There are a lot of reasons for the growing obesity epidemic across the Western world. But a big one is the increase of our sedentary lifestyle. To put it simply, between the commute, the office, and the internet, we sit too much! Along with that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, work related musculoskeletal problems make up 32% of work-related injuries and illnesses.
Recently, workplaces have instituted all kinds of ergonomic workflow ideas, everything from specialized chairs and monitors, to treadmill desks. But these kinds of changes are slow in coming, and they don’t always work out for everyone. They’re also expensive, and an investment many smaller offices might find not worth the effort or expense.
If your work has you sitting for six to eight hours, chances are, you’re going to feel it, in your back, your legs, and your waistline! Too much work in the office can lead to back and neck pain, chronic headaches, eye strain, arm and shoulder pain. You might experience carpal tunnel, a repetitive stress disorder that can range from minor painful twinges in your fingers, to a serious condition that requires surgery. But have no fear! There are always things you can do to keep yourself limber, healthy and fit, even at work!
Ideal Desk Situation
The first thing you want to do is set your workstation up for your ideal comfort.
Adjust your chair by pushing your hips as far as they can go, and adjust the seat height so your feet sit comfortably flat on the floor, and your knees are at least equal to, or lower, than your hips. Position your keyboard at no more than 2 inches above your thighs, and tilt the keyboard down and away. Next, use this trick for your ideal monitor height. Close your eyes. When you open them, are they on the address bar in your browser? If not, raise or lower so the address bar is eye level. When that’s done, tilt the monitor just a little down, to avoid glare.
Top 10 Desk Exercises
With this setup, you should be as close to your natural comfort position as possible. This should cut down on neck strains and backaches while you work. But there are several desk exercises you can do, even without a treadmill desk, to keep your body flexible, and make sure you get in your daily exercises. These desk exercises can be done at work, without even interrupting your workflow. They’re that easy!
1. Look around
It sounds simple, but it works. If you’re feeling a twinge in your neck or shoulders, turn your head to the left as far as you can, to try and look over your shoulders. Hold for a few seconds, then try the other side.
2. Chest opener
If your back is bothering you, or you feel like you’ve been hunched over for too long, try a chest-opener exercise that will stretch you back out. Bring your hands behind your back. Press your palms together behind you and sit up as tall as you can. Hold that for a few seconds. Bring your hands to the front again, and repeat.
3. Back Stretch
If the pain is in your lower back, try this back stretch: In a seated position, cross one leg over the other. Take the arm opposite the crossed leg and rest it on your knee. Twist your shoulders around to face your knee. You’ll feel it all the way down your back, and it’ll be a lot easier to get back to work!
4. Side Stretch
This is another stretch that is great for when your arms and shoulders are worn out from being hunched over your desk. First, sit up straight. Clasp your hands together above your head, and then gently rotate your shoulder blade toward the ceiling. If you’re doing it right, you should feel a stretch in your underarm, that’ll work it’s way into your upper arms and shoulder. It’ll make a huge difference in those long hours at your desk.
5. Twinkle Toes
Again, it sounds super simple, but it’s mostly inconspicuous and a great way to stretch your legs when you can’t actually get up and stretch! It’s just tapping your toes under the desk, alternating between left and right, like you would in a soccer drill. Not bad, as a stealth exercise!
6. Squeeze Your Seat
Speaking of stealth, this one’s a great way to keep your glutes toned even after hours at the desk! Just squeeze your butt in the chair, hold for a few seconds, and release. Keep going until you tire out.
7. The Desk Chair Swivel
This one is a little less inconspicuous, but if you get a swivel chair in the office, it’s probably no more obvious than what anyone else is doing! First, sit upright, with your feet hovering over the floor. Hold the edge of your desk with just your fingers and thumb. Next, pushing with your core, swivel the chair from side to side, for a great ab workout.
8. Fab Abs
More great ab workouts you can do in secret! When you’re asked to pick up something for your boss, or getting copies from the machine, or coffee, take a deep breath, and tighten your abs, bringing them toward the spine, as you exhale slowly. Do this 12-15 times, and it’ll keep your abs looking great, even with a desk job!
9. The Seated Leg Raiser
This one is good for the legs, and practically invisible under the desk! While seated, straighten one or both legs, and hold in place. Then lower your legs back to the ground, but don’t let your feet touch the floor. Repeat 15 times.
10. The Rocking Squat
This one’s a bit less inconspicuous, if I’m honest. It may be something to save for the home office. But it’s a great balance and stretching exercise. Squat down as low as you can, holding your desk for support. Rock forward onto the balls of your feet, then back again. Repeat ten times.
Despite our increasingly sedentary lives, there’s no reason to duck your exercise routine. Even at work, there are plenty of stretches, and toning exercises you can do, to keep yourself fit and healthy, and avoid workplace injuries. While some of these exercises are a bit more obvious and visible, and you might hesitate to do them at work, plenty of these exercises can be neatly tucked into your daily routine. It’s more important than ever to find the time and space to get a workout into your day, so these exercises will go a long way in terms of your overall happiness and health at work!