Even if you steer clear of smoking and fatty or sugary food, there’s still a silent killer in your everyday routine: sitting. Staying on your swivel chair for more than four hours a day can increase risk for death by any cause by 50 percent and raise the odds of heart attack and chest pain by 125 percent, according to a 15-year study by the Mayo Clinic.
Sitting is the new smoking, so they say.
Employees, however, can’t help sitting in front of a screen for hours and hours. It’s simply the nature of most jobs today. With many companies powered by word documents, spreadsheets, and Skype meetings within an 8-5 shift, it’s not surprising that many people overlook the importance of standing up and moving about.
Your deadlines shouldn’t be an excuse to stay still and let your wrists and fingers do most of the movement the entire day. Here are a few exercises you can perform at your office, without turning your cubicle into a gym and raising your boss’s eyebrows.
Walk Whenever Possible
Start the day with movement. Walk to work if possible, and take the stairs if your office is just a few floors up. During lunchtime, forget delivery. Ask some of your friends to lunch around the area. If deadlines make a meal with your officemates a luxury, squeeze in a few minutes to leave your cubicle and buy food.
Rolling your chair toward the nearest trash bin might sound like a good idea, but your sedentary legs would beg to differ, if they could speak. Also, skip the online chat with the IT guy in the other room. If you need his help, and if office protocol would allow, just walk to the next room.
You can also spend a few minutes typing while standing up. Use boxes to elevate the monitor if you feel uncomfortable.
Exercising at Your Desk
Between reports and meetings, do these exercises to keep the blood flowing:
This doesn’t guarantee freedom from headaches, but it would relax your neck muscles. Let your head loll to the side until your right ear almost touches the right shoulder. Use your hand to press your head gently in this direction. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Next, put your hands on the back of your head. Gently use your hands to push your head forward. Make your head resist the motion, and hold this position for 10 seconds. Switch positions — place your hands on your forehead, gently push the head backward, and resist the motion. Hold it again for 10 seconds.
The Shoulder Shrug
This is probably the only time it’s acceptable to shrug your shoulders at the office. Raise your shoulders, hold the position for five seconds, and then relax. Repeat the set 10 times.
It’s time to give yourself the congratulatory handshake you deserve. Hold your hands together, as if giving yourself a handshake, and stretch. Resist the motion of both hands for 20 seconds.
The Office Item Curl
Grab a heavy item on your desk — a metal stapler, a water bottle, or your officemate’s cool desk display. Bend your elbows and curl the arm toward your chest slowly. Then, lower your arm back to the thighs. Repeat 15 times.
Watch out for sore wrists and carpal tunnel syndrome by placing the back of your palms on the desk. Your fingers should be facing you. Keep arms straight, and lower the body to stretch the hands. Hold the position for 15 seconds.
The Swivel Stretch
Use your swivel chair other than to turn to your officemate and chat. Sit straight and hold on to the edge of your desk. Use your core muscles — not your arms — to turn your chair from side to side slowly. Do this 10 times.
The Leg Stretch
While you’re typing a PowerPoint presentation in the afternoon, raise one leg slowly and hold the position for 10 seconds. Do it to the other leg, too.
Then, straighten both legs and hold them in position for at least five seconds. Place them down gently and repeat the motion 15 times
The Ankle Turner
Don’t forget your lower extremities. Raise one leg and hold it in place using your hands. Then, rotate your ankle clockwise and counter clockwise, three times each. Do the same for the other foot.
The Wall Lean
Waiting for a meeting? Stand with your back against the wall and bend your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold the position for 15 seconds (or 30, if you’re feeling strong).
Your health is anchored on many aspects of your life, your office activities included. So on your next shift, do your body a favor, and perform these exercises as you hustle through the day.