Exercises to combat the dangers of sitting (Part II)

Last week I wrote a post highlighting the dangers of sitting at a desk all day, and suggested five exercises you can do to keep your muscles awake if you're chained to a chair for hours and hours a day. (Hint, standing isn't enough). Check out part one here. 

Someone commented on the post and asked some good questions, so I thought I'd take a moment to expand a little more on last week's post. 

Question: What else can I do if I can't exactly get on the floor at work?

Fair point, and one that I considered with last week's post. I'm typing this at a juice bar in a gym, wearing yoga pants and sneakers. If I dropped on the floor right now and started doing Elbow Touches, no one would think twice about it. But if you're wearing constricting dress clothes and working in a traditional office environment, getting on the floor is awkward, weird, and potentially gross.

I get it.

So here are some exercises you can do while standing up. 

Ankle Alphabet

No video for this, as it's straightforward. Standing on one leg, raise the opposite foot off the ground and make the alphabet in capital letters with your ankle. Perform the full alphabet on one leg before switching to the other. If you're able to hold yourself up with no support, this can also be a good balance drill; stand near a wall for support if necessary. 

Single Leg Bodyweight RDL

This is a great hip-hinge movement that also incorporates balance. 

 

When performing any single-leg variation, think of your stationary foot as a tripod; applying pressure to your front big toe, little toe and your heel. You can also think of actively pulling your front toes toward your heel.

 

Bodyweight Squats

Again, you may be restricted by dress clothes, but if you can find some private space, perform 10-12 bodyweight squats. If you have trouble squatting with much depth, squat to a bench or a chair. If you find yourself falling forward when trying to perform a squat, then use a chair. If you can't find private space, do them in the middle of your next meeting. You know, to break things up a little. It might stop Judy from hi-jacking yet another meeting. 

 

I realize that professional clothes are restricting, but performing a squat variation is a great way to activate those muscles that take a vacation while you sit. 

 

These are all lower body or full body movements. If you're hunched over a desk all day, and especially if you have forward posture, here are three upper body movements you can use to break up your day. T-spine stands for thoracic spine which is your upper back.  

Bent Over T-Spine Mobilizations

This movement is more challenging than it looks, especially if you have tight lats (as I do), and rounded shoulders (as I also do.) Rooney makes the cameo here to remind me why I can't make videos at home. Ever. 

 

Palms are out; follow the movement with your eyes. Give your dog a pet upon completion. 

 

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion

This is also more challenging than it looks. Focus on keeping your lower back flat to the wall and reaching your arms out and up towards the ceiling during the movement. 

 

Back flat to the wall; palms facing each other, thumbs past the ears. 

 

1-Arm Doorway Pec Stretch

We all have doors at work. Or at least, I hope you have doors at work. I mean even if you don't have windows...For this stretch, once you turn your head, hold the position for a count of five, and then repeat five times for a total of 25 seconds of stretching per side. 

 

Another deceiving stretch that on the surface, doesn't appear to be doing much. Once you turn your head to the side, you'll feel a significant stretch in your pec muscle (upper chest area).

 

Question: What do you recommend for a schedule? 

Constantly. As often as you can.

A sample morning schedule might look something like this:

9:00 a.m. - Arrive to work
9:30 - Get up and move around for five minutes.
10:00 a.m. - 10 bodyweight squats, 10 RDLs, 10 Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion
10:30 a.m. - 1-Arm pec stretch, 8 scapular wall slides
11:00 a.m. - Move around for five minutes
11:30 a.m. - 10 Bent over t-spine reps, 10 squats
12:00 p.m. - Five minute walk
12:30 p.m. - 10 RDL's, 10 bodyweight squats

For each exercise you chose, perform 8-12 reps. You might also commit yourself to something like 50 squats a day and break those up into five sets of 10 throughout the day. Not covered in this post, but equally important if you're a desk jockey, are wrist stretches that you can cycle in throughout the day.