10 Office-Friendly Exercises for the Everyday Desk Jockey

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The following is a guest post by Amanda Greening - a member of Workbar since September, 2014.

The Bad and the Ugly

Science tells us regular, sustained sitting compromises the human body in myriad, potentially dangerous and likely uncomfortable ways. In a nutshell, your body forgets it's capable of movement; muscles forget how to lengthen and shorten, heart and lungs forget how to pump blood and oxygen, organs go haywire, bones lose density, metabolism slows to a crawl, even brain function grows sluggish.

If you have a desk job, you’ve probably experienced: all-over stiffness, sore back (or hips, knees, shoulders, or neck), shortness of breath, lack of energy, extra pounds creeping on, disturbing blood work, and the general feeling that moving is much harder than staying still. Your body has accepted its new position in life.

The SAID Principle

Why is sitting so lousy for your body? Humans are incredibly efficient adaptation machines -adapting exactly to the stimuli you’re exposed to, but no further. This is called the SAID Principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. If you run, jump, bend, push, pull, reach and twist, SAID dictates your body will rise to the challenge - given time and progressive overload. If you sit all day, your body adapts no further, and throws on the brakes when you try to be more than furniture.

Here is a classic scenario: Desk jockey goes for a run after a day chained to her chair. Seems benign enough to get some movement and fresh air. But, sitting for the previous 8 hours has not prepared her body for a thousand single leg hops; repetitive torso rotation; flexion and extension at her hips, ankles, and knees with every step, or sustained heart rate elevation. Pain and injury ensue and her body gets weaker instead of stronger. The exercise modality usually gets the blame, but  it’s the sitting that caused the injury - the exercise is only the canary in the coal mine.

Reversing the Curse

Now that we’re clear on the cause and effect relationship between sedentary lifestyle and loss of physical function, let's talk rehab. Remember the SAID Principle - if you want your body to adapt for movement, you need to teach it, throughout the day, how to move. To this end, I've designed a workout of 10 targeted exercises, to be done at or near your workspace, that will get you fixed up faster than you can say "back spasms."

In creating this workout, my focus was on reversing the specific, negative, muscular adaptations associated with sitting. When done regularly, these exercises will elevate your heart rate, increase hamstring flexibility and shoulder and hip mobility, incorporate rotation and lateral movement, and - perhaps most importantly - activate your glutes throughout. These aren't the most aggressive movements on the block, because:

1) I want them to be safe for even the least mobile among us, 2) No one wants to break a serious sweat in their work clothes, and 3) I don't believe you’ll really do them at work unless they're low-profile.

That said, if you zero in on form and focus on engaging the right muscles, you will absolutely feel the burn and the benefit. Support this work by walking more, taking the stairs, and intermittently standing to work.

So, take off your heels, adjust your clothing if you need to, warn your cubicle neighbors, and get moving!

10 Anti-Sitting Exercises

(Perform in order. Repeat entire sequence twice in the morning and afternoon.)

Exercise #1 - Calf Stretch

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Exercise #2 - Hamstring Stretch

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Exercise #3 - Squat to Chair

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Exercise #4 - Stationary Lunge/Hip Stretch

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Exercise #5 - Hip Hinge to Posterior Tap

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Exercise #6 - Shoulder Wall Slides

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Exercise #7 - Standing Diagonal Leg Abduction

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Exercise #8 - Half-Kneeling Chop

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Exercise#9 - Single Leg Hinge to Anterior Tap

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Exercise #10 - Windmill

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About the Author: Amanda Greening is a  Master Level Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor, Certified Holistic Health Coach, and blogger at The Health You Want. She sees training clients at her home studio in Watertown, and Health Coaching clients at Workbar Cambridge. Get to know her on Twitter @DaHealthYouWant and Instagram @TheHealthYouWant.

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