It’s hardly news that sitting at a desk all day isn’t great for your overall health. Remaining seated all day puts tremendous pressure on the vertebrae of the spine and the ball-and-socket joints in the hips. If you work at a computer, you run the risk of straining the tiny muscles behind your eyes and injuring your neck and wrists from too much flexion (find out more about repetitive strain injury here).
So, if you must sit at a desk all day, here are some exercises you can do to maintain a little bit of physical activity. We’re calling these desk exercises: DEXERCISES.
Depending on the set-up of your office, and your level of boldness, these exercises range from virtually invisible to very visible.
Some stealthy exercise you can do without anyone suspecting include: taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of shooting them an email or messaging them on G-chat. You can also do a few imperceptible exercises: butt clenches for your gluteal muscles, kegel exercises for your pelvic floor, and squeezing your inner thighs intermittently. Always hold the squeeze for 8-10 seconds, rest, repeat.
For those who aren’t ready to start lunging around the office, here are some exercises ambiguous enough to just be interpreted as active sitting! Cross one leg over the other so that the ankle of one leg rests on the knee of the other, lean forward and feel the gluteal muscles stretch! You can also do some casual neck and shoulder rolls which are great for releasing tension in the upper back and can be quickly abandoned if a colleague looks at you with a funny gaze. Same goes for rolling out your ankles and wrists.
Some other somewhat visible exercises include torso twists (stabilize your pelvis and rotate around your spine while breathing deeply from your diaphragm) and leg extensions (beneath your desk, straighten out one leg at a time to activate your quads, rotate inward and outward to engage the deep rotator muscles of the hips).
If you can’t hold to the doctor recommended 20-20 rule (that is, for every 20 minutes you look at a computer screen, spend 20 minutes looking at anything that isn’t a computer screen) here’s an exercise to keep your eyes healthy. Close your eyes! This allows the muscles that encase the eye to relax. To optimize this relaxation, try rubbing your hands together to generate heat and then place your hands over your eyes.
For the truly bold, you can do inclined push-ups against your desk, tricep presses using the arms of your chair, and squats and lunges in the comfort of your own cubicle! Most important, however, is finding a minute to do some cardio. Improving your heart rate variability – your heart’s ability to jump from resting to “pumped” – has been shown to increase longevity and decrease the risk of heart disease. Try jumping rope, running in place, doing jumping jacks, or scaling the staircase for 60-seconds a few times a day. Aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart and keep you awake.
So whether you can dexercise in the privacy of your corner office or bravely in front of your cubicle-mate, keep active! Dexercise on!