People tend to view being “active” as one continuous bout of exercise (i.e. going to the gym to run for 30 minutes). However, the amount of time spent sitting may be an entirely different risk factor to achieving good health. Our environment fosters a sedentary lifestyle between long hour desk jobs, driving to and from destinations, and lounging on the couch once arriving home.
High desk-based sitting time has been associated with an increased likelihood of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that office-based employees with high levels of sitting time were 9 times more likely to be obese than those with lower sitting times.
The common desk job puts our body in an unnatural position. The head is extended forward, shoulders slouched, and the back rounded promoting weak core muscles, and tight hips and hamstring resulting in chronic low back pain.
So what can you do to fight obesity, diabetes, heart disease, poor posture, and low back pain? Getting in small movements throughout the day helps increase circulation to the brain, organs, and muscles, increasing your ability to think clearly and concentrate on tasks at hand, and may prevent risk of associated health problems. Get your blood flowing with these 5 easy moves while at your desk.
A few simple movements can be healthy for your body and mind
5 Desk Job Stretches (while standing)
- Arms lift up: Reach your arms up overhead like you were waking up first thing in the morning. Bring them back to center and repeat 5-10 times.
- Calf raises: Hold a chair for balance and lift your heels high off the ground. Tap down and lift back up for a total of 10 times.
- Arm swings: While standing tall, swing your arms back and forth in front of you as if you were walking very quickly. Repeat for 10-30 seconds.
- Arms lift up and Side Reach: Reach your arms up overhead and holding the hands together reach to the right and left helping, to elongate and stretch opposite sides of the body.
- Hang out: Bend at the hips, and let your upper body, arms, and head hang down like a rag doll. Bringing your head below your heart may help calm racing thoughts and improve blood flow to the brain.
5 Desk Job Stretches (while sitting)
- Point and Flex: Extend one leg at a time and point, flex, even roll the ankle around in the air.
- Shoulder Rolls: Squeeze your shoulders up tight to your ears and then down and away. Close your eyes for a moment and breath while exaggerating the movement a few times.
- Neck Rolls: Bring your chin to your chest and roll the neck side to side stretching out the back of the neck. Bring the head back and stretch the chin up to the ceiling to open the throat and neck.
- Arms overhead: Reach your hands up overhead like you were waking up in the morning. Press the palms up to the ceiling helping to elongate the spine and stretch out the side body.
- Easy Twist: Bring one hand across the body to the outside of your opposite thigh. Place your back hand to the chair behind you for support to help deepen the stretch. Remember to sit tall on the inhale and twist on the exhale.
5 Tips to increase mobility and activity at the office
- Stand up: Set an alarm on your phone every 30 minutes to remind you to stand up. Lift up your arms, take a few deep breaths, or stand up and sit down 5 times in a row to increase heart rate and blood flow. If you have extra time, every 60 minutes, aim to take a walk to the bathroom or water fountain.
- Stairs: Take the stairs in place of the elevator.
- Parking: Instead of searching for the closest parking spot, position your spot farther away from the entrance to your office.
- Transportation: If using public transit, get off a stop earlier. If you have the option, bike to work once a week.
- Skip the e-mail: Instead of e-mailing your co-worker down the hall, get up and walk down to discuss the issue. Not only does this foster closer communication and connection of your team, but increases blood flow to the brain.