It’s a fact of modern life that we spend the majority of our time sitting at desks. But what has become known as "the sitting disease" is an increasingly talked about topic: spending hours at a time sitting can increase the chances that you will get sick, and can even cause an early death. Even your typical daily hour of exercise won’t make up for the health issues that sitting can cause. But there is a way to reverse that picture: it is possible to stretch and even exercise while sitting at your desk chair. Check out this how-to guide for ways to maintain your fitness level during your work day.
See also: The Health Risks of Sitting At Work
1. Do Some Chair Yoga
Chair yoga is exactly what it sounds like: yoga poses that can be done while seated in a chair. It’s an easy way to reap all the health benefits of yoga: increasing both strength and flexibility, decreasing both blood pressure and blood sugar, helping with bone health, and even making you happier. Chair yoga is easy and accessible and, best of all, involves nothing more than the very desk chair you’re already using.
Follow this sequence a few times a day or whenever you feel the need to stretch:
- Flat Back: sit with your back straight and lean forward with your arms out to the side. A great stretch for your spine.
- Twist: simply twist your chest and stomach to the right side. Repeat on the left.
- Pigeon: sit with your ankle on your thigh. Lean forward for more of a stretch. Repeat on the other side.
- Lunge: get into a normal lunge position but with one foot up on your chair and the other leg behind you on the floor. Repeat on the other side.
2. Get a Good Stretch
Stretching is thought to allow you to perform better during your workout or sports activity and to reduce your chances of becoming injured. But stretching also leads to several health benefits which are significant for the office worker: it makes you more flexible, allows blood to flow better to your muscles, and even increases your joints’ movement and functioning. But you don’t need a yoga mat and a 60-minute workout to stretch your body. You can get a good stretch in while sitting in your desk chair. To do so, simply sit up straight and fold forward until your hands reach either the floor or your ankles. Take several deep breaths and hold for as long as you feel is necessary. You should also engage in a good side-angle stretch by placing your left hand on your left hip and reaching up with your right arm, then leaning over to the left. Repeat on the other side. Finally, whenever your hands get sore from all that typing, stretch out your palms by turning them upside down on your desk.
3. Get Up Every Hour
Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you have to sit for eight hours straight. Every hour, stand up and walk around the office. It’s an excuse to get some exercise in but you can also use it to be social, saying ‘hi’ to a co-worker or asking someone a question instead of sending another email. Sitting for hours at a time will make you feel tired and sluggish, and can lower your productivity. So don’t feel guilty. You will work smarter and better with frequent breaks from sitting. And you will probably motivate your fellow cubicle dwellers to do the same, which will improve the health of the entire office.
4. Get Creative with Cardio
Running a mile or working up a sweat on the gym treadmill isn’t the only way to get your cardio in. Most people can take two quick breaks every day, so instead of grabbing yet another coffee, run or briskly walk up and down the stairs in your office building. This will get your heart rate up and is an easy way to work out while still at work. You can also walk around your cubicle or office whenever you are on the phone.
5. Stand Instead of Sitting
The easiest way to stop sitting so much at work? Stand instead. Try standing for one hour every day. It may feel strange at first, but chances are you will get used to it, and you will enjoy feeling more awake and alert. If that feels like too much, try standing for five minutes at a time every hour.
We all know that too much sitting isn’t good for us, but it can feel daunting when we hear that even a daily workout won’t stop the damage. Follow these five steps and you will easily be able to fit some fitness in during your 9-5. You will feel more awake and motivated, and the good news is you can do as much or as little as you choose, depending on your workload that day. Try these ideas while still trying to make it to the gym or yoga class, and reap the benefits of moving more than simply sitting.