By now, we all know sitting at a desk all day — or sitting anywhere all day, for that matter — isn’t the best. For starters, the muscles in the lower part of your body are completely unloaded when you sit, and therefore not doing their job. This inactivity prompts changes in the body’s metabolism. In addition to weakening muscles and possible weight gain, studies show that sitting all day doubles a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Unfortunately, many of us have jobs that don’t encourage much movement. If yours keeps you at a desk for the majority of the day, try these fitness hacks to keep moving.
Take the stairs
If you work on the second floor or higher, skip the elevator and head straight to the stairs. But don’t just take them on your way in and out of the office. Allow yourself a few five- to 10-minute breaks during the day, and you’ll accumulate 30 minutes of aerobic activity.
In fact, the health benefits of taking the stairs are substantial. Stair climbing burns between eight and 11 calories per minute; increases your heartbeat; enhances blood flow; improves overall energy; and increases the function of your immune system.
Make more meetings on the move
Getting up at least once per hour to walk around your workplace can be enormously beneficial for your body. However, it might not be the best productivity booster. On your busiest days, multitask: If you are planning a meeting or strategy session with a co-worker, ask them to go for a walk rather than booking a conference room.
Swap networking for sweatworking
Planning to meet up with peers or clients for lunch? Ask them to hit a spin class with you instead. Many fitness studios offer express lunchtime classes that make it easy to get your sweat on before being missed at the office. Or organize a group of fitness-minded co-workers to regularly attend a mid-day class at a studio near your workplace.
Start a breakfast club
Your metabolism slows down while you sleep, and eating a nutritious breakfast is key to kickstarting your metabolism for the day. Reach out to your HR director and pitch the idea of getting your company to offer fruit, yogurt and other healthy breakfast options to employees. If company resources are limited, organize a sign-up sheet where interested co-workers take turns bringing breakfast for the club once or twice a week.
Develop a deskside workout routine
Sitting doesn’t have to mean sedentary. Develop a series of exercise you can do while at your desk. Set a schedule to perform the routine twice a day, doing 5 to 10 reps of each movement. Here are a few suggestions:
- Tighten your glutes by sitting straight in your chair and placing your feet flat on the ground. Tighten your muscles for 5 to 10 seconds. This exercise also is great for long car rides or train commutes.
- To work your quads, sit slightly forward in your chair and lift one leg at a time about three inches from the ground. Tighten your leg muscles and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Relax and switch legs.
- Next, work your core by sitting in the middle of the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Arch your lower back so you feel like your glutes are sticking out. Slowly pull your hips underneath your stomach as you bring your butt back underneath you, sort of like you’re doing a crunch. Hold for two to four seconds and push back to the original position. Keep your hands on your desk and don’t let your legs do the work.
- To get your upper body moving, use the edge of your desk or a nearby wall to do vertical pushups.
Sitting all day can make your muscles cramp up, so it’s important to stretch several times per day. Simple movements such as standing up and sitting down — without using your hands — can help your muscles. While standing, do a few toe touches and overhead stretches for greater impact. Try shrugging your shoulders, hugging your knees and circling your wrists.
While you are typing or talking on the phone, make it a habit to stretch your lower legs. One simple and discreet stretch is to extend your leg so your knee is straight but not locked. Pretend your big toe is a pencil and the floor is a blank sheet of paper. Then draw the entire alphabet with your foot.
And no matter what your mother taught you about the proper way to sit, crossing your legs all day will tighten and shorten hip flexors. To open up your hips, sit with knees bent and feet on the floor. Place one ankle on the opposite thigh so that your lower body forms the number 4. Exhale and lean forward over the legs, keeping your back straight. Hold for three deep breaths, then switch legs.
By incorporating these small hacks into your workday, you can make a big difference in your overall wellness. And bonus? Encourage your co-workers to join you!
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