IF YOU SPEND MOST OF YOUR WORKDAY SITTING AT A DESK, DANGER LURKS
Stand up for yourself! Yes, literally.
Health and fitness experts warn that sitting for long periods can be worse for your long-term health than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. (The feeling isn’t unanimous, though; go HERE for a contrary view.)
Long-term health studies say a sedentary life can lead to cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and hurt your ability to lift your knees, bend over, even to stand and walk.
Beyond health issues, sitting and focusing on your work for too long, especially if you’re staring into a screen for an hour or more, can reduce your concentration and increase your chances of making mistakes.
“It’s not just the sitting. People aren’t doing anything to correct what the act of sitting has done to them for years on end,” says Brandon Richey, a Buford-based strength and conditioning coach and trainer. “It compounds over time, and you end up with the guy who drops his cellphone or the soap in the shower and then throws his back out when he tries to straighten up.”
Working in a cubicle farm for 10-plus hours a day makes you especially vulnerable to the strains and health issues that prolonged sitting can inflict on your body. Who knew that the guy running the mail cart all over your building is probably among the healthiest people in your office?
If your office home doesn’t have enough room to swing a yoga mat or accommodate a bike-desk like the one Wahoo Fitness of Atlanta is developing, you can still improve your fitness with just your desk, a wall and a staircase.
These ideas from four metro Atlanta workout pros can get you started and keep you going:
Amber O’Neal |Café Physique, Atlanta:
“The next time you’re on a conference call, stand up next to your desk and do a set of squats, holding the side of the desk for balance. Also try a set of lunges, 10 on your right side and 10 on your left side, says O’Neal, who founded Café Physique, which has no physical building and comes to you instead. It serves most of metro Atlanta.
“Sit at your desk and hold two items of equal weight, like a stapler and a paperweight, and do shoulder shrugs, bringing your arms up to ear level. Or, tighten your ab muscles, hold them for several seconds, then release and repeat.”
“Try four-corner breathing: Breathe in and look at one corner of the room. Hold it and look at to the opposite corner. Breathe out. Look at another corner, and breathe in. Look at the opposite corner and breathe out. It’s nothing magical, but it helps you focus and increase your body’s oxygen level.”
Brandon Richey | Brandon Richey Fitness, Buford:
“When you sit a desk for hours, you start the forward rounding of shoulders and you find yourself in ‘slouch’ mode,” says Brandon Richey, who runs a self-named fitness business out of Buford. “Hold a Thera-Band [a brand name for a stretchable exercise band] with your hands about shoulder-width apart and pull the band apart until it wraps around your chest. Do three sets of 10 reps each. That will help your shoulders, your shoulder girdle and your thoracic (chest) expansion and strengthen your upper back muscles for better posture.”
“If you can’t get regular massages, you can try some manual myofascial release. Stand next to a wall, and put a lacrosse ball between your shoulders and the wall. Lean hard against the ball, rolling it around on your shoulders as you feel it penetrate your muscles. It’s probably going to hurt, and you’ll be making ugly faces because it’s painful, but afterward it feels good.”
You can also position the ball on your neck, the front of your shoulders, your upper chest, hips, even your butt, wherever your muscles feel tight. Use the lacrosse ball instead of a tennis ball, Richey says, because it’s denser and grips the wall and your clothing better.
Pam Molinari | Atlanta Fitness Diva, Sandy Springs:
“Put your booty on a step of the stairs, and lean back, holding the stair with your hands. Raise your legs and pull them toward your chest like an accordion. Repeat until you can’t do any more,” says Molinari, owner and head trainer of Atlanta Fitness Diva, a fitness center for women.
“Staying on the stairs, sit on a step that’s high enough so you can keep your feet on the ground. Put your hands on either side of your butt, and grip the stair. Bring your butt up and move it out and lower like a tricep dip, but then squeeze your butt and lift your hips to make a bridge with your arms straight. Move your butt down to the floor and lift your toes so you’re pushing through your heels with your arms at a 90-degree angle. Repeat, doing as many as you can.
“Step up and down on a staircase, but step up and down on only one leg instead of climbing the stairs or alternating the left and right legs. Do as many reps as you can on one leg. By taking it to failure, you tone it and keep it strong.”
Jennifer Raby | Jen Raby Fitness, Atlanta:
“You don’t need a lot of equipment to keep your mobility and to get your blood flowing. You do need to do things that put your body through a full range of motion. I like squats and lunges, but even the sun salutation, which is a yoga move, will open up your hips and shoulders and can be done on a 15- to 20-minute break,” says Raby, who founded her own business.
“Focus on the hips and low-back work. Try a bird dog, in which you get down on all fours and extend your left arm and right leg, hold it and tuck it in, and then repeat with the opposite arm and leg. You can do repetitions with this or hold each pose like a plank.
“Sitting puts a lot of stress on your back and lumbar regions. If you’re otherwise active, you could face compression issues with your spine if you sit for long periods. So, do low-back and hip stretches regularly throughout the day to keep the pressure off.”
[MORE: 4 STEPS AWAY FROM CUBICLE SYNDROME AND TOWARD FITNESS]