Health Care and Human Resources

Get moving: 5 exercises you can do at your desk

May 26, 2016
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We’ve all heard the life-shortening, posture-punishing effects of sitting too long. Yet many jobs require it for hours on end. Though it’s hard to imagine escaping this daily sedentary reality, there are small — yet meaningful — opportunities you can capture during the workday to neutralize the effects of marathon sitting.

Take two 15-minute breaks throughout your day to stretch and exercise at your desk. You won’t just be helping to strengthen your body; you will be also rebelling against an inactive workday.

Here are five simple exercises to employ at work that utilize your own body weight and typical office furniture and fixtures, plus they require little space to perform:

Desk pushups

Nearly touching your chest to the floor isn’t a prerequisite to executing a quality pushup — good news if you don’t have pristine carpet on which to place your hands and knees. Give your upper body the needed resistance training using your desk instead of the floor. Start off by standing three or four steps away from your desk. Put your hands along the edge of work surface so your body is positioned at an incline. Lower yourself toward your desktop until your elbows are pointing back (not out) at a 90-degree angle. Repeat until you fatigue. These exercises will build chest, arm and shoulder strength.

Squats

Your own body weight is enough to get your muscles firing. Before you get straight to it, you need to make sure you have the proper squat stance. The first step is to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Got it? Next, squat down like you are sitting back into a chair with your weight in your heels. The important part is to pull your navel toward your spine, roll your shoulders back, and ensure your knees do not slide forward over your toes. This will help to keep your back straight and form perfect. Do as many as you feel comfortable with. You can also switch it up by squatting and doing low-to-the-ground squat pulses.

Shoulder-blade squeeze

Did you know there are 77 individual muscles that make up your back? Back health is critical to quality of life! The blade squeeze is an effective isometric exercise that helps reverse a hunched posture, isolating the extrinsic muscles associated with upper extremity and shoulder movement. Stand up and squeeze your shoulder blades together, imagining there is a pencil that needs to be held tight between them. Keep squeezing as hard as you can for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat this exercise five times to get a better-feeling back.

Desk triceps dips

Think of this exercise like a desk push-up in reverse. Start with your back to your desk. Put your palms on the desk with your fingers pointing the same direction as you. Move your feet forward so that you are at an incline. Bend at the elbows, bringing your body down, and push yourself back up through your palms. A few sets of these will get your triceps firing.

Wall sits

This exercise is simple but effective. Unlike squats, wall sits hold your muscles in a static position, which increases your muscle endurance. To do a wall sit, simply put your back against the wall and sink down until both your hips and knees are at a 90-degree angle and hold for as long as you can physically hold it. Doing these on a regular basis will increase the amount of time you can hold your sit and will strengthen the glutes. Time yourself during every wall sit to track progress.

Calf raises

Channel your inner ballet dancer with this exercise. Just lift yourself up on your toes and lower down. If you need to balance yourself, you can use a chair or wall for support. It seems simple, but your calves will quickly feel the burn.

They don’t seem like much, but an extra 15 minutes of exercise in your office each day will help you strengthen and engage a whole lot of muscles, will boost your energy and will fight against the effects of sitting all day.

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