in office chair. You can consider replacing your standard four-wheeled throne with an ergonomic one. A good ergonomic chair that adjusts to fit your own body correctly can help reduce pain and promote well-being. Proper posture engages core muscles and is a simple way to exercise at your desk and throughout the work day.
Another supplemental alternative that can be paired with your new ergo chair is an active seating one such as an exercise ball chair. It is recommended to use a ball chair no more than 20-30 minutes once or twice a day. Some benefits include activating your core and balance muscles and bouncing to activate joint movement receptors to help limit stiffness and poor circulation. The right ergonomic set up and enhancing the sitting arrangement at your desk can provide a day-long exercise while your mind is on other things - you can check one workout off the list before you even start your day.
Other less conventional options for a desk chair are an exercise bike or a walking treadmill under your desk.
Don't Sit at the Desk All Day
If possible, add an adjustable desk raiser or replace your traditional office desk with a standing desk. This doesn't mean you have to stand for eight hours each day. A simple formula to follow is 1:1 ratio stand and sit. For every hour you sit stand for an hour. This doesn’t happen overnight. Conditioning typically takes 2-4 weeks. An adjustable desk can allow you to spend part of your day sitting and part of your day standing. By having a full range of motion, you can even incorporate some exercises while you're answering phone calls, attending a conference call or doing work at your desk.
Try to invest in additional fitness accessories such as a standing mat and good shoes so that you're comfortable while you're standing. You can also get a mini stair stepper if you want to intensify your standing periods with a little stepping.
Stretching not only feels good, but it helps lengthen short, tight muscles when being stationary for too long. It sounds simple but stretching is one of the most overlooked and undervalued exercises. In general, sitting still all day is not a good idea. Periodic stretching allows your muscles to contract and relax and can promote blood flow throughout your body.
Keep in mind stretching is a sustained posture or position. Stretching must be done correctly to lengthen short or tight muscles. These are some general guidelines and stretches you can do at work. Try to hold each posture or stretch for 30-60 seconds or better yet hold until the stretch or pull subsides. This indicates muscle relaxation. Try not to bounce, do both sides, breathe and remember NO pain just a comfortable pull.
Neck stretch: You can tilt ear to shoulder rotate nose up 1”, hold and repeat on opposite side.
Chest stretch: You can stand and place palm on wall perpendicular to body and turn away from wall, hold and repeat on other side.
Hip flexor: You can stand and hold right-hand to right foot or ankle. Hold the wall with left hand. Pull heel toward buttocks and lean body forward to 30 degrees. This is a good way to help reduce lower back pressure and pain.
Stand hamstring stretch: You can stand and lock your chair in place so that it doesn’t roll or swivel. Adjust the height of the chair to a level where you can comfortably lift one leg and place that heel on the seat. Try to bend the standing knee slightly, lean forward from your hips towards the straightened leg with the heel on the chair and rest both palms on top of your thigh for balance and support. Switch legs to perform stretch on other side.
A Mini Workout at Your Desk
When work is becoming stagnant and you need a pick me up try doing a few of these exercises at your desk to get your blood flowing.
Squats: You can stand and place hands on desk, wall or chair. Start squats at 45 degrees or half squat trainers call them. Build up to a full squat. Feet should be at shoulder width a part for both. Toes slightly out for balance and eventually bend to 90 degrees at the knees. Do a set of 10 and gradually over time work your way up to a set of 25.
Shoulder shrugs or rolls: You can sit or stand shrugging the shoulders up and down or rotate shoulders forward and backwards for a shoulder roll. Both exercises are good for neck relaxation to prevent neck pain and tension headaches. They can also help to loosen tension in the shoulder, neck and upper back areas.
Wrist circles and bends: Try to complete a series of wrist circles and bends, clockwise and counter-clockwise, up and down. Hands, wrists and forearms are a crucial part of your body to remember to exercise, especially if typing is a major element of your work day. You can do some research on the benefits of these types of exercise and how they may help in dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Staying active at work doesn’t have to be tasking. It can become second nature to your everyday workflow with a good ergonomic set up and incorporating a mini workout. A few small adjustments can make a big difference.
Note: The contents of this article are for information purposes only. The information does not constitute a medical consultation and cannot replace medical advice. Any information should never be used as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other health care provider. Before you start working out, you should get a medical checkup or otherwise be fit for this type of activity. It is important that you warm up and stretch before each workout, and that you use common sense while exercising: do not go over the top when exercising! If you experience any pain, feel weak, dizzy or exhausted or become short of breath, immediately stop your workout. There are many possible causes for physical discomfort. If you are experiencing persistent symptoms or symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with your job or personal activities, consider seeking medical assistance.
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