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It’s no secret in this age of information that we are sitting more, and moving less. If you spend 9 or more hours sitting each day then it could be literally shortening your life – even a 60 minute workout won’t counteract the effects of a long day of sitting.
Your body was designed for regular movement. Sitting for extended periods of time causes a reduction in blood flow, leading to organ damage, sluggish digestion, brain damage and a reduction in muscle and bone density – and that’s not to mention the postural issues and reduced calorie burn that comes hand in hand with long stints of inactivity, and increased stress levels leading to overeating. Yes your ‘desk job’ is actually making you fat and shortening your life.
However there are several ways to counteract the desk job, and burn valuable calories in the process.
1. Get Up Often
Whether it’s to the photocopier, meeting room, kitchen or even the rest room, set a timer on your computer to ensure you get up and move around for 10 minutes of every hour. Walking around burns 3-5 times the calories that sitting does, so take every opportunity you can to get up and move. This might sound like you’ll get less done, but actually you’ll be refreshed by regular short breaks, think more clearly and be more energised to power through your work more effortlessly. Odds are you’ll be even more productive.
2. Drink Lots
We should be consuming 45mls of fresh filtered water for every kilogram of weight – more if we’re exercising or drinking dehydrating beverages like coffee and alcohol. This may seem like a lot of water to get through in a day but it will counteract the drying effects of office air conditioning and will get you more active with frequent trips to the restroom.
Ergonomics used to be limited to ensuring your screen height and chair height were correct and using tools like a foot rest or wrist rest to aid correct posture. More alternative options include using a kneeling chair or a ‘bounce’ ball instead of a regular chair. But research shows that the best ergonomic option is a standing workstation with an ergonomic mat, and these are slowly becoming more popular. And new innovations are continually being developed like a movable height desk and a ‘hamster wheel’ desk that keeps you on the move.
Ensuring your posture at your desk is correct is key. But what does this mean? When sitting you should ensure your spine is ‘stacked’ by sticking your bottom out behind you to form a ‘J’ shape – simply wiggle your ‘big booty’ back in the chair and push your coccyx back. It can feel a bit awkward at first and takes a bit of practice and constant self-monitoring, but it’s a much less stressful position, more comfortable and also helps prevent you from slouching or hunching over.
5. Regular Movement
There are literally dozens of exercises you can do at your desk to ensure better blood flow and combat the harsh effects long periods that sitting has on our bodies. These are my top 10 to do hourly, relatively undetected.
- Deep Breathing – Start with 5 deep breaths, exhaling as much air as possible to void the build-up of carbon dioxide in your lungs
- Foot Twirl – rotate your feet clockwise for 5 twirls, then anti-clockwise for 5 twirls
- Full Calf Flex – white seated roll each foot onto your heel, then onto your toe. Repeat 5 times for each leg.
- Thigh Pump – Simulate a ‘football-style’ run by rapidly tapping your feet on the floor for 30 seconds while seated.
- Thigh-High – While sitting in your chair, lift your right foot a few inches off of the floor. Keep your knee bent at a 90 degree angle and hold the position for 5-10 seconds each site. Repeat 5 times for each leg.
- Chair Shrug – Sit upright, grab side of the chair and try to lift yourself off the seat. Pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- Desk Biceps Curl – Sit close to the desk, place your open palm under the desk and ensure your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Push up against the desk pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- Desk Triceps Pushdown – Sit close to the desk, place your open palm on top of the desk and ensure your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Push down against the desk pausing at the top of the movement for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- Hand Stretch – Tense and relax the muscles in your hands by first making a fist, then opening it and spreading your fingers. Repeat 5 times.
- Plié Squat – Stand up and point your toes outwards and take a wide stance. Slowly bend your knees in the direction of your toes as far as it comfortable, hold for 5-10 seconds and stand up. Repeat 5 times. While plié squats are more graceful than regular squats, give them a miss if your work attire includes a fitted skirt.
And lastly, get a pedometer or FitbitTM on to ensure you reach at least 10,000 steps a day.
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