If you’re even mildly attuned to health news, you know that Americans, and office working Americans in particular, don’t move enough. We’re tied to our desks all day. And to get there, we ride in our cars. We drive home in our cars where we move to the couch where we recover from our day.
Before or after work we might squeeze in an hour yoga class or take a run. But at the office, we don’t think to fit in exercise; we spend most of our time during the day sedentary. Office and fitness, office and exercise seem at odds.
It’s terrible for our bodies. So we make small changes. We get standing desks, set our Fitbits and Apple Watches to buzz every hour to make sure we get up and take a few steps.
We can do more. And I’m not talking about those ridiculous under-desk ellipticals so that you can pedal all day. Or moving your desk to a treadmill. I’m talking about some gentle stretches based on yoga poses, some calf strengthening and a way to burn some extra calories just by using your standing desk.
Exercises for the Office
- Heel/calf raises
Standing on one or both legs, slowly rise up to your toes and control your descent.
- Wrist release
With your right arm extended in front of you, flex your wrist so your fingers point up and your palm faces away from you. Using your left hand, gently pull back on your right hand. Repeat with your other arm.
- Dynamic Hamstring stretches
Sitting up straight so your legs make a 90-degree angle at the knee and your thighs and body make a second 90-degree angle, slowly straighten your legs one at a time (so your leg is outstretched and at a 90-degree angle from your torso). Do this for several minutes on each leg. (Bonus points if you place a tennis ball under your thigh and move it around every 30 seconds or so to work out muscle knots).
- Chair Pigeon Pose
From that same straight-back position, cross your right leg over your left, so your right ankle is on your left knee. Lean forward gently while keeping your back straight. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch sides.
- Seat backbend
Sitting forward in your chair, place your hands on the small of your back for support while you arch your back. Let your chest open and take a few deep breaths before slowly straightening your spine.
- Chair twist
Seated forward in your chair, with your legs at a 90-degree angle, twist to the right. Place your left hand on your right knee to deepen the stretch. Hold for a few deep breaths and switch to the other side.
This is where we start with moves that are a little bolder and might not be so easily hidden in an open office layout. Standing (or sitting in a chair where your arms can dangle), place your arms at your side, palms facing back. Press your arms backwards 100 times.
- Desk pushups
If your desk is sturdy, assume a pushup/plank position with your hands on your desk and your feet on the floor, the steeper the angle, the tougher the pushup. Do a couple sets of 10 and pat yourself on the back for being an office badass.
ushyour chair out of the way and do a few, well-formed squats. With feet shoulder width apart, lower yourself as if you were going to sit in a chair and then return to standing. Do a set of 6-10.
By adding in some gentle movement, you keep your muscles active and limber and you give yourself a few moments free of the pressures of your day.
Where can I practice these?
Each of these exercises/hacks can be done in even the smallest of cubicles or open-plan offices, but if you have more space and want a little more intensity, the Washington Post has a great office workout and Yoga Journal has a few poses that can be done in an office but might draw some strange looks if your cubicle leaves you in plain sight.
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Mary Fran Wiley is a well known gluten-free and positive living blogger from Chicago where she writes Curiouser and Curiouser, maintains the Chronic Positivity Project, and has been featured in Allergic Living Magazine, Care2.com and Today.com.