It can be all too easy when you’ve got a desk job to sit still for hours on end. But we all know this is extremely bad for health, muscle mass and flexibility. So, for this months’ fitness feature, we’re giving you simple, and effortless exercises that you can do from your office chair.
For this piece, we chatted to Leanne Antoine, Chartered Physiotherapist at Distinct Physiotherapy, to get her top tips for working out at your desk- you’d be surprised by how much you can actually do sitting down!
Up the intake
Of water that is…. Leanne’s first tip, first and foremost, is increase your intake of water. Not only do you probably need to drink more anyway, but this will encourage you to get up and about to refill your bottle and pop to the loo.
Working on your core:
Your core muscles and pelvic floor really benefit from being consciously activated. So many of us are on autopilot at our desks and the seated position can make us a bit ‘chair – shaped’ and lazy. Why not give these exercises a go before you write your next email?!
Work on your pelvic floor
Men and women can benefit from working on their pelvic floor muscles. Yes! Even men have a pelvic floor! This group of muscles can be strengthened by pulling in and up from the pubic region up towards the belly button.
The length of time you hold this contraction may vary and you might find that as you strengthen you can hold for longer. Try starting with 10 – 15 seconds and repeat the process whenever you remember! Who needs hard and fast rules and repetitions?
If you have a desk chair with arms, use it to work on your trunk with some torso twists.
First turn to the right as far as you feel comfortable and then place your hands on the arms of the chair to encourage a bit more rotation – your colleague might look at you a bit oddly at this point but it’s absolutely fine to tell them what you’re doing and to ask them to join in! Why not hold for about 30 seconds – consider it to be valuable thinking time! Repeat to the other side and don’t forget to breathe in between!
This will not only help to engage the core muscles as you sit up to perform the movement but it will mobilise your mid-back. Stiffness in your mid back can contribute to your longstanding neck and shoulder tension and your low back pain. Think long term!
Sit on an exercise ball
Workplaces are so much more creative these days! Why not ask your HR department to invest in a few gym balls. You could trade your traditional chair in for a gym ball throughout the course of your day. By sitting on an exercise ball, this forces your body to engage the core muscles, whilst challenging your posture. You’ll certainly notice a burn from this simple adjustment!
Working on your legs
Do you give your ankles a little workout? Well you should! And sitting at your desk couldn’t be a more convenient time to do it. Simply extend one leg at a time and rotate your ankle 10 ways to the right and repeat, 10 ways to the left. Switch legs.
This will not only help the mobility of your ankles and keep them flexible; it’ll also help with circulation and give you a little boost of energy.
You can even give you bum a little workout whilst sitting down!
When you engage your buttocks and glutes, you’re giving your bum a little workout. Of course this isn’t going to start producing beach bums, but strong buttock muscles contribute to your core strength. It will help to engage the muscles to ensure that when you do your lunges and squats, you’re doing it effectively. It’s a no brainer really!
Ensure your back is well supported, straighten your legs, engage your core, clench your buttocks and simply lift your legs. This will help to work out your thighs, bum and even help with strengthening your core. You really don’t need to stick numbers, just do them as you remember!
Working on your arms
Writs stretches and movements can really help to relieve the stress and tension that can build up in the forearm muscles. Some of us spend ages at the desk without even realising that we haven’t moved anything but our wrists in ages. Your wrist muscles will encourage movement of the whole arm which can also assist that stiff neck of yours.
A really simple and effective stretch for your shoulders, without too much movement, is to simply push your shoulder blades towards your spine. Hold this stretch for 15 seconds and release. Repeat 3 times, 4 times daily.
If you find you hunch over your desk, this will really help to mobilise the muscles in your shoulders. You may be a little stiff to begin with but all the more reason to do it.
Making sure your neck is nicely stretched will ensure there is no unnecessary tugging on the muscles in your arms and shoulders.
However, it is so important to make sure that your movements are clear and concise so that you don’t aggravate any current symptoms. There are two really effective neck stretches that you can do:
Side flexion- gently take your right ear to your your right shoulder- yes, as simple as that. If you want to get a deeper stretch here, look to the ceiling with a slight diagonal tilt. Hold in this position for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. Try and do these 3 times per day.
Over the shoulder- keeping your chin down and slightly tucked in, turn your head to the right as though you’re looking over your right shoulder. Hold this position for 20 seconds, return to the center and then repeat to the left. If you’re not sure if your chin is in the right position, imagine holding an orange between your chin and chest as you move!
Adding these little routines into your working day will make a world of difference to your flexibility and strength. You might also find that there’s an increase in your energy levels. Why not give the programme a go and let us know how you get on in the comments section below!
Thank you to Leanne at Distinct Physiotherapy for her insights in creating this piece.