For those of us who sit at a desk for eight to ten hours a day, some even longer, we find it necessary to get up and stretch quite often. More than just taking a break from staring at a screen and using all of our brain’s processing power to perform the tasks of our jobs, we feel the need to use the muscles that are not getting used from the office chair (at least I do). But stretching is not enough. Unless you have the opportunity to go to the gym before or after work, or you are able to go for a jog while on your lunch break, we are not getting enough exercise our bodies need to stay fit and healthy. That is why I started looking into what kinds of exercises can be done in the office, in a cubicle, or at a desk; quick workouts that can get those muscles moving, burn calories, and get the body feeling good. If your body is feeling good, your mind will be right there with it, making you even more productive and happier as you produce.
By staying fit at the office, you will not only improve your productivity, you will also be improving your attendance. Doing these little exercises at the office will help reduce absenteeism in the workplace and using sick days (save those for personal days if you are able to) by keeping your body strong and resilient. Get into a routine, at work and outside of work, and you could have a body like those in fitness photos and magazines.
In Your Chair
There are several things you can do while sitting at your desk, things you don’t even have to stop typing or researching to do.
- Neck Flexes- these are simple. Stretch your neck to one side and hold it there for a count of 10. Then switch to the opposite side and hold it again for a count of 10. Take your neck and tilt it forward for a ten count. You can do this back and forth and forward a few times.
- Head Rolls- something I remember from my high school P.E. class is rolling my head around. Start off by rolling your head back, then to the side, then down, then up the other side. Roll your head in one direction 10 times then roll it in the opposite direction another ten times. This will help keep your neck from stiffening while staring at a computer screen for hours on end.
- Abdominal Contractions- suck in your gut! That is the gist of it. Sit with your back straight and suck in your stomach. Hold it in for 5 seconds before releasing. Do this for 15 sets and you will help keep your abdominal muscles tight (and you do not realize how much you use these muscles until you can’t!).
- Shoulder Rolls- roll your shoulders independently of each other, first forward for a set of ten, then back for a set of ten. Then do the same with both shoulders in tandem. Keep your shoulders loose and your neck and arms will thank you.
- Arm Circles- another exercise I learned from high school 20 years ago (yes, I actually remember some stuff from then), and have not used since then, is rotating your arms. As long as you have the space without knocking a fellow employee out, you can stretch your arms out at your side and just move them in a circular motion. Circle them forward for a ten count then circle them back for another ten (notice a pattern with the tens?).
If you have an office or work in a cubicle, you should have no problems doing some of these exercises (unless your work area is an extremely tight squeeze).
- Toe Raises- stand on your tiptoes. Simple enough. Raise yourself up onto your toes and hold there for a count of 10. Do this as many times as you can or have time for.
- Squats- squat down in your work area then push yourself back up. You can do this 10 to 15 times, working out those butt muscles while on the clock, or until someone laughs at you (or stares at that tight butt of yours!).
- Wall Push Ups- this is a popular one because walls are EVERYWHERE! Press your arms flat against the wall of your office or cubicle, angle your body so that your legs are farther out than your chest, and push yourself away from the wall. Do this as many times as you want or can; it is suggested doing them in sets of tens or twenties. To make things even harder, try doing these wall push ups one-handed. It will increase the difficulty and work your muscles harder. Make sure to exercise both arms if you do them one at a time, you do not want one arm looking buffer than the other.
- Steps- although you would probably have to get out of the office or your cubicle for this one, it is still something you can do while at work. Step away if you can (need to go to the water cooler?) and find some steps to walk up and down. You do not want to stay away for long so find yourself a short flight of steps to jog up, or limit yourself to a small number of steps if the flight is longer. Try to do several sets of these before returning to your work (don’t forget your water).
There are plenty of opportunities during the work day to do some brief exercises. If you are going to take the time to stretch, you might as well do one or more of these instead. Standing up? Do some toe raises. If you are already flexing your arms out, you might as well spin them in circles while you are at it. The benefits of these can outweigh the temporary effects of simply stretching.