Research consistently shows that sitting all day shortens life expectancy and increases risk for chronic diseases. But, what do you do if your job requires hours of computer work every day and you know sitting is detrimental to your health? If you think your morning run or evening workout class has you covered, you better think again! Unfortunately, being inactive most of the day is still detrimental to your health, regardless if you spend some time exercising. Here is what you do if you work at a desk or on a computer every day to decrease your risk:
Try to be avoid sitting for more than an hour at a time. It is not enough to just stand up while working. You need to actually move your body, so having a routine can help you stay on track each day. You can set your timer to go off every hour and spend 1-2 minutes moving and stretching during each hour. This can help you improve blood sugar control, circulation, fitness level, strength, stability, mood, productivity, and mobility. Here are some exercises you can try using only your body weight, a wall, and a chair (make sure it is sturdy and won’t slide before you get started). If want to get up more often, that is great!
Wall sits with shoulder mobility
Start with your back the wall, feet a little away from the wall, shoulder width apart. Slide your hips down the wall into a squat position with your tailbone, shoulders and back of your head still touching the wall. Make sure your knees are behind your toes and try to achieve a right angle at your hip and your knee (hips even with your knees and knees right over ankles). Keep your weight on your heels (you should be able to lift your toes off the ground). Hold as long as you can with your core tight. While holding, bring your arms up and down like you are making a snow angel, trying to keep your arms touching the wall and raising all the way overhead by your ears, and back down to your hips. Repeat slowly and controlled. Rest when you need to and then go back down and repeat until your timer goes off.
Chair or wall pushups with down dog
Start in a plank position with your hands on a chair or on the wall. Your shoulders should be right over your wrists and your core should be tight (bellybutton pulled up to spine) to help support your back. Lower chest down, keeping your neck neutral and core tight so your body moves in one solid piece. Lower your body until your chest goes lower than your elbows. Press your body back up to a plank, keeping your core tight and lower back supported. After you do 5, 10 or 20 pushups, push your hips back into down dog to stretch your back and calves. Hold for a few seconds and then go back to do pushups.
Calf raises with calf stretch
Stand on one foot and put the other foot behind the one you are standing on. Hold onto a wall or chair for support if needed. Raise up on the ball of your foot and squeeze your calf muscle for 1 second, then lower. Repeat until fatigued, and switch sides. After you complete both sides, face the wall, with your hands on the wall as you lean towards the wall. Push your heels down towards the ground, feeling a stretch in your calf and ankle.
Tricep dips with hip flexor stretch
Sit on the chair and put your hands on the chair, on either side of your hips. Scoot your hips off the chair, with knees bent and feet on the floor, or knees straight, which increases the intensity. Lower your body by bending your elbows, keeping hips close to the chair. Push your body back up to the starting position. Keep neck neutral and core tight. After you complete 5, 10 or 20 dips, then stand up and stand with one foot behind the other in a small lunge, making sure that your front knee is behind your front toe. Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip, keeping your core and legs stable.
Chair squats (one legged or two)/Chest opener
Sit on the edge of your chair with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and knees right over your ankles. Drive through your heels and stand up, and then sit back down to starting position. Be sure to avoid sinking into your hips and low back (keep core tight and chest up) and make sure your knees not falling towards the middle. You can do this with one leg as another option. When you are finished, reach behind your back and grasp your hands together, opening your chest. If you are unable to grasp your hands, you can put one hand on the wall, level with your shoulder and rotate your body away from the wall to feel a stretch in your shoulder. Keep shoulders away from ears.
Plank series with hands on the chair/standing half moon
Put both hands on the chair and position yourself in a plank. Shoulders should be right over wrists, core pulled in tight and hips in a straight line with your shoulders (don’t sink hips down or have your hips in the air). Pull your belly button to your spine and drive one knee forward to your chest. Repeat 10-20 times and switch sides. Stand with your feet together and arms straight over head, hands touching. Reach up and over slightly to make a half moon shape, without sinking into your lower back or core. Repeat on each side 5 times.
Jumping Jacks or high knees/standing cat/cow
You can do any exercise to get your heart rate up a bit, and jumping jacks are a great way to get this done. You can also do stationary marching high knees, stationary running high knees or stair climbing if you have stairs. Afterwards, stand with feet shoulder width apart. Push hips back as you bend your knees and put your hands on your knees. Curl up like a cat and round your shoulders, dropping your head and tailbone. Then, reverse it by pushing your tailbone up, chest up and head up. Repeat several times.
Lunges with hamstring stretch
Stand with one leg in front of the other in a wide stance. Keeping your chest up and core tight, lower your body into a lunge so you are making two right angles with your knees. Make sure your front knee is not jutting forward past your toe. Drive through your front heel and back leg to stand up. Avoid sinking into your lower back or hinging forward from your waist. You can do 10-20 on each side or alternate sides for the whole interval. After your lunges, put one heel forward and bend the other leg slightly, sitting your body weight back slightly to feel a stretch in the hamstring that the foot is forward. Hold for 30 seconds or so and then switch.
Cassie Dimmick, MS, RD, CSSD, ACSM-EP