How to Work Out While You Work

Feb 28, 2022

Many of us with work-from-home gigs and desk jobs are feeling even less mobile as a typical Canadian winter swirls around us. Thanks to both of these factors, we may be feeling the effects of a less active and more sedentary lifestyle on our bodies.

In the past we had to get up and go out to our places of employment, at the very least. We may have had a brisk walk from the bus or subway to our job site, workplace, or the office. Perhaps we rode our bikes or parked our cars at a distance. Some of us took the stairs rather than the escalator or elevator for a bit of exercise. Maybe we had to shovel the car out from under the latest snowfall, along with our sidewalk and driveway too. Suffice it to say, we’re most likely not doing any of those things anymore (except the shovelling!).

Despite trying to get outdoors as often as possible during inclement weather, I’ve tended to be less likely to roust myself up from my chair to stretch and move around as much as I did while at the office. After all, there were coffee breaks and lunches to go to and meetings to attend in the boardroom, trips to the photocopy machines and printers, plus conferences in the offices of colleagues.

Frankly, we used to move around a whole lot more. And now some of us have bodies that are paying the price.

Remedy the Sit-u-ation

If you’re sitting at a desk all day at home and are forgetting to get up and move around or are just too darn busy, then the following are a number of easy exercises you can perform while in your chair while you still focus on the job at hand. You don’t need weights or special equipment either. Adjust the routine to your fitness level and up the repetitions as you get stronger.

Tone Those Calf Muscles

Stretch your calf muscles while seated by raising your legs up on the very tips of your toes and down again after ten second intervals. You’ll feel a slight burn after a few seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat eight times.

Clench Your Butt

While seated, tighten your abs and then clench your buttocks together and hold for ten seconds. Do five sets of eight repetitions. Be sure to breathe rhythmically.

Ankle Rotations

Raise one foot off the floor about 10-12 cm (4”- 5”) and rotate your ankle clockwise and counterclockwise for five seconds in each direction eight times. Repeat with other foot.

Arm Stretches

Many arm exercises can be performed from a seated position. To stretch the muscles in your right arm, reach left as far as you can across your chest, supporting it with your left hand under your elbow. Hold five seconds and repeat eight times. Switch sides and do the same with your left arm reaching to the right and feeling the stretch. Tip: keep the target arm straight to get the best stretch possible.

Shoulder Retractions

Shoulder retractions help ease tension in the upper arms and neck – often brought on by extended time spent working at a laptop. In my case, I tend to tighten up in my upper body and forget to relax when my work gets intense. My remedy is to sit tall with my abs engaged and then I push my arms straight out in front of me without locking the joints. Then I bend my elbows and pull my arms back towards my body while squeezing my shoulder blades tightly together. Push out and pull back for two sets of 20 reps.

Light Leg Lifts

With both feet flat on the floor, alternate lifting your right leg and then the left until they touch the underside of your desk. It’ll feel like you’re climbing stairs without the stairs, or as if you’re sort of doing a seated marching motion. They’ll do wonders for your thighs and core. Do ten sets of eight reps.

Seated Crunches

These sound awkward, and they are, but they will help strengthen your core. Scootch up to the edge of your chair keeping your feet on the ground. Lean back on the backrest. Straighten your legs and lift them a few inches above the ground and at the same time, raise your back a few inches off the backrest. You’ll be sort of perched on the edge of the chair using your abs to stabilize your body. Build up to a ten second hold. Tip: It’s easier at first if you bend either your left or right knee a bit. Go for eight ten second reps.

Do Them Daily at Your Desk

Just because your work routine may have changed over the past two years, enabling you to perform your job from home, it’s no excuse not to either get up and move around or to routinely perform these simple exercises while you’re seated at your desk during your business hours. The same goes for retirees who are no longer working – there’s no need to stop moving!

Remember though, these seated routines are not a complete exercise regime and should be accompanied by regular cardio and more active exercises. Working from home may mean you can choose your own hours which in turn could enable you to possibly take advantage of getting up and going outdoors for a walk, run, bike ride or some other preferred physical activity to release tension and keep your body fit.

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