You’ve heard of hard labor, but did you know that sitting at a desk all day can be hard work too? In fact, studies say if you don’t get up and do some office exercises, excessive sitting can put you at risk for a number of health issues. Oddly enough, sitting may be one of your most dangerous (non)activities!
What are the Risks of Sitting Too Much?
Our digital lifestyle is killing us, and that’s not an overstatement. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found the following:
“There’s a direct relationship between time spent sitting and your risk of early mortality of any cause,” researchers said, based on a study of nearly 8,000 adults. “As your total sitting time increases, so does your risk of an early death.”
What are some of the dangers of being a desk jockey?
- Horrible posture—over time, your spine and shoulders roll forward, creating a hunch-back type of posture.
- Weight gain—obviously, the less you move, the less calories you burn.
- Bad circulation—it’s tough for the blood to move around when you’re always sitting. It can tend to pool in your lower extremities and not circulate easily unless you get up and move about.
- Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and more can be traced to an excessively sedentary lifestyle.
- Cancer—the weight gain, metabolic dysfunction and stress, coupled with your higher risk for other diseases can all contribute to an increased risk of cancer.
- Decreased productivity—studies have found that when people move every 30 minutes, they report increased energy, engagement, concentration, and attentiveness so they are able to accomplish more in less time.
What Should You Do?
Since many of us are deskbound for a majority of our days, it’s vital that you take steps to counteract the damage done by constantly sitting in front of a computer (like doing office exercises). Besides completely changing careers to something that has you more active, what can you do if you work at a desk job most of the time? Try these tips:
- Take a break—it’s essential you take the time to get up and move around at least every 30 minutes.
- Be inefficient—don’t try to multitask by printing five files at once or dropping off the mail on the way to get a cup of coffee. Instead, “waste” your energy by getting up and getting each individual file off the printer, get up and get your coffee and come back to your desk, then make your trip to the mailroom a separate event. The more energy you can expend, and the more often you can get up to perform a task, the better.
- Park as far away as possible—the more walking you can get in, the better. Even parking further away will add up to your benefit over time.
- Take the stairs—if you can, always take the stairs. It’s a small step toward much better health.
- Take walking meetings—especially on days when the weather is so nice you can’t wait to get outside, a walking meeting can get you moving while you work.
10 Office Exercises You Should Be Doing
Now that the dangers of desk jockeying have been revealed to you, you’re undoubtedly excited to get up and get away from your desk, cubicle, or station. So, what are some office exercises you can do to improve your fitness? It’s critical that you stand up and move every 30 minutes for at least five minutes. Try some of the following easy exercises to reduce your health risks. You don’t need to do all of these every 30 minutes (though you may want to after you see how awesome they feel). Just pick and choose a couple office exercises to rotate through each break:
1) Stand and stretch—reach toward the sky with your arms outstretched. Pause at the top and then swoop your arms down and out to the sides until you touch the floor in front of you (or get as close as you can). Return to standing by rolling up as you run your palms up the front of your legs as you straighten your back.
2) Toe Touch—this will help take the stress off your back for a few minutes. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend at the waist and reach your arms straight down toward your toes. If you can’t touch them, then allow your arms to just hang. Keep this position for 20 seconds and return to the start. Repeat five times.
3) Side bend—stand with your feet hip-width apart. Put your left hand on your left hip and bend your right side toward the floor, reaching straight downward with your right arm. Feel the stretch in your left side and return to the start. Repeat on the opposite side.
4) Side neck stretches—from a standing position, slowly move your right ear toward your right shoulder and pause. Return to the start and then gently move your left ear toward your left shoulder and pause. Make sure you don’t raise your shoulder to meet your head. Allow your head to sag toward your shoulder and feel the stretch on each side of your neck. This is one of the more simple, yet most impactful office exercises.
5) Front and back neck stretches—similar to the above, standing with your feet hip-width apart, allow your head to roll forward toward your chest and pause. Return to the start and allow your head to gently roll backward, looking toward the ceiling. Return to the start.
6) Hand and wrist stretches—while standing, put your right arm straight out in front of you, palm facing down. With your left hand, grab your right hand and pull it gently down and toward your forearm. You can also bend it slightly outward toward the right as you do this for an additional stretch. Hold the stretch for five seconds. Repeat on the left hand. Next, with your right arm outstretched in front of you, take your left hand and push your hand straight upwards and back. This will help stretch out your wrists and forearms and is the perfect counterpart to the stretch above.
7) Walk—just taking a brisk walk around the office or possibly outdoors can do wonders for your health. Instead of the old “smoke” break, take a “walk” break and see how it changes not just your fitness but your energy levels, productivity, and creativity.
8) Jumping jacks—just like you did in grade school, this is a great way to get the blood flowing. If you want to keep it a little less noticeable to anyone below you (or less impactful on the joints), you can step each foot out to the side rather than jumping but allow your arms to reach for the full range of motion.
9) One-Minute Yoga Squat—this may sound humorous, and not very effective, but you can successfully reduce stress, get more limber, and relax your back muscles with this one simple move. You may want to do this while you’re alone in the breakroom, bathroom, or if there is a room where you’ll have some privacy. With your feet hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward, place your hands together with fingers pointing up in front of your chest. Then squat down as far as you can while keeping your back straight. If it’s comfortable, you can put your elbows on the insides of your knees and push the knees out for an even greater stretch. Pause in this position for at least one minute while breathing in deeply and blowing out any negativity from your day.
10) Chest stretch—this is a great stretch for all desk jockeys. Lift your arms out to the sides with your elbows bent to shoulder height. Pull your shoulder blades back as far as you can to stretch out your chest muscles and hold for a count of five. Repeat 10 times. You can also do a similar stretch in a doorway by placing a hand on each side of the door frame and leaning forward to stretch your arms and chest.
Office Exercises for Desk Jockeys: A Recap
Think your day is too busy to sneak in these stretches? Keep in mind that taking a break is well worth it! Studies show an astounding 55% lower risk of early death for those who get up and move around every 30 minutes over those who do not. So, get up and try these office exercises—all joking aside, it’s legitimately a matter of life and death. And you can expect greater productivity in return to boot!