It’s easy to get caught up at a desk job and forget about your posture, sense of self, or soul. Less dramatically, it’s even harder to find time in the hectic workweek to work out or even get yourself to the gym after a long day. However, a few conscious changes can combat laziness and increase your awareness of your body. These exercises aren’t meant to make you sweat through your shirt; they are more of a friendly reminder to make healthier life choices – whether choosing a salad for lunch, giving your eyes a rest, or deciding to invest in an ergonomic chair. I hope these exercises prove to be a realistic, yet healthy step toward improving your health and wellness.
Subtle “Deskercises” for the Office
Breathe, Stretch, Shake, Let it Go
If you’re a 90’s baby like me, you’ve probably kicked it to this tune at least once in your life. It’s a good one with an important message: breath and flow are important. Checking in with yourself throughout the day using measured breathing is essential to reduce stress and calm not only the mind, but also the body. Believe it or not, many people tend to hold on to their breaths during sets or even during regular activity. Filling up the lungs and allowing the diaphragm to work is one of the best exercises you can do for your cardiovascular health.
Every once in a while, when I’m overwhelmed with the myriad tasks of the day, I like to stretch both arms above my head and let my fingers branch out wide. I take a couple of deep breaths, then float my palms to my sides. Then, I continue with my work, drawing my shoulders down away from my ears and taking deep breaths. It’s simple, yet oh so effective. Sometimes, I even interlock all 10 fingers at the top and wiggle from side to side.
Another one I like is holding onto the right side of the chair with the right arm (or pressing the forearm/elbow onto the armrest) and lifting the left arm over to the right side. Gazing up at the fingertips and allowing the left side to stretch, remember to open up that left shoulder by pressing the chair away as you push the left shoulder down and open. Take a few deep breaths and circle your arm around. Release the arm, then lean to the right while holding the bottom of the chair with your right hand and stretching out the left trapezius. Repeat on other side.
Lastly, hold onto the back of your hair with both hands facing back and look up. Pushing the chair away with your hands, open your chest and feel a lightness in your heart. I like to finish with a couple of neck circles both ways while breathing deeply.
For a hand exercise, open your hand wide and close into a fist, bringing movement to all 27 bones in each hand. After repeating five times, end with a fist and circle the wrist 10 times both clockwise and counterclockwise.
Shaking is one of the most underrated exercises because it looks crazy. No argument there, but it’s totally fun and good for you. Shaking the body releases tension and will help you send vigorous vibrations throughout your whole body. Take a bathroom break and shake your body. You can dance, jump up and down, or literally shake out your nerves without anyone knowing. It’s honestly one of the top things to do on my “I’m weird, but nobody has to know” list.
Tapping your feet underneath your desk helps to keep you mindful of your legs and feet. It creates an active mind and body and warms up the toes for the next exercise: seated leg raises. Lifting alternate legs off the floor or both legs at the same times increases blood flow and engages your leg and core muscles. Simply lift one leg at a time and lower again to a 90-degree angle while keeping both hips level. Ankle weights and double leg raises/holds are always an option, too.
Silent but Effective
Isometric exercises are often overlooked, but they are sneakily perfect for the office. The active contraction of muscles are done in a static position and do not require any movement, nor do they affect joints or change muscle length. Squeeze your buttocks as tight as you can for 10-15 seconds and repeat. Another isometric squeeze you can try is for the abdominals; you can even add in a light crunch. A trick I like to do while typing is to squeeze my abdominals while pretending I am holding a newspaper under each armpit, then pushing the desk away, resisting the force of my torso.
Parking farther away from the entrance, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, and circling your arms or elbows once every hour are all conscious attempts to improve your health. Don’t be afraid to try these exercises out at the office. I assure you, no one will notice. Even if they do ask what on earth you are doing, stand up for your health and use the opportunity to inspire and share with others.