Office Workout: Improve Your Health Without Leaving Your Chair


Stretches & Core Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk:


Your health is at risk if you sit still all day. Maintaining a sedentary position for hours causes blood to pool in the lower extremities so the feet and ankles swell. Hip and knee joints stiffen due to lack of movement. Poor posture while typing at a computer causes compression of the discs in the back and pinched nerves in the neck, lower back and wrists. And, to top it all off, sitting doesn’t burn very many calories, so whatever calories you eat are stored as fat. Research has shown that sitting, whether at a desk, on the couch or behind a wheel is even associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.


Studies published in Exercise and Sports Science Review show that the key to avoiding metabolic disturbances due to sedentary habits may be offset not by exercising two or three times a week, but by moving your body every hour. Dr. Neville Owen, et al, propose, “too much sitting is distinct from too little exercise.”


What To Do When You Don’t Do Enough


Combat office chair chubbiness and computer-related cramps with the following stretches and exercises right at your desk. You can build a stronger core, reduce back pain, tighten your stomach and improve your posture without lugging a gym bag to work. And, best of all, you may be able to head off long-term illness.


Before you start, be aware of the space around you so that you don’t get entangled in any wires or knock anything off your desktop. You won’t need any equipment other than your chair, your desk and a wall.


Desk Stretches


Perform these stretches actively, moving from one position to the next slowly and with purpose. Remember to breathe! Connecting to your breath, though it may seem like an automatic activity, actually focuses your mind on the exercises. It helps clear the emotional effects on breathing. For example, if your work is stressful, your breathing changes accordingly. Take this time to step away from stress-breathing effects.


After you feel warmed up from the stretches, do the exercises in the next section. You can finish the session by holding each stretch for 10 breaths as a cool-down.

1.  Overhead arm extension with arms straight and apart or with hands interlocked.

2.  Side stretch with arms extended overhead.

3.  Upper back stretch with arms in front and legs extended

4.  Chest and anterior shoulder stretch with arms behind (either with hands on the armrests or with hands behind the chair).

5.  Twist holding chair or desk.

6.  Supported lunge while seated.


Desk Exercises


Exercises should be done slowly with purpose. Exhale with the active part of each movement in order to engage the core muscles. Start with eight reps on each side.


1.  Knee Lifts (targets the core muscles and hip flexors):

  1. Single knee
  1. Double knee

2.  Leg Extensions (targets the quads and hamstrings)

3.  Knee Lift with Leg Extension (targets the core muscles, quads and hamstrings)

4.  Twists (targets the core, esp. the obliques)

  1. Cross-Over Knee Lifts (targets the back extensors, the obliques, anterior core muscles and the hip flexors)

5.  Oblique Crunch (targets the obliques and anterior core muscles)

6.  Windmills (targets the back extensors, back flexors, deltoids and traps)

7.  Stand-up/Sit-down (squat: targets the glutes and quads)

8.  Tricep Dips (on desk or on chair: targets the triceps)

9.  Push Ups (on desk or chair or against a wall: targets the chest, deltoids and triceps)


Jodai Saremi

Jodai Saremi, DPM, BS , is a freelance writer, AFAA certified trainer, and fitness model. She has written for American Fitness, SPIN fitness, Your Health Connection magazines, and other online publications. Her articles have also been featured in textbooks. She enjoys an active lifestyle and lives in Ventura County, Calif. with her husband and two children.

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