As adults, individuals spend at least a third of each day at the office sitting behind a chair, and while sitting is necessary to complete tasks, performing desk exercises may be something that you should consider.
Desk exercises, which are actual physical activities designed at getting you more activity throughout the work day, are gaining popularity among employers and for good reason. Adults have been getting far less physical activity in recent decades, and it seems that this is not expected to change anytime soon.
Recent estimates have shown that less than five percent of adults get the required 30 minutes of physical activity every day, with only one in three getting the recommended amount of activity each week.1 This low figure tends to be closely related to the high numbers of obesity in the world, especially in the United States.
Data shows that roughly 40 percent of adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. are obese, totaling an estimate of more than 93 million individuals in the U.S. alone.2 With these figures in mind, there are a few reasons as to why adults are gaining weight.
Reasons Behind the Obesity Epidemic
Adults are experiencing alarming increases in waistlines, which can lead to health consequences. Highlighted below is an overview of why more individuals have been gaining weight in recent years.
One reason why adults are seeing an increase in obesity may be due to a technology-driven era. This means that many adults are spending more time in front of computers, televisions, and other devices. The more time spent in front of these devices and less time being active could lead to more adults gaining weight.
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Studies have demonstrated that sitting time is associated with greater waistlines, BMI, as well as worse triglycerides and cholesterol levels.3 Since most adults spend at least eight hours sitting while at work, not to mention the time sitting in a car for transit, a great majority of time during the day is spent in resting conditions.
One way that many adults are gaining weight is from overeating. This is one of the easiest things to do as an adult and much of this is due to having less time to cook healthy foods at home and instead of eating fast options while out at the office.
Many fast food options are loaded with saturated fat, carbohydrates, and are simply calorically dense. A lot of options at restaurants and cafes have foods that quickly add up to 1,000 calories in a single meal, thus setting the body up for weight gain. Keep doing this often throughout the course of your work week and you will surely be noticing a weight change.
Leisure Time Activity
When you were younger, it’s likely that recreational activities were a part of life, but as age and responsibilities catch up in adulthood, these activities tend to take a back seat.
Tips for Adding Desk Exercises into Your Routine
Now that you have a bit of information on what sitting at your work desk can do for your health and wellness, it’s important to reverse the trend of weight gain. Finding ways to add more activity through the day is possible with more outdoor activities and with the gym, but it seems that adding more activity while you are on the clock may be something to consider. Listed below are some fun tips on how to get more exercise at your desk at work.
Find the Stairs
So this is not exactly at your desk, but this is one of the most common ways for workers to get more activity while at work. If you have multiple levels in your workplace and you often take the elevator, consider the stairs throughout the day. First of all, climbing even one flight of stairs can help raise your heart rate so that your body can get out of fat storage mode, which should help prevent fat storage while sitting.
If you have a few extra minutes on your lunch break, consider going up and down a few flights just to add activity. This is a great starting activity if you are looking to add more exercise.
If you’re lucky enough to work in a cubicle or have an office, then this one’s for you. Prolonged periods of inactivity like sitting at the desk for extended periods of time can be damaging to your musculature. In fact, studies have shown that prolonged inactivity could lead to rapid muscle loss, especially if you are older in age.4
With this in mind, it’s important to avoid these extended periods of inactivity. Consider adding simple leg desk exercises at your desk, such as squats. Squats are a multi-joint activity that works wonders on the glutes and thighs, which make up a large portion of muscles in the body.
Consider adding in a quick set or two throughout the day to boost muscle fibers as well as to boost heart rate for increased calorie burn. Start off with one or two sets of ten and add more reps as you see fit to make it more challenging. Overall, squats should take no more than two or three minutes.
While squats are probably something you want to do on your own time when you have a few minutes, glute squeezes can be performed virtually anywhere at any time of the day. Glute squeezing exercises are easy to perform, but they may play a major role in the health of your knee joints.
