Being sedentary puts people at risk for all sorts of ailments, from back pain and stiff joints to poor circulation and obesity. Studies have even shown a link between sedentary living and the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Desk jobs make it difficult to stay active during the work day. Ideally you should leave your desk every hour to walk and stretch a bit. When that is not possible, try the following series of exercises, which you can do while seated. Aim to do the exercises once every hour – they only take a few minutes and will save you discomfort while giving you renewed vigor to stay alert and productive.
- Seated calf raise – keep the balls of your feet on the floor and raise both of your heels. Pause, then lower. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Seated foot raise – keep your heels on the floor and raise the balls of your feet. Pause, then lower. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Leg lift – grip the seat of your chair and raise one leg while you flex your foot. Hold for two second, then slowly move your leg outward, then back toward the center. Repeat 5 times then switch legs.
- Abdomen isometrics – keep your lower back pressed against your seat, pull in your abdominal muscles. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times.
- Buttocks squeeze – squeeze your buttocks muscles as tight as possible for 3-5 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times.
- Seat walking – shift the weight from the right to the left side of your buttocks, rocking back and forth for 10-15 seconds.
- Pelvic tilts – press the small of your back forward to create an arch. Then reverse the movement, pressing your lower back into your seat and pushing your hips forward. Repeat 5 times.
- Upper body stretch 1 – sit on the edge of your chair, grip the chair’s back and straighten your arms. Keep your body straight and let your upper body gently pull you forward. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Upper body stretch 2 – reach above your head, then reach forward and down toward the floor. Keep your arms parallel to each other and let your chest fall forward; your hands should hang down comfortably at your sides. Hold for 15-45 seconds. Come up slowly and finish with slow, deep breaths.
- Upper arm stretch – place one elbow behind your head and clasp the elbow with your opposite hand. Pull down toward the back of your neck. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with other elbow.
- Shoulder shrug – lift your shoulders as high as possible, then release slowly. Repeat 5 times. For variety, slowly circle your shoulders forward and backward.
- Neck stretch – slowly drop your head to your chest, then tilt your head toward your right shoulder. Return chin to chest, then tile head to left shoulder.
According to an article by Shirley Archer, JD, MA, in the May 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal, workplace wellness is poised for growth. The National Business Group on Health estimates that the industry will grow 18% over the next five years. Why? About 67% of the workforce is overweight or obese, and there has been a 36% hike in healthcare spending associated with obesity in recent years.
Studies on the effects of wellness programs on healthcare costs and absenteeism found that every dollar spent yielded an average savings of $3.27 in medical costs and an average savings of $2.73 in absenteeism.
In addition to an attractive ROI, employers are realizing that wellness programs have significant VOI (value of the investment). The VOI includes:
- Creating a culture of health
- Being viewed as caring about employees
- Attracting the best employees
- Increasing employee satisfaction and retention
- Having higher employee morale
- Improving productivity
- Motivating employees to think they are an important part of a larger mission
- Being recognized as one of the healthiest companies in the community
We all know that aerobic exercise is effective at reshaping and conditioning the body – but consider all it can do for your brain:
IMPROVES YOUR MOOD. If you’ve ever been under a lot of stress and decided to let off some steam by taking a brisk walk around the block you know what physical activity can do for your mental state. It makes you feel better, more optimistic. Studies show that exercisers routinely experience an improvement in their mood, regardless of whether the workout was vigorous or low intensity. One explanation is that exercise releases endorphins, which are ‘feel good’ hormones in our body.
STABILIZES YOUR EMOTIONS. Research has consistently shown that exercise stabilizes emotions and increases self-confidence while lowering anxiety, feelings of helplessness, depression, and hostility. In fact, studies have found that the most effective antidepressant is a combination of exercise and psychotherapy.
HELPS MANAGE STRESS. Exercise has been proven to reduce the physical symptoms of stress as well – even better than medication. For instance, exercise may reduce muscle tension more effectively than tranquilizers. If you exercise regularly, you are likely to have a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure, and you should be better able to handle the negative effects of stress on your body.
IMPROVES INTELLECT. Exercise may improve your work performance. Researchers have discovered a significant connection between exercise and enhanced intellectual function, memory, and creativity. It also improves our ability to solve problems.
MAY REDUCE RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Recent studies show that regular exercise may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. One reason is that exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and it may reduce the “plaque” in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
PROVIDES A POSITIVE INFLUENCE. Finally, by exercising you gain a sense of accomplishment and a sense of control over your life. Knowing that you are doing something good for yourself becomes a positive influence in other areas, from your relationships to your career to your other daily activities.
So start exercising and give your body AND your brain a healthy boost!