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If you are stuck at your desk for eight hours each day, it is difficult to fit in a proper workout. Sitting for long periods of time has health consequences, including poor circulation, posture issues and chronic pain. Fortunately, there are exercises that you can do while sitting at a desk, and none of the exercises below require you to leave your chair.
The majority of office work requires using a computer, which causes strain to the neck and stiffness in the shoulders. Taking a break every 30 minutes and sitting up straight will alleviate this stress as will rolling your head from side to side. A beneficial shoulder stretch is done by leaning forward in the chair while locking the arms behind the back. This motion relieves muscle stiffness and allows your shoulders to return to a natural position.
Productivity is affected by posture, which suffers during a long day in the office. Staring at a computer screen and typing at a keyboard can result in tight shoulder blades. Much like the shoulder stretch, shoulder blade flexing works to relieve muscle tension. The exercise is done by sitting up straight and pretending there is a pen or similar object between the shoulder blades and squeezing them together. The flex should be held for 10 seconds, then released. Repeat 10 times for optimum results.
Workers who must sit the entire day are at risk of developing circulation problems in the legs. An easy toe-touch exercise can prevent swelling, discomfort and serious complications such as varicose veins. While sitting, stretch the legs out straight and bend over them to touch the toes, then return to the starting position. This motion can be done throughout the work day. It is also helpful to elevate the legs while working or consider using a standing desk.
While your shoulders and neck suffer from extended office work, so do the lower back and buttocks, especially from extended sitting. Recent studies have indicated that too much sitting causes many health problems and may even reduce lifespan. Squat exercises offer many benefits to the whole body but are extremely effective for the lumbar spine and quad muscles. Chair squats are done by standing 15 centimetres in front of the chair and slowing lowering the buttocks to the edge of the seat. Return to the standing position and repeat several times.
Those who work in offices often do a great deal of typing. This places strain on the wrists that could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and elbow pain over the long term. Wrist stretches are an excellent exercise to avoid these problems. The stretch is performed by sitting in the chair and holding one arm out in front with the palm of the hand facing away. Use the opposite hand to pull back on the fingers until the stretch is felt in the wrist. Repeat five times on each wrist, followed by wrist circles to keep everything flexible.
An added benefit of performing these exercises is the rest the eyes get from the computer screen. Digital eye strain is a growing issue in the office environment, causing fatigue and blurred vision. Taking frequent breaks cannot be emphasized enough.
Working at a desk all day does not mean a person cannot exercise and improve fitness. The five exercises described above are easy to do and will result in improved circulation, better posture, higher productivity and improved emotional and mental health.
While the above exercises are great, it’s always best to step away from your desk every so often. Studies indicate that a good goal to have is 5-10 minutes of activity per hour. This could translate to 5 minutes every half hour or 10 minutes each hour. You can take the stairs (2 at a time) instead of the elevator, leave your desk and go talk to your colleagues instead of e-mailing them. Or you can go for a walk and grab a water.
When you’re sitting behind your desk and you are not exercising, you should make sure that you sit at your desk in the right way. Ideally your desk chair is set at the right height in order to minimize strain on your back and neck. Set the height so that you are in a 90/90/90 position; with your feet resting flat on the floor (or on a foot rest) and your hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Maintain proper curvature by keeping your lower spine flat against the back of your chair.
One final word of advise about your computer screen. Make sure that the top 1/3 of your monitor is above eye level, this reduces eyestrain and also prevents you from hunching forward.
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