Staying strong at work
Let’s start with a few facts that we all should be aware of, the typical ‘office working’ adult will sit at work, in a desk chair for up to eight hours. Add to that a sitting-down commute to and from work, followed by an evening spent in front of the TV, and this is a recipe for ruin. It is a simple fact that sitting all day isn’t what our bodies were designed to do and can increase the risk of back pain, poor posture, tense muscles and sheer boredom.
You might be thinking: “But I do a swim and a ride before work, so I’m fine.” The fact is, it’s not that you aren’t getting enough exercise, it’s more about those eight or so hours during which you aren’t moving at all!
Some of the most common injuries and niggles in today’s society are the result of a lack of movement and holding certain positions for long periods of time. As I’ve already mentioned, some of us are fitting plenty of exercise into our week, however we are still having problems occur and these are because we are going from periods of high intensity or volume movement to long periods of sitting. This causes our major joints and muscles to remain in shortened positions for long periods of time.
Take for example your hip complex. This ‘houses’ the muscles that not only support your entire upper and lower body but also delivers the power and speed you look for during ‘fight or flight’ responses in life. The fact that you spend more time neutralising these muscles and keeping them switched off, it is no wonder that your body is suffering as a result of imbalanced living. We need to keep reminding our body it has these muscle groups and to keep you balanced!
Moving at work
Having a number of exercises you can do at work is simply a way of keeping your body active – we know how important it is for concentration to use our muscles, tendons and ligaments while your heart keeps pumping. You may feel you don’t have the time to do exercise amongst all the emails and conference calls but I will show a few of my favourite exercises that you can quickly and easily fit into your busy day.
There are a number of exercises you can do at your desk to help you improve your body’s flexibility and strength with nothing but a few minutes, a resistance band and your desk chair. Being at work all day is no excuse not to move – use your time wisely and keep up your body maintenance with a few simple and effective exercises within the office environment. Pose the idea to your boss if that makes you feel more comfortable, you never know, it might catch on!
The exercises shown below can increase your overall productivity, decrease stress and promote a sense of euphoria and well being.
1. Toe Touch-High Touch
This is a great movement when you’re pressed for time and are looking for an exercise that combines flexibility training with strength.
From a standing position, keeping your legs straight, stretch down and put your hands on the floor directly in front of you. For a lot of us, this may not be possible especially if we have been sitting down. Progress gradually, reaching far enough that you get a stretch down the back of your legs but not too far that it is painful. Pausing momentarily in that lowest position, roll yourself slowly back up to standing and reach your arms overhead as tall as possible. Add a side bend in to increase the stretch through your obliques and lats to open up either side of you.
2. Bodyweight Squat – (Squat every damn day!)
If your job allows you to get up from your seat, do squats beside your desk. Try different variations of squats to find the one that feels best to you, or switch up the type of squats you do throughout the day for a different workout. Your office chair serves as an aid, particularly if you are a beginner. Put the chair up against a wall if it has wheels to prevent it from moving. Stand in front of the chair and squat down as if you were going to sit. Just before you reach the chair, stand back up.
For a single leg squat, (above), look to use the desk or chair to support your technique and seek out quality of movement over quantity of repetitions. Plus, don’t forget to spend some quality time down in the bottom of your squat too. Look to complete two to three sets of 30-second holds, working on the mobility of your ankles, knees and hips.
Resistance Band Pull Aparts
Resistance bands are an easy, versatile way of toning and strengthening the body or upping the ante on a workout, and they can be done anywhere, anytime – just keep the band in your desk drawer or
We need to combat poor posture but unfortunately, no amount of 10-second stretching and rolling of our shoulders is going to combat hours of holding poor positions at the desk, this is why we have need to include some activation and strength exercises into your programming. We need to bring balance back to your body and we can do this by strengthening the rear, back muscles so that they can pull you back into better position.
Begin with your arms extended straight out in front of you, holding the band with both hands. Start the movement by ripping the band apart, moving your hands out laterally to your sides. Keep your elbows extended as you perform the movement, bringing the band to your chest and drawing your shoulder blades together. Ensure that you keep your shoulders back during the exercise. Pause as you complete the movement, before returning to the starting position under control.
Bottoms Up: Don’t forget to give those glutes a squeeze throughout the day.
WHEN? All of these office exercises can be done easily in five to 10 minutes. Consider doing them right before your lunch break to boost your metabolism so that you will be ready for a well-balanced lunch or snack or mid-afternoon when you start to feel that dreaded 3 pm slump!
Training tip: A short and effective strength program can be done alone or with a small group of colleagues. I recommend taking a five-minute break every 60 minutes if you are at a desk.
Training tip: We all know how important our glutes are for protecting our back, especially when we’re chair-bound for most of the day. A simple isometric exercise is to squeeze your glutes and hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then release. Do this a number of times a day, just as a reminder to yourself that they do exist.