As you may know, sitting still has been proven to have more of a negative effect on your health than smoking.
Even worse, having a regular exercise plan has been shown to have little effect on increasing energy levels if the majority of the day is spent in a seated position. Unfortunately, exercise is not enough to combat the negative effects of days full of sitting for meals, being stuck in traffic, enduring long meetings, lengthy phone calls, and watching Netflix in our favorite spot at home.
Migraines, neck stiffness, wrist pain, lower back tightness, and decreased energy levels are unfortunate realities for most of us as a result of our lifestyles.
For the last 10 years, I have worked with busy professionals finding simple and effective techniques to help achieve productive, stress and pain-free work days.
A vast majority of people never begin a fitness plan because of how daunting it can seem. Recognizing causes and implementing small consistent changes can provide a remarkably positive impact on our health.
In this article, we are going to focus on implementing small movements throughout your day that will create long-term health benefits.
Don’t worry, these “movements” will not require a shower or even a sweat towel! They are also discreet and will not draw attention or be a distraction to nearby co-workers. If they do notice, however, don’t hesitate to share the knowledge!
Below are 10 ways to combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Pick at least one of these exercises every hour to help keep your fitness, motivation, and productivity at a high level throughout your workday. Remember, small but consistent steps EVERYDAY is the key to success.
EXERCISE #1: SHOULDER BLADE SQUEEZE
Good for: Improving posture and strengthening your upper back muscles to eliminate neck cramps and lower back pain.
The biggest negative effect sitting has on our body is the prolonged hunched position of our shoulders, neck, and lower back which we, most of the time, become accustomed to. Whether we’re eating, talking on the phone, typing, or driving, our bodies assume the same hunched position which majorly contributes to the backaches and pains we feel throughout our day.
As a general rule, bad posture places a heavy load on the body. Maintaining a prolonged hunched position places stress on the lumbar area of the spine, causing pain, stiffness and limits our ability to keep our bodies healthy.
Directions: While sitting up as tall as you can, imagine pinching a pencil in between your shoulder blades for 10 full seconds. Do not strain and maintain slow and deep breaths. Release slowly and repeat this exercise 10 times.
EXERCISE #2: SHOULDER ROLLS
Good for: Stress relief without leaving your chair.
Directions: This exercise is best performed in a standing position but performed sitting is still better than nothing at all!
Standing or sitting as tall as possible, slowly shrug the shoulders towards your ears. Roll forward slowly with a downwards motion, with as much range of motion as possible, completing a full circle and working your way back to your ears. Inhale and exhale slowly for 10 rotations.
Take a second to give your shoulders a good shake and then reverse the direction. This is another great opportunity to take advantage of closing your eyes to rest, relax, and internalize.
Rolling the shoulders is great for loosening tension in the neck, back, and shoulders that have built up throughout the day.
EXERCISE #3: OPEN CHEST
Directions: This exercise is best performed standing but if not possible, it may be done in your chair. The secret is always in your ability to find a way!
Interlace your hands behind your back and lift your chest as you inhale while keeping your back straight. Hold the position for two to three seconds and then exhale as you slowly lower your arms back to the chair. Complete for 10 repetitions.
This stretch has a great benefit in improving posture, flexibility, decreasing rounding of the shoulders and tightness in your neck, shoulders, arms, and back.
EXERCISE #4: Chair Twist
Directions: Sit up as tall as possible and slowly inhale as you twist your upper body to the right as far as you can and hold for approximately 3-5 breaths. Slowly return to the center and repeat on the opposite side. Do this 10 times for each side.
Properly utilizing a twist while stretching has been proven to be one of the best releases for lower back pain and tight hips. Your muscles tend to lock into place after sitting for long periods of time and a chair twist is a great way to release tight muscles and prevent aches and pains.
EXERCISE #5: OVER HEAD REACH
Directions: Whether in a sitting or standing position slowly raise your arms, reaching towards the sky. Exhale and hold the position for 3 seconds. Inhale again and as you exhale, bring your extended arms down. As you do this exercise, feel your muscles getting stretched and releasing tension. Repeat 5-10 times or until you are able to free the stress in your shoulders.
Use this exercise to release the tension in your neck and shoulders.
EXERCISE #6: CHAIR SQUATS
Good for: Increasing core and lower body strength and loosening up tight hips.
