Once upon a time, heading to work meant long days in the fields or hours lifting metal and wood at the construction site. There was also a time when work was simply laboring manually. That time has gone and working now, for most people at least, means sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, typing away mindlessly at a desktop or sitting through long meetings with your butt blued to the comfy boardroom chair.
No matter how much of a rock star you are at work, the fact remains that you are doing your body unimaginable damage by staying sedentary for most of the day. New studies are also surfacing and reveal that 30 minutes cardiovascular exercise in a day at a frequency of 5 times a week is not enough to undo the damage you do to your body when you sit at a desk all day.
Simply speaking, all that sitting you’re doing is making you fat or unhealthy. The good news is that there are actually great ways to get exercise in while at your desk. From easy stretching to some simple strength exercise, it’s relatively easy to squeeze in a few minutes of movement to improve your overall fitness and work towards a healthier heart. Ready for some desk-exercises? Here are five to get you started.
Try Some Desk Yoga
Don’t panic, we’re not going to tell you to start practicing the downward dog under your desk or hum a chant while standing in tree pose. We’re talking more about getting some decent stretches in while at your desk to keep your body bendy and you feeling good throughout the day.
This is particularly useful if you often find yourself experiencing lower or upper back pain throughout the day. Start by sitting up properly with your legs, hips and back and arms in a 90-degree angle. Proper posture alone does wonders for your back pain and stretching just makes everything better.
Some great stretches to do at your desk include side to side neck stretches, interlacing your hands and reaching towards the sky, shoulder shrugs, chest openers, knee huggers, reach and bends and knee presses. Try holding each stretch for at least 10 seconds and do up to 10 repetitions per stretch. Once you’ve developed a habit of performing these stretches at your desk regularly, you can start upgrading to actual desk-exercises.
Go for A Run at Your Desk
Okay, obviously we’re not talking about a full-on run, but standing at your desk and walking, jogging or running in place is a simple and easy way to get your heart rate up and add movement to otherwise completely sedentary day. The best part about this is that you can do it anytime you want and as often as you want.
All you have to do is stand up and start your walk, jog or run in place. You set your own “pace” by selecting how quickly you lift your legs up and down. If you don’t mind working up a sweat, challenge yourself by bringing your knees up to your waist, soccer drill style. If you’re new to this whole desk-exercise thing, try it out 3 to 5 times a day for 30 to 45 seconds per repetition. Once you’ve worked up a comfortable routine, try standing up every half hour so make sure you get enough activity in during your work day.
Tone Your Thighs with Leg Lifts
As we mentioned earlier, it’s ultimately in your best interest to stand up from your desk every 30 minutes. In the event that you can’t leave your desk, however, the good news is that there’s still a workable alternative: leg lifts. To complete a proper leg lift, position yourself to sit at the edge of your chair with your arms at your sides, holding you in place. Once you’re comfortable, extend one leg and lift it up with your foot flexed until your leg is parallel to your hips.
Put your leg back down and repeat the lift with the opposite leg. Start out with three repetitions per leg and hold it for at least 5 seconds before switching legs. Keep working on it until you hit up to 10, 15 or more reps per set. This is a fantastic way to maintain leg strength when work prevents you from leaving your desk.
Build Leg Strength with Wall Sits
Here’s another great exercise you can do at or by your desk when you’ve got limited time to get up and move around. Wall sits are a fantastic way to build your leg strength without having to travel far from your desk or potentially embarrass yourself. To be more specific, wall sits build isometric endurance and strength in your quads and glutes.
In order to properly perform a wall sit, find a wall near your desk and stand with your back flat against the wall. Slide your body down until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle and keep your whole-body tense. Hold it this position for 30 seconds to start and work towards building up an endurance. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can tolerate maintaining the position for a minute, then five minutes and more.
Puff Your Chest Out with Wall Push-Ups
Instead of banging your head on your desk or against the wall, use the surface to do your body some good with a few wall push-ups. If you have no walls nearby, you can use your desk as long as it is a steady surface. Place your hands on the flat surface of your choice and bend down from your elbows.
Push out and bend down again to help tone your arms and chest. Try doing 10 reps at least 3 times a day or see how many repetitions you can complete in a minute. You can even mix up your push up variations to work different parts of your arms. Wide-grip pushups, for example, engage your shoulders more while close-grip pushups give your triceps a bit more of a burn.