Stuck at Your Desk? Here Are Some Easy Exercises to Help You Stay Healthy
WASHINGTON — In ancient times, humans spent their days constantly on the move. They had great mobility and could walk, run, climb and squat with ease. Nowadays, we spend much of our time sitting, hunched over our computers. Even if you get to the gym a few times a week, it’s not always enough to combat a sedentary lifestyle.
You can’t help it if your job requires you to sit, but you need to add movement to your day. Standing up or walking helps. Doing exercises to mobilize your joints — neck, shoulders, back and hips — is even better. Here are the best exercises you can do at your desk to improve mobility, ease stiffness and boost your overall health.
How Being Sedentary Harms Your Health
Sedentary lifestyles are becoming more common around the world. Research shows that sitting too long is a leading cause of health issues. Excessive sitting can increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, depression and cognitive disorders.
Sitting also decreases joint health, muscular strength, mobility, and flexibility — leading to stiffness and pain. The Mayo Clinic notes that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate exercise daily may help counteract sitting.
Here are some tips to cut down on your sitting time at work:
- Try a standing desk.
- Try a walking pad underneath your desk.
- Get up every 30 minutes and move your joints.
Sitting with your head jutting forward to look at your screen strains your neck and can increase tension. Here are three moves to do throughout the day.
- Sit up tall, and keep your shoulders and chest facing forward.
- Slowly turn your head to the right, looking past your right shoulder. Hold for two seconds then return to center.
- Turn your head to the left, looking past your left shoulder. Hold for two seconds and return to center.
- Repeat five times.
For this movement, begin in the same position.
- Slowly drop your right ear towards your right shoulder, keeping your eyes forward.
- Hold and feel a gentle stretch on the left side of your neck. Return to center.
- Drop your left ear to your left shoulder.
- Hold and feel the stretch on the right side of your neck. Return to center.
- Repeat five times.
Neck circles gently take your head through its full range of motion. Maintain control, and don’t let your head fall too far back.
- Sit tall and keep your chest and shoulders forward.
- Drop your head down to the right, bring it back behind you, over to the left, and back to the starting position.
- Repeat going in the other direction.
- Perform five circles each way.
Mobilizing your shoulders helps relieve neck tension.
- Sit tall and drop your right arm by your side, palm facing your body.
- Slowly lift your arm and draw as big a circle as you can going backward.
- When you return to the starting position, reverse the movement to draw a big circle going forward.
- Repeat on the left arm.
- Perform three going backward and forward on each side.
Sitting in a chair for long hours puts pressure on your spine. Here are three exercises to move your back throughout the day.
You may be familiar with cat-cow from yoga class. Cat-cow mobilizes your whole spine through two spinal movements: extension (or arching) and flexion (or curling). If you cannot get on the floor, here’s how to perform it from your chair.
- Sit tall, keep your spine straight, and place your hands on your thighs.
- Inhale and arch your back, push your chest forward and carefully tilt your head back.
- Tilt your pelvis forward so your lower back gently arches as well.
- Exhale and reverse, tuck your chin to your chest, and slowly round your back.
- Pull your navel to your spine.
- Imagine your spine in a C-curve.
Repeat five more times, going from cow to cat.
Scapula refers to your shoulder blades. Moving them with control is excellent for your back and spine.
- Sit up tall with your arms by your sides.
- Elevate your shoulders to your ears and pull them back, down, forward, and up again to the starting position.
- Repeat three more times in that direction.
- Reverse the direction and perform three more.
Your spine likes to move in multiple ways — rotation is one of them.
- Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor. Place your right hand on the back of your chair. Place your left hand on the outside of your right thigh.
- Keep your feet flat and hips forward. Twist your torso towards your right hand.
- Hold your twist and take three deep breaths in and out. Return to center.
- Repeat on the left. Perform three twists each way.
Prolonged sitting leads to tight and weak hips. Here is the best movement you can do for your hips.
Here are two ways to take your hips through their range of motion.
- Stand tall and place your hands on your hips.
- Keep your upper body still, move your hips forward, to the right, and continue in a full circle, going clockwise.
- Repeat going counterclockwise.
- Complete 10 circles going in each direction.
Option two requires balancing on one leg and moving the other hip in a complete circle, going backward and forward. Hold on to something for balance.
- Stand on your right leg and lift your left knee towards your chest. Keep the rest of your body still.
- Move your left knee out to the side, opening your hip.
- Keep your knee bent and bring the leg behind you until your thighs are parallel.
- Reverse the circle and return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side. Perform three on each leg.
Move Well and Move Often
When you have a busy job that glues you to your chair, try to get up every 30 minutes for some movement. These mobility exercises can keep your neck, shoulders, spine, and hips healthy and happy. It’s also important to get regular exercise, but little movements throughout the day add up and can boost your physical and mental health.
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