Directions: Sit on the edge of your chair as tall as possible, shoulder blades back, feet flat and hip-width apart with your knees behind your toes, Take a look at your toes and make sure they are pointed straight ahead. Keep your heels flat on the ground, chest out and back straight throughout the entire exercise, stand up until you reach just a slight bend in your knees. Slowly lower your hips to your starting position and repeat 10 times. Remember to exhale every time you stand up and inhale on your way down.
EXERCISE #7: STANDING CALF RAISES
Good for: Stimulating blood flow and increasing muscle strength in our inactive calves, ankles, and feet caused by prolonged sitting to decrease our chances having an injury. For example, strong muscles around the ankles can limit the occurrence of knee pain.
Our feet carry our weight and maneuver our body throughout life. They are home to 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles. 25% of all the bones in the human body are in our feet. More than that, it is our feet that take us on our journey through life.
Directions: Stand up as straight as possible, with your tailbone tucked in. Engage your core. Make sure that the balls of your feet are solidly planted on the ground. Slowly raise your heels off the ground and gradually bring them down. Work to complete 15 times. Use a chair or table for balance if needed.
EXERCISE #8: SEATED LEG RAISES
Good for: Strengthening the abdominals and quadriceps; releasing lower back pain, ankle and foot soreness.
Directions: While sitting down, raise one foot off the floor and slowly straighten out your leg. At the top, hold for 5 seconds and slowly lower towards the ground. Complete 5-10 repetitions per leg. Focus on great posture and slow controlled breathing.
EXERCISE #9: WRIST FLEXIBILITY
Good for: Releasing aches and pains associated with typing, writing, texting, and making phone calls.
Directions: Make a fist and slowly stretch out your hand as far as possible, forming a fan. Do this repeatedly for 30 seconds.
- With your palms up, rotate your wrist downward and out so your palms are now facing to the side. Work to accomplish as much range of motion as possible. Repeat exercise for 30 seconds.
EXERCISE #10: STANDING UP
Good for: Improving blood flow and activating muscles.
This may seem simple but the more we prompt our bodies to be active, the more we will want to stay in motion. Simply standing at your desk when possible will increase activity throughout our body and mind and help keep us stay focused every day.
It has been found that standing 3 hours per day for one year is the equivalent to running 10 marathons. Imagine the dramatic changes this would make to your health in a short period of time, all while being on the clock at work.
Need more ideas? Here are 4 more easy ways to get activity at work.
Directions: Sit up as straight as possible with your back completely off the chair. Have your feet flat on the ground with your hands placed comfortably on your knees. Close your eyes (if possible) and inhale and exhale very slowly with as little noise as possible. Begin to slow down your racing mind.
Realize that this is a moment for you and all of the items on your to-do list will be there when you return. Re-focus and remind yourself you can do this! As you slowly move open your eyes, you’ll feel calm and have much less tension.
Taking even just 1 to 2 minutes to visualize success and refocus can keep your motivation at the optimal level. A relaxed spirit and a clear mind will result to a version of yourself who works better, faster, and more efficient.
Using Great Posture
There is no substitute for great posture but it can be difficult especially when multi-tasking with phone calls, writing, and typing on the computer.
Directions: When busy, try to remember to sit up tall, pinch your shoulder blades together, tighten your abs, and have your feet flat underneath you. Keep your chin forward in a way that it’s not too high or too low.
Pay attention to the position of your shoulders, pinched together and up tall. If you have the tendency to arch your lower back too much, tuck your hips in to keep your spine in proper position.
Walk to the Water Fountain
Good for: Hydrating, taking a quick break to stretch your muscles and clear your mind. This is shorter than a smoke break and absolutely much healthier for you.
Directions: Keep a smaller bottle or glass at your desk. This will force you to refill more often and help eliminate the continuous hours of sitting still.
Walking Phone Calls
Good for: Stimulating blood flow and alertness. Activating your stiff back and waking up the inactive muscles in your legs. Plus, its a excuse to get some air!
Directions: This may not be possible all the time but if the opportunity is available, instead of sitting back and getting comfortable, grab your headset and walk around.
You will not only be impressed with the impact this will have on your health but it can also increase the quality of each phone call by increasing the blood flow in your body helping to get your mind right!
Time is one of the biggest constraints in achieving a quality level of health. Hopefully, after reading this you can see it doesn’t take hours at the gym, but simple small changes to situations that are already happening in our life can make a huge positive impact on our health.
Health is wealth. This may be an old saying but the truth doesn’t change. You may not realize it now but don’t wait until your body deteriorates and you wished you could have done something about it when you were able to. The next best time is NOW.
Be your best self. Do not let sitting still hold you down!