20 Sep Desk Job Exercises To Keep You Moving!
Sitting for too long has been shown to have a negative impact on your body. With sedentary behavior, changes are seen in insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular and metabolic function, along with increased risk of mortality. This includes high blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, and increased body fat and cholesterol levels. Research suggests that on average, adults sit for approximately 60% of their waking day, which is more than 7 hours!1 It is our job to help you take ownership of your body, and not allow environmental factors to dictate your movement capacity. Follow along in this article to learn some awesome desk job exercises you can easily replicate with just yourself and about 3-5 feet of space.
Sedentary Behavior Leads To Lack Of Movement
Sedentary behaviors, like sitting, reduce your energy expenditure compared to standing or moving. Sitting can lead to cardiovascular problems by directly impacting the body’s ability to properly deposit fats in the blood stream. Additionally, healthy cholesterol, known as HDL, may also be impaired with prolonged periods of sitting.2 HDL’s function is to keep arteries clear of plaque. When HDL’s function is disrupted, plaque starts to build up in blood vessels, and can further increase one’s risk for cardiovascular dysfunction. This can all be combated with just a few easy steps that we want to share with you, so read on!
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Ailments Related To Desk Jobs
Other common ailments of individuals who work at a desk include musculoskeletal issues such as neck, back and shoulder pain. In addition to physical pains, sitting can negatively impact your mood and ability to handle stress. One study by Coulson et al. looked at exercising and performance in the work place.5 They found that on days when workers exercised, they had higher scores on performance indicators as well as self-reported improvements in mood.
So, is it possible and if so, how hard does one have to work to undue all of the negative effects of sitting?! Ecklund et al. performed a meta-analysis to answer just that.4 They looked at 16 studies and data from over one million adult men and women. In this study, the researchers categorized walking at 3.5 miles per hour or biking at 10 miles per hour as “moderate intensity” exercise level. They concluded that between 60-75 minutes of exercise equivalent to a moderate intensity on a daily basis was enough to counteract the effects of 8 hours of daily sitting. The study also found that individuals who did not participate in any form of physical activity, regardless of their daily sitting time, had the highest risk of early death. That risk, the study concluded, was equivalent to the risk associated with obesity and smoking. The sedentary individuals in the study were 28-59% more likely to die early than individuals who were most active.
Therefore, no physical activity at all poses a greater risk to one’s health than extended periods of sedentary behavior, such as sitting.
Keep It Simple – Just Move!
The good news is that there are easy ways to start counteracting the effects of sitting! Try out the following tips to incorporate more movement into your daily routine, break up your sitting time, and recharge your brain and body!
- Alternate between sitting and standing while working: This is most easily done if you have a desk that can be raised and lowered to accommodate your work station set up at both heights. However, if you don’t have an adjustable desk, you can improvise by using a high table or counter. Another strategy is to stand while talking on the phone or even walking with your work colleagues for meetings.
- Some individuals have taken the standing desk idea a step further and have started utilizing a treadmill desk! Companies have started making specialized treadmill desks, but you can also simply position your work station on a stand above a regular treadmill to be able to walk and work throughout the day.
- Take a break every 30 minutes and try these stretches to address both your upper body and lower body muscles that commonly get tight with desk job work. Pick 2 or 3 stretches to perform every 30 minutes. Try to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds at a time. Ways that you can remember to take a break is putting a note on your desk or using your phone/computer to set a reminder.
Pec and bicep stretch
Sitting position often leads to rounded shoulders and tightness throughout our arms. This pec and arm stretch is a great way to open up the front of your chest wall!
There is a correlation between poor posture, sedentary habits, and neck pain. The chin tuck exercise is a great way to work on improving your neck strength!
Standing hip flexor stretch on chair
The front of our hips often become tight when we sit for long periods of time. This is a great way to open up your hips right at your desk chair!
We Need To Do More Than Just Stretch!
Stretching has its time and place, but our body needs activation of our muscles to make that mobility stick! In addition to stretching, try these exercises during your breaks to strengthen up your muscles that may be weaker from sitting. What’s great about these is that they don’t require any gym equipment, so you can do them at work!
Also, be sure to check out our podcast if you want to learn more about the concept of stretching.
Strengthening Exercises For Desk Job Workers
The dip is a great way to strengthen your chest and arms. Keeping your elbows tucked in close to your sides will decrease the stress through your shoulders with this exercise.
Try a single leg variations for an increased challenge. Complete 3 sets x 10-15 repetitions.
If this standard plank is too challenging, start with a plank on knees. Complete 2-3 sets. Pick the variation that you can hold for 60 seconds at a time.
You can modify this by doing desk push ups if the standard push up is too challenging to start. Pick a variation that you can complete at least 3 repetitions at a time. Try to get up to 30 push ups a day!
Get Your Heart Pumping!
The following exercises can be performed as a cardiovascular routine. Perform 2 rounds of 30 seconds of each movement, trying to complete as many repetitions as possible.
There are so many awesome ways to add variability to your lunges. Looking for some more? Watch this video below!
Master Different Lunge Variations
Start with these exercises to get your blood pumping, reduce stiffness and aches and recharge your mind! Ask a coworker to join you to help you stay on track and to add some fun to your routine. You will notice that simple and even leisurely movement can have positive impacts on your physical and mental well-being. The more you move, the better you will feel.
- Matthews CE, Chen KY, Freedson PS, Buchowski MS, Beech BM, Pate RR, Troiano RP. Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors in the United States, 2003-2004. Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Apr 1;167(7):875-81. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwm390. Epub 2008 Feb 25. PMID: 18303006; PMCID: PMC3527832.
- Daneshmandi H, Choobineh A, Ghaem H, Karimi M. Adverse Effects of Prolonged Sitting Behavior on the General Health of Office Workers. J Lifestyle Med. 2017;7(2):69-75. doi:10.15280/jlm.2017.7.2.69
- Ulf Ekelund, Jostein Steene-Johannessen, Wendy J Brown, Morten Wang Fagerland, Neville Owen, Kenneth E Powell, Adrian Bauman, I-Min Lee. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. The Lancet, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30370-1
- Coulson, J.C. & McKenna, Jim & Field, M.. (2008). Exercising at work and self-reported work performance. International Journal of Workplace Health Management. 1. 176-197. 10.1108/17538350810926534.
About The Author
Kelly received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from St. Catherine University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kelly attended The Ohio State University for her undergraduate degree, studying Psychology and while at Ohio State, Kelly played on their Division I Ice Hockey team. Kelly has extensive experience working with athletes at the professional, collegiate and high school level, and has a strong passion for guiding athletes in their return to sport, as safely and quickly as possible. Kelly works for Ironhorse PT & Pilates in San Ramon, CA. Outside of her work as a physical therapist, Kelly devotes her time to working as a CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting coach. She has continued training and competing in Olympic weightlifting at the national level, as a member of the California Strength weightlifting team