Can work and fitness go hand in hand? Absolutely, even if you live in Cubicleville.
Unfortunately many people use their desk jobs as their excuse for why they’ve become sedentary and stay that way. That kind of thinking results in an increase in risk for weight gain, decreased health and an overall sense of “Why bother?”
Here are a few simple ways to incorporate activity into your work day, even if your boss has chained you to your desk.
Stand up — Numerous studies show that the very act of standing upright burns more calories than sitting down. So, consider ways you can stand at your workstation or at the next staff meeting. Not only will you burn more calories, you’ll likely be more engaged in the conversation and less likely to lose focus.
Roll your feet on a ball — This is especially for those of you who wear heeled shoes, men included. Dress shoes often have at least a half-inch lift in the heel, which shortens muscles surrounding the Achilles tendon, specifically the soleus. This can result in pain in the heels, calves and even contribute to plantar fasciitis, a painful condition also known as “jogger’s heel.” So, when you can, kick off your shoes and place a small ball (i.e. tennis ball, racquetball) and roll your foot across the ball.
De-stress your shoulders — By mid-afternoon it’s likely you’re feeling some stress in the upper shoulders and neck. To relieve this pain take a small ball and place it between your upper back and the wall. Place the ball between the shoulder blade and the spine near the top of your shoulder. Lean into the ball and allow it to roll into the spot that feels tense. Be mindful, this may be uncomfortable. Lean into the discomfort for 30 to 90 seconds. Change sides. OK, so you might look like a bear scratching its back on a tree. Just go with it. It feels amazing.
Head and neck rolls — Drop your ear to your shoulder and hold for 15-30 seconds. Allow your chin to roll toward your chest and hold another 15-30 seconds. Finally, take the opposite ear to its same side shoulder and for the same amount of time.
Shoulder shrugs and rolls — This will feel like a sweet self-massage, especially if you sit at a computer all day. Do this often.
A 30-second dance party — When and where appropriate turn up some tunes, push your chair away and dance like no one’s watching. And don’t forget to smile. It burns more calories than frowning and helps you de-stress. Don’t like to dance? Try 30 seconds of jumping jacks, jogging in place, squats, push ups or chair dips.
Overhead stretch — Reach your hands high above your head, interlace your fingers and open your hands palm side to the sky. Reach up while you’re also reaching down into your chair or the floor with your hips or feet. This is instantly rejuvenating.
Torso twists — Place your hands on one side of your chair, sit up tall and twist to one side. Turn your head to the opposite side. Repeat on the other side.
Use a stability ball — Consider replacing your office chair with a stability ball chair. The ball will provide you opportunity to strengthen your core and improve your posture.
Eye exercises — Eye strain is exhausting and happens quickly to those who work on computers all day long. First of all, look away from your screen as much as possible. At least twice a day take time to look away from your computer and look to the corners of room using only the muscles in your eyes.
Feet on the wall — This pick-me-up is one of my favorite in-office go-to exercises when I’m starting to feel sluggish. Sit on the floor with your hips as close to the wall as you can get. Prop your feet up on the wall and allow your lymphatic system to go to work. Try this in 5-minute increments. Before coming down from the wall, remember to bend your knees and come down slowly, otherwise you may get dizzy.
Hamstring stretch and back extensions — Push your chair away from your desk, place your hands on the desk and straighten out your legs. This allows your spine some decompression and blood to flow more freely around the spine.
Need more ideas? Use your 15-minute breaks to take a walk. Park in the farthest spot in the lot, ride your bike to work, walk to work, and never use an elevator. Take active lunch breaks. Skip the afternoon trip to the vending machine and instead grab a water bottle and head outside for a 5 minute walk. You’ll be refreshed for the afternoon. And more creative.
And finally, remember the 80/20 principle. Eighty percent of your health has to do with what you eat so stock your snack drawer with healthy snacks.
Ultimately, just move more and more often.
Leslie Snyder is senior program director of Healthy Living at the Walla Walla YMCA. She holds American Council on Exercise professional certifications as an advanced health and fitness specialist, health coach, personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.