For the majority of us, the “desk jockey” habits of office life consume our body’s health as we consume the dozen donuts left absentmindedly at the communal kitchenette. Our typical office day can last around 8 or 9 hours, leaving us sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen or paperwork. This lack of physical activity can take a huge toll on our backs, our wrists, our eyes, and even our legs. The many of us who are lucky to have these nine to five jobs are the ones stuck in such daily working routines of ill body health. Though office life can be blissful, it can also spell out a literal pain in the neck.
When most of us got involved in the office life, we thought it would be awesome to sit in a chair for the entire workday. We laughed at the unwise blue-collar workers and their labor jobs. “Hard work is for suckers,” we said. Yet we were so unaware of the benefits that the labor jobs bring and the disadvantages of the monotony of a desk job.
Though it does feel great to sit restfully at a desk, we human beings were not meant to remain immobile in that manner for such long periods of time. We are active beings, not meant to sit in one place. Our bodies are like machines with moving parts that need maintenance and use. They require physical activity to maintain their health and balance.
Sitting at a desk (even if it is in an ergonomic chair) for long hours can result in obesity and many other health problems. Here are 5 desk exercises to help you exert some energy and bring athletic activity back to your office life.
Lower Back Desk Exercise
A sore lower back is a very common problem for desk jockeys. It can be difficult to practice good posture for long hours. This leads to some relaxed slouching, which inevitably causes lower back and neck pain. You can do a simple stretch to help alleviate this discomfort. You can do this stretch either sitting in a chair or standing up:
- Place your hands, palms down, on your lower back.
- Point your fingers down and lean back.
- Push your breastbone up towards the sky, keeping your elbows pointing straight back.
- Hold for 15 seconds then relax.
- Repeat the above steps twice.
This stretch will help you relieve the tension that builds up in your lower back. To avoid injury, remember not to bounce or jerk your muscles while exercising or stretching your back.
Calf Stretch and Quadriceps Desk Exercise
This exercise will help relieve the tired and lethargic feeling that invades your leg muscles due to inactivity. It will assist in eliminating leg cramps and muscle spasms. In addition, the quadriceps exercise will actually strengthen the muscle itself through an isolated isometric flex at the top.
Before attempting this exercise, ensure that you have enough space to fully extend your legs. Do the following exercise with your back straight and your feet planted flat on the floor in front of you.
- Place your hands flat on top of your right leg.
- Lift your right leg from your hip flexor and fully extend it straight from the knee.
- With your leg fully extended flex your upper leg muscle and hold for 10 seconds.
- Lower your right leg slowly, once again placing your foot flat on the floor.
- Repeat exercise with the left leg.
- Repeat the above steps twice.
You can also stretch out both legs under the desk for a minute. This exercise will enhance the blood flow to your legs and alleviate muscle cramps. While doing the above exercise you should feel a solid stretch in your calf muscle and a firm tightening of the upper leg quadriceps.
Shoulder Stretch and Desk Exercise
A simple exercise that can be done from behind the desk is the shoulder stretch/roll. This exercise will help you when those cases of copy paper and archived record boxes get a little heavy. It is also good for those with aching shoulders. Remember to sit up straight with your feet firmly planted on the floor when doing the following exercise.
- Stretch your right arm in front of you and across your chest, as if you were grabbing something on your left side.
- Bring your left arm under and in front of your right arm.
- Gently hug your right arm in towards your chest.
- Repeat with the arms reversed.
- Relax your arms, letting them hang down loosely at your side.
- Slowly roll both shoulders backwards ten times.
- Slowly roll both shoulders forward ten times.
These movements will help relax the shoulders and neck, as well as add flexibility and strength. In addition, they both can easily be done as a desk exercise.
Abdominal Crunch Desk Exercise
Even though no one likes to admit it, sitting for long hours at a desk can lead to a bulging waistline. This can be a cause of stress for many. You can combat this enemy with a simple crunch desk exercise done directly from your office chair.
- Sit on the edge of your seat.
- Lean back from the waist, keep your back straight.
- Hold the seat of your chair with both hands.
- Lift both legs up, keeping your knees bent while tightening your abdominal muscles.
- Straighten your legs holding your heels a few inches off of the floor.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have completed 10 repetitions.
For most of us, abdominal exercises are not fun. However, if you can master this one you will be well on your way to developing a stronger and leaner midsection. This exercise will strengthen your core and help promote better posture.
Sit and Stand Up Straight
Many people are surprised when they hear that sitting and standing up straight is an exercise. Good posture itself is probably one of the most effective core strengthening exercises out there. This is due to the amount of muscles required to stabilize the upper body when keeping the back straight and the tummy tight. Here are some tips for better posture.
- Adjust your chair and keyboard to promote a non-slouching sitting position.
- Always sit with both feet firmly flat on the ground in front of you.
- Stand up tall, with your shoulders back and your chin raised.
Practicing good posture will usually alleviate lower back and neck pain. It will help you feel more confident and in control of yourself. Sitting and standing up straight will continually build strength in your abdominal and lower back muscles.
These office exercises are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you get up and walk around a few times a day. Start taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If the commute to work isn’t too long, riding your bike or walking to work a couple of times a week will do you some good as well.
Trying to exercise at your desk might feel a little awkward at first, so try the routine at home until you get it all figured out. Don’t worry about what Bob might be thinking when you begin to practice them at the office. As he watches your confidence and health improve, he might even be motivated to try the desk exercises for himself. You could end up creating a much healthier office life for all of your colleagues.
(Image courtesy of emdot under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)
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