Physio Blog #5 - Desk Exercises

This blog answers the age old question of how can I stay fit when I spent my life working at a desk. It's the perfect first step towards smashing your new years resolution.

This blog is dedicated to those of you who are in desk jobs. Probably one of the most challenging environments to get your daily exercise in as you are sat down most of the day, but all hope is not lost! A few simple tips and tricks will get you started.

Firstly, I feel the need to mention desk space/orientation. Without the correct chair, desk and computer set up you are likely to encounter pain from poor postural positions. There is a lot of information and research on the internet identifying the correct orientation and position you should be in, again the NHS has some information on their choices website which is worth a read. However, sitting for long periods of time even in a correctly positioned chair is going to cause stiffness and discomfort no matter how fit or healthy you are; it is also extremely bad for your circulation. This is important to note as in some circumstances sitting for long periods could cause something called a DVT, a blood clot in your leg. This is something you definitely want to avoid as it can make you very poorly.

So, what is the easiest way to incorporate exercise into your day? Getting up and moving every hour or two is definitely recommended, you might find you do this anyway with drink and bathroom breaks but it is definitely worth consciously identifying when you do. There is another bonus of getting up and moving every hour or two and that is psychological, it gives your brain a break from work and you are more likely to come back to your work refreshed and be more efficient.

Here are some quick and easy exercises that can be incorporated into your day; some of them can even be done whilst sat at your desk. As always these are a snapshot of some of the exercises I find useful, not all of them will be useful for everyone, if in doubt, don’t do it!

  • Toe tapping, a great exercise for increasing circulation. A bonus is that it can be done relatively unobtrusively whilst still completing work.
  • Stairs instead of lift, if you work on a floor other than the ground floor, or have to visit places on different floors then taking the stairs instead of the lift is easy and a great way to get your legs and heart working.
  • Wall/desk push ups, this depends on your level of strength in your upper arms, wall push ups are easier as less weight is going through your upper limbs (these have been described in the previous blog). For desk push ups place your hands about shoulder width apart on the desk and then take a step back so your back is straight. Always aim for doing more at a better quality; if you struggle to do 5 desk push ups then perhaps doing the wall push ups would be more appropriate.
  • Star jumps, quite an obvious one especially if you are in a cubicle, however, it is a great all round body workout. If you feel you are unable to do these independently then perhaps getting a few of you in the office to do it together would be better.
  • Jogging on the spot, an easy one to do wherever you are, for example standing at the printer waiting for copies. If jogging is too easy then bring your knees up to make it harder.
  • Going for a walk, whether it is a walk between offices (instead of an email or phone call) or a longer walk outside at lunch. Walking is great for getting moving and preventing stiffness.
  • Knee lifts, a slighter harder one for those looking to give their core a workout, easier to do in a static chair. Sit in the edge of the chair, hands supporting yourself by your side (on arms or on the seat of the chair. Then lift both knees up towards your chest keeping your back straight. Rest in-between lifts if required. This can put pressure on your lower spine so unless you are confident in your ability to keep your back straight do not complete these.
  • Leg raise, these are easy to do and fairly unobtrusive. Sit fully supported in the chair, using your arms to support you, Lift both feet up at the same time until your knee is straight (make sure that your upper leg stays supported on the chair)
  • Calf raises, these can be done in standing, again wherever you get a chance i.e. at the printer or at the water fountain etc. Slowly lift yourself up onto your tiptoes (you may need to hold onto something for balance!) then control yourself back down to the floor – do not let gravity just pull you back down!

These are a range of different things that you could use to help keep you moving through the day. And remember, if done properly, it can be used for your weekly exercise as well. Whether you want to be discrete or a bit more obvious (and maybe motivate others into exercising with you!) there is something for everyone. The next blog looks at weight loss; I thought this would be appropriate considering it will be brought out in the New Year. Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas from us in the physiotherapy department.

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