The benefits of exercise are well-documented. Same thing with the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. And yet, most people are still able to find excuses not to do it. The most common reason? Work.
Back in the prehistoric times until the Industrial revolution, work equates to muscle-pain-inducing manual labor. The expression “break a sweat,” when mentioned back then, means literally sweating buckets and breaking your back just to earn a minimum wage (sometimes less). Taking minutes of your day to exercise is unheard of.
But as technological advancements gain momentum and machinery replaced manual labor, humans transformed from being laborers to supervisors of said equipment. As businesses grew into large conglomerates, desk jobs became more common, and this picture continues even today.
But along with this economic growth is the decline of the human population’s physical activity, and numerous studies have shown that having a sedentary lifestyle affects work performance and productivity, not to mention the number of sick leaves employees turn in.
With these consequences in mind, it is essential now more than ever to insert even just snippets of exercise into your daily routine. Thankfully, there are lots of articles that enumerate various exercise routines that you can do without stepping a foot off your desk. Below are five of them.
Important note: these exercises are handpicked for beginners who are still gaining momentum from being sedentary to lightly active individuals.
For the Head: The Neck Resistance
Sit upright and place your hands on your forehead. Then, push your head as far back as you can while using your neck muscle to resist the force to go backward. Do this for five seconds, then slowly release your hand. Repeat the whole process, except this time, your hand is at the back of your head, forcing your face to go forward while you resist. Do the same for the left and right side of your head.
For the Arms and Shoulders: The Floating Genie
Note: Your chair should have stable and steady armrests for this exercise.
Sit upright while Indian sitting—a position wherein your legs are crossing together like that of a Buddha statue. Then, place your hands on the armrests while sucking in your stomach. Using your arms’ strength, slowly lift your body off the chair, like you are floating. Hold the position for 10 minutes (you can increase the duration later on), then gradually bring yourself down using your arms again.
Raise the bar!
To engage your core muscles more, use a swiveling chair. The balancing act would double their efforts to keep everything in position (and you from somersaulting to the floor).
For The Core: Mind Your Posture!
This activity is more of a behavioral change than an exercise. However, experts say that maintaining proper posture requires more calories than slouching on your chair. Thus, this activity is just as important as a 10-minute exercise.
For this one, you have to adjust your chair so that your arms, hips, and legs are 90 degrees parallel to the floor. Then, use your core to keep your back straight every time you are sitting—do NOT allow slouching.
Raise the bar!
For additional calorie burn, practice “stomach in” or tightening of the core muscles the whole day—that means even while standing or even eating. To make it more fun and motivating, fine yourself $5 every minute you catch yourself going back to your default sitting position.
For The Butt: The Secret Butt Squeeze
It is called “Secret” because your co-workers would have no idea that you are silently busting exercises while you are filling that Excel spreadsheet. That means no weird stares for you.
For this exercise, sit upright, then squeeze the buttocks in as hard and as far as you can. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then slowly release.
Reps: 10, or until your upper thighs get tired.
Raise the bar!
For additional core and glutes exercise, lift your legs a few inches off the floor. Combined with butt squeeze, most of your midsection muscles are engaged.
For the Legs: The Sitting Leg Raise
This is another workout that you can hide under the desk, provided that you can stretch your legs underneath.
While sitting upright, extend one leg parallel to the floor and at hip level. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then bring it down slowly while engaging your leg muscles the entire time. Do the same with the other leg.
Reps: 15 for each leg
Raise the bar!
If you find this easy enough, you can add weights to your feet (your purse or briefcase could do the job) for that extra calorie burn.
While these exercises are no silver bullets, they can help you start squeezing in even just minutes of physical activity on your busy schedule. Even better, once you experience the improvement it brings in your work performance and personal life, you might be convinced to invest more of your time for exercise. No more excuses!
A final word of caution: Check with your GP first if your body can keep up with an exercise regimen before starting any physical activity.