With much of the current work economy revolving around computer screens, it’s widely recognized that we are in the midst of a sitting culture, where most of us are chair-bound for most of our day. This eight-hour-plus stationary segment of the day can put a literal kink in your neck…and back…and every other part of your body. What to do? The answer is simple: move, and move as often as you can. The more you can activate your muscles at work, the better off you’ll be.
So how can you increase your physical activity outside of set workout time? Find a few minutes to work out while you’re stuck in the office. While we definitely don’t want to go into the realm of unrealistic (see: BuzzFeed’s office workout routine parody) there are plenty of easy ways to stretch and energize your body that take only a few minutes to complete and don’t involve breaking a full-on sweat. All you have to do is commit to trying a few per day to notice a change in your posture, energy levels, and overall productivity.
Here are four quick ways to get a little more move into your workday groove:
- Take the stairs. When you arrive at work, skip the elevator. If your floor is fewer than 12 stories up, you can make it. Leave the office for lunch? Take the stairs up and back. Going between floors for a meeting? Take the stairs. Climbing up and down stairs engages your legs, lower abs, and lower back and can quickly elevate your heart rate after just one or two flights. Boom, instant mini-workout.
- Try a quick yoga stretching series in your chair. Combat the aches and pains caused by poor posture by taking a few minutes to stretch it out without even having to leave your chair.
- Seated forward bend. Lean your torso forward over your bent legs so that your head is resting on your knees. Clasp your hands behind your lower back and gently raise them up as far as you can. Relax and breathe into the bend for 20-30 seconds, then carefully release.
- Office chair spinal twist. Sitting up straight and keeping your feet firmly planted on the floor, rotate your torso and bring your left arm across your body to touch the right chair arm. Place your right hand on the back of the chair, looking over your shoulder, and push against the chair to deepen the twist. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
- Seated side extension. Begin sitting up straight, then lean to the left side of your chair and extend your right arm over your head. Reach to the left as far as you can stretch, keeping your left hand on the chair arm for support. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then lean to the right side of your chair and extend your left arm to stretch the opposite side.
- Seated sun salutation. Sitting up straight, raise both arms straight out to the sides and bring them up to touch above your head. Raise your chin and look up to your hands, stretching upward with your entire spine. Bring your head and arms back down slowly, then sweep your arms back up again and take your gaze back up to the ceiling. Repeat six to eight times.
- Use a Swiss ball for a chair. This has become a popular office trend, but it’s important to do it properly. You won’t be able to sit on a Swiss ball for a full work day right off the bat, and you’ll risk injuring your back due to poor posture if you do. Try sitting on it for 30-minute increments throughout the day, paying close attention to keep your back straight and your core engaged. Will this be tiring for your abdominals and lower back at first? Yes, but working out is a tiring activity, and with practice you will be able to sit on the ball for longer spans of time.
- Take a lap around the office. Research has found that getting up and moving every hour for two minutes is enough to slightly offset the effects of sitting for long periods of time. So just go walk around the office. Do it under the guise of going to get a drink of water if you have to, but try to squeeze in a little walk as often as you can to keep the blood flowing.
It’s hard to fit working out into any day — believe me, I know. But we’re not talking about breaking out 20 burpees in between cubicles — we’re talking about simple exercises that may not even look like exercises but that will still optimize the tools and time available to you while you’ve got your nose to the grindstone. You might be worried that this will look like you’re slacking, but your muscles and mind will thank you for the added physical activity, and your overall performance won’t be affected. If anything, it’s likely to improve. Remember: a movement’s a movement, no matter how small, and movements add up to a healthier, happier body.
Image Source: Flickr user Jakob Bøtter