Fitness for the Deskbound
By Joan Price
(copyright 2003, may not be duplicated without permission from Joan Price)
How can busy people find time for exercise with workdays filled with deadlines, phone calls, reports, and meetings? If you think you don't have time to exercise, you don't have time not to! As I show you in The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book: 300+ quick and easy exercises you can do whenever you want!, you'll work more productively, decrease emotional stress and muscle tension, and have more energy all day if you take minutes of exercise many times during your day.
Notice that I say minutes of exercise -- not hours, not even half-hours. The health benefits of exercise kick in when you accumulate 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, even in little bursts of a few minutes at a time, gathered over the course of the day. For weight management, for example, total calories burned per week count more than the length or the type of any one exercise session. Research shows that exercise in a number of short sessions enhances health, keeps the heart and lungs strong, helps with weight loss, and decreases the risk of premature death and a multitude of lifestyle diseases.
Here are some workouts you can do at your desk:
- Stand. Get out of your chair often, at least every hour. You'll feel less tired and your brain will work better. Work standing up for 5 to 10 minutes (while reading a report, for example). You'll burn 25 percent more calories than sitting down.
- Pace. If you can pace while you talk on the phone or brainstorm, you'll burn almost 4 times as many calories as you will sitting.
- Walk. Walk around the block, or up and down the hall. Deliver messages to co-workers on foot instead of by e-mail. Meet a colleague for a walk instead of coffee or lunch. Use any excuse to get moving! You're not "wasting" time -- you're revving up your mind and body so they work better for you.
- Climb. A flight of stairs is a foot-operated cardio machine! A 150-pound person burns 17.5 calories per minute walking up stairs -- compared to 1.7 typing at the computer!
- Phone Push-Ups. If your work involves frequent phone calls, here's a way to improve your upper-body strength. Each time you make a phone call, turn on the speaker phone after you dial or use a headset. Do push-ups against the desk while you wait for the person to answer. Place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the desk. Walk your feet away until your body makes a diagonal line from desk to floor. Keeping your back neutral (that is, not bent either forward or back), your abdominals tight, your chest high, and your shoulders down, bend your elbows, lowering your chest towards the desk. Exhale, straightening your elbows (do not lock them) and pushing yourself away from the desk. Repeat until the person answers. (Be careful of heavy breathing when you introduce yourself.)
- Muscle Up. Use down times when you're waiting for a printing file for strength training at your desk with Dyna-Bands: latex exercise-weight resistance bands (LINK TO DB PAGE). In two minutes, you can work one muscle group and its opposing muscles: chest and back, front and back of upper arm, front and back of thigh, for example. You don't have to do the whole body at once.
- Chest and Shoulder Stretch. A problem with desk work is that almost all your work is done in front of you. Sitting in your chair, reach both arms back as far as you can, arching your back. If your backrest permits, clasp your hands behind the chair to intensify the stretch. This stretch will release tension and make you feel better. It takes no extra time, because you can continue to read the computer screen while you stretch.
- Junk-Mail Crumple. Each time you get a piece of junk mail, don't just toss it--crumple it first. Open the envelope and pull out the letter (don't worry--you don't have to read it). Hold it with one hand. Start at one corner and crumple it into your palm, bit by bit, until it's one tight ball. Squeeze it a few times, then drop it in the recycling container. Grab another item with your other hand, and repeat. This strengthens your forearm, relieves wrist tension from overuse at the keyboard, and gives your junk mail some purpose during its very brief time in your life.
- Upper-Back Bliss. This upper-back stretch looks odd, but it effectively releases tension between your shoulder blades. Extend your arms in front of your chest, palms facing each other. Cross your wrists--now the backs of your hands are touching. Rotate your wrists until your palms face each other (your elbows will flare out). Lower your shoulders and press your palms together. Slightly round the back to intensify the stretch.
- Obliques Online. Use those annoying down times when you're waiting for a printing file or a slow-loading web page and work your obliques at your desk. Lift one knee as you lower the opposite shoulder, exhaling and contracting the obliques. Alternate until duty calls.
Fitness motivator Joan Price is a Sebastopol, California-based author, speaker, fitness consultant, and line-dance instructor. Her book, The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book, includes more than 300 exercises that fit into your day, wherever you are.