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January 20, 2020
8 Exercises to Conquer Every Hour of the Work Day – At Your Desk!
We sit at a desk for the better part of 8 hours a day, with the exception of inevitable bathroom breaks, much needed coffee breaks, and appreciated office banter. As we all know, sitting and looking at a computer all day comes with its fair share of aches, pains, strains and focus fogs.
Throughout the day as we are consumed with deliverables, deadlines and meetings, it’s important we don’t forget to listen to our bodies and treat them accordingly. With that said, I want to give you 8 exercises to improve blood flow, breathing, posture, productivity and everything in between. And the best part is, you can do them right at your desk!
Starting with the basics here. Your posture impacts everything. Neck pain, eye strain, your knees, your back, your wrists. If I learned anything from Princess Diaries, it’s to have a good hairbrush and NOT to “shlump”. According to Ergonomics.com your chair should be at a proper height where your feet are flat on the ground, your knees should align or be slightly lower than your hips, and your back needs to be supported. Invest in a back pillow if necessary, small price to pay for long term well-being. Next, your desk and keyboard. Your computer monitor/s should be level with your eyes and an arms distance away, make sure your keyboard is centered with your body, your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are slightly open, and your hands and wrists are kept straight when typing. Try and check in with yourself throughout the day and make sure you're not tensing or slouching.
This might not be your traditional exercise, but it ranks high on my list of 8 important things do throughout the day. As we focus and/or stress, we tend to hold our breath in. Again, something we should check in with ourselves throughout the day. I’ve tried to get into the habit or taking a few “in through the nose, out through the mouth” deep breaths. So, when you find yourself leaning in, straining your neck and eyes pull it all back and take a deep breath! Here is a great article with a more in-depth description of the importance and impact this can have.
3. Wrists / Hands
Do you have a rubber band? This exercise is simple and helps strengthen/stretch your hands and wrists. Take the rubber band and stretch it around your fingertips and your thumbnail, open your hands wide, enough to cause resistance, but not enough to cause you pain. Hold for a few breaths and then slowly bring your fingers back together. I’ve provided a link with pictures and a few extra exercises below.
4. Eye Strain and Neck Pain
Dry eyes? Headaches? Neck and shoulder pain?
As we look at our screens we furrow our brows, forget to blink, and strain our vision. One simple thing that’s always stuck with me from art school is to refocus my eyes on something farther away to give myself a break. Like I keep mentioning, awareness is a huge factor that plays a key role in all 8 of these exercises we will go through. Choose something that’s farther away than your screen (and not digital) and focus on that for a few breaths to give your mind and eyes a break. My desk has a great view of a rooftop pool that is a perfect distance away for my eyes to refocus and for me to get lost in a few seconds of a daydream life where I lounge poolside 24/7. Find your rooftop pool.
5. Calf Raises
Okay, I know I said earlier that you’d be able to do all these things at your desk, and if you have a standing desk, then my previous statement still stands, but we should take advantage of the times we are up and moving, right? Here’s a simple exercise to engage your calves, feet and legs. Maybe you just sent something to the printer, or you're waiting for the new coffee machine to whip out your mocha latte with a shot of hot chocolate. Here’s a perfect opportunity to fit in some calf raises. No slouching, check your posture, stand tall and engage your core, that will help your balance as well! Lift your heels as high as they go, making sure to push up evenly with your foot, not the outer edges or just your big toe, hold for a beat and slowly lower your heel down. Do as many of these as your coffee break permits or until you feel a good burn.
6. Shoulder Shrugs
I know I hold most of my tension in my shoulders throughout the day, I mentioned earlier that our desk should be set up properly so that our shoulders can be relaxed. This exercise will help fatigue our muscles and over time hopefully help with shoulder and neck tension. While maintaining good posture, raise your shoulders to your ears, hold for a breath and then gently lower and repeat!
Let’s remember golden rule #1, how’s your posture right now? Make sure both of your feet are flat on the ground, your back is straight and supported and pull that head and neck back to align with your spine. Now squeeze your glutes and hold for 2-10 deep breaths. In through the nose out through the mouth.
8. Blood Flow / Movement
Last but certainly not least, get your steps in! Need an excuse to talk to a coworker? Is it nice outside? Take a lap around the office, inside or out! Walk the stairs a few times, or park farther away and double your walking distance to the door. Get your heart pumping and your muscles working and maybe, just maybe that mid-day crash won’t hit so hard.
I am by no means an expert in exercise and if any of these tips hurt then stop and consult your doctor. These are tips and tricks that over the past few years have been tried and found true by me and many other people who share our #desklife pains. I encourage everyone to incorporate a few of these 8 exercises or come up with your own versions! As long as you are getting some sort of movement in each day, and becoming more cognizant, your body will thank you. It’s easy to forget and just get through the workweek, but I think if these things make us feel better and can provide long term improvement, why not?
Here is another GREAT resource. Bob and Brad are the “Most Famous” Physical Therapists on the internet. They post a video every single day and I guarantee you’ll find something that could help improve your quality of life.
Our digital marketing team takes a "wall sit" break together each afternoon; what healthy practices will you try at work?