Studies have demonstrated that strengthening parts of the glute muscles can help improve the overall function of the knee joint in certain circumstances.5 To perform glute squeezes, you can be sitting or standing, but the idea is to squeeze the buns to get the strengthening benefit.
Once you squeeze, hold for about three to five seconds and relax. Perform this about ten times to start with and consider doing this a few times per day as needed. The added activity should engage the glutes enough to also create a calorie burning effect.
There is a lot that a sound stretching program can do for your overall muscular wellness. One of the best stretches that working adults can perform are hamstring stretches. Currently, back injuries are the number one reason that adult workers go on disability, and many of these injuries are difficult to fully treat.6
Fortunately, the use of gentle hamstring stretching may serve some purpose in preventing back pain and injuries. Studies have shown that hamstring stretching is associated with changes to the spine that allow for better flexibility and spinal curvature, which could have a major impact on spinal health and wellness.7
With that in mind, performing a hamstring stretch is something that every worker can do at the desk. Simply sit at the edge of your desk chair, bring one leg in front and keep it straight, then try and touch your toes. Hold your stretch for 30 seconds on each leg and switch when finished. Do about two sets with each leg at a time and perform them at least two times a day if possible. Lastly, avoid bouncing or jumping while you hold your stretch as this method can lead to injury.
This exercise is commonly known as the calf raise and it is one the best desk exercises for aiding the body in pushing blood back to your heart. Blood tends to pool at the feet when you are sitting for an extended period of time which can harm health in a number of ways.
To gain the benefits of working the lower part of your legs, you will need to stand at your desk station, hold onto the desk or chair for balance if you need, and start raising your heels from the ground. Once you lift the heels, hold the position for about five seconds and slowly lower to your starting point. Complete about 15 of these at a time and complete at least two sets whenever you do them. Overall, heel raises should only take a minute or two to complete.
Triceps dips work your triceps muscles, which are located behind the upper arm area. For many adults, this is the number one trouble area throughout the aging process (aside from the waistline) so finding an opportunity to get an advantage is important.
Start off by using a chair that has no wheels or your desk. Place your hands on a sturdy surface and have your back to the surface. Get most of your body weight in your arms and slowly lower your body down. Once you have lowered down, straighten your arms to raise your body back to the starting position. Complete two sets of ten.
Another area that can give workers trouble at the desk is the shoulders. Shoulders tend to carry a lot of tension and strengthening exercises may be helpful to prevent some of that tension. To perform shoulder shrugs, you will first start in a good seated posture (you can do this while standing if you want).
In a tall posture, lift both shoulders towards the ears and hold the position for about three seconds. Slowly lower back to the starting point and repeat about ten times. Complete multiple sets if you can spare the time, and remember that one of the most important elements in the shoulder shrug is your tall posture.
Similar to glute squeezes, working the abs in a similar fashion could provide great rewards to your overall wellness. Working the abs could be a way to help mitigate some back issues, including pain, from affecting the body.
Studies have shown that deep abdominal and trunk exercises can help to alleviate lower back pain in certain conditions.8 In order to gain this valuable benefit, you will need to sit at the edge of your chair in a tall posture. Either bring your abs to the side or out on your lap and tighten your stomach muscles. To do this, imagine you are bringing your belly button towards your spine and hold in this position for three seconds before returning to the starting position. Complete about two sets of ten to gain maximum benefits.
Aside from the targeted hamstring stretch, it may be a good idea to add in some generalized stretching for the entire body. Considering most stretching programs take only about five minutes, you can put your body through a wide range of motion to help loosen the joints and maintain proper flexibility. Consider a forearm stretch, shoulder stretch, double arm pectoral stretch, gentle neck stretch, quad stretch (standing), hip flexor stretch, as well as a leaning forward calf stretch. Statically hold all of your stretches for 30 seconds.
If you’re getting tired of sitting all day at work and you’re noticing the toll this may be having on your health, the exercises outlined above are worth trying out to help optimize your health and wellness both inside and outside the workplace.
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