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Desk-ercise: Undo the Dangers of Sitting

Orange Icon  Desk-ercise: Undo the Dangers of Sitting

Orange Icon  Desk-ercise: Undo the Dangers of Sitting

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Whenever I meet with a new client, one of the first things we do is go over their typical day. This helps us to recognize their bad habits and figure out how to create good ones. I am always amazed at how much time people spend sitting at their desks each day. One client told me that, aside from bathroom breaks, she'd sit at her desk nonstop from 9AM until she left work for the day at 5PM. That's eight hours of constant sitting!

The fact is, we spend way too much time on our bums. Excessive sitting, even for a little as four hours a day, has severe consequences for our health, including:

  • Increasing your risk of developing diabetes by 7% per hour seated
  • Increasing your risk of becoming obese by slowing your metabolism
  • Increasing your risk of developing heart disease, depression, and certain cancers

When you consider that many people spend way more than four hours in front of a computer each day - and then go home and watch television on the couch - you begin to see how serious a problem sedentary living is for American health.

We've talked before about tips and tricks you can use to break up the day so you aren't trapped at your desk for 8 hours at a time. Whether it's taking frequent stretch breaks, finding a space where you can work on your computer while standing, or actually running your own errands - rather than doing all your shopping online - little modifications can go a long way toward making your workday healthier.

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In addition to those tricks, you can modify many of the exercises you do in the gym to turn your hours at the office into a (very) low-intensity workout than can strengthen your core and build muscle while you work.

To get the benefits of an active lifestyle and combat the dangers of sedentary living, consider adopting this mini exercise program at work.

  1. Invest in a balance ball. I actually use a balance ball in my exercise program at the gym. They're an excellent tool to help you improve your core strength and balance. Swap out your desk chair for a balance ball for a portion of each day and work your abs while you work on that quarterly report.
  2. Work your legs under your desk. Although you won't get the same benefit from these exercises that you would at the gym, where you'd be able to add weights to increase resistance, you can do calf raises and quad presses under your desk. You'll not only increase your strength and flexibility, but you'll also boost circulation to your legs, a part of the body that suffers significantly from extended sitting sessions.
  3. Perfect your posture. Who knew that sitting up straight could be an exercise program? While I wouldn't recommend trading your ergonomic chair for a backless stool, relying too heavily on your chair to keep you comfortable may be weakening your back muscles. Improve your posture - and decrease your likelihood of suffering from lower back pain - by sitting forward (and straight) in your chair. It'll be tough at first, but your muscles will eventually be stronger for it.
Lakshmi Voelker
check out my website get daily chair yoga class videos or become a lakshmi voelker chair yoga teacher live or on-line
Crystal Jones
It would be great to have an example of calf raises and quad presses under your desk. Really? How is anyone suppose to know what this means when you never experienced this?
Hazel Carlson
I find this very important. I had PAD last year with a 95% blockage in my abdomen because I sat too much and did not walk. After surgery, I now do Tai-Chi 3 days a week, walk every hour throughout the house (I work at home), and make sure I park far away from the stores. I do intend to walk some more.
Jamie Fulenwider
Being a work-at-home employee for a global technology company, I stay on the computer and phone at least 7-to-10 hours a day. The best investment I made three week ago was a balance ball chair. I can tell the difference in my shoulders and middle back. The balance ball chair forces me to get up every 30-to-40 minutes because it gets uncomfortable. Another technique I use is the Pomodoro technique - I set a timer for 40 minutes, focus intently on my project, then get up and take a 15 break where I walk, stretch, or get in a quick set of exercises. I am finding it's the many little things adding up to the one big goal.
Donna Hickey
I worked for 37 years for the Federal Government. Most of the time I didn't even take a break. I worked on a computer the last 25 and it ruined my shoulders. I sat too long without getting up and stretching out. My lower spine has collapsed and both of my shoulders have arthritic Spurs inside the rotator cuff. I recently spent 5 months going to therapy. I am better. I am saying this to warn peoplle what happens when you sit too long and constantly work on a computer. You should stand up every 30 minutes and stretch out your back. Do exercises for your shoulders. This will better enable you to enjoy life after retirement. It also helps your joints ift you keep your weight down.