Exercises at Work
In the current office scenario, most individuals sit at their computer to perform their daily tasks. Individuals rarely perform any physical work during their work schedule. In addition, many individuals often commute long hours from home to get to work. At the end of a hectic work day, one relaxes in front of the computer or the television. In all these cases, individuals remain seated for long hours. The computer-driven work culture has generated a whole new set of muscle complications that can be avoided with proper and regular work desk exercises. An ergonomic chair is essential to maintain good posture. The office chair should be at an appropriate height for the neck and the back. The sitting posture should be 90 degrees between the back and the thighs as well as between the thighs and the legs. It is recommended that individuals should move around for 5 to 10 seconds every hour to break the strain on the muscles when seated for a long time. One must avert their eyes for a few minutes from the computer monitor and look at other objects in the room to give rest to the eyes. The computer monitor should be placed a little above the eyes to prevent hunching. Stretching exercises for the back, neck, abdomen, and legs, while sitting at the desk can protect the muscles from undue strain.
Exercises to Perform While Sitting at the Desk
There are several office desk exercises that can be performed while being seated to stretch the wrists, neck, back, shoulders, legs, and ankles.
Hand and Wrist Exercises
- Keeping the palm facing down, move it from side to side. Keep the palm bent to each side for 5 to 10 seconds. This can be repeated with each palm, 3 to 5 times.
- Stretch the hand out horizontally and close the fingers into the palm, while keeping the thumb outstretched. Rotate the thumb 5 times clockwise and anticlockwise, respectively. Perform this exercise with both the hands.
- Fold the hands and join the palms together in front of the chest and maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. This exercise may be repeated 3 to 5 times.
- Place both the palms facing upwards and rotate them till they face downwards until there is a stretch to the wrist. Rotate them again till they face upwards and you feel a stretch in the wrist. Maintain these positions for 5 to 10 seconds each and repeat them 3 to 5 times for each palm.
- Lift the hand and rest the elbow on the table. With the open palm, fold in the fingers so they touch the base of the fingers or knuckles and maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Close the thumb over the fingers to make a fist and maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. This may be repeated 3 to 5 times with both the hands.
- Rest the elbow on a table and lift the right palm and push the right palm with the left palm so you feel a stretch on the right wrist and maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. This should be alternately done with the left palm and repeated 3 to 5 times for both the hands. Similarly, rest the elbow near the edge of a table and bend the right palm so the fingers are facing downwards. Push the palm down with the left palm till you feel the stretch on the right wrist and maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. This should be done alternately with the left palm and repeated 3 to 5 times for both the hands.
- Bend the neck to the right side until the ear touches the shoulder. Do not raise the shoulder to touch the ear. Keep the neck bent for 5 to 10 minutes and then relax by bringing the neck back to the normal position. Repeat this exercise on the left side. This neck exercise can be repeated 3 to 5 times for each side.
- Bend the neck forward so the chin touches the chest and rotate the neck to the left side and then to the right side. This exercise is termed the neck relaxer.
- Turn the head to the left and keep it for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat the action to the right and keep the head in the turned position for 5 to 10 seconds. This exercise can be repeated 3 to 5 times.
- Keeping the head straight and facing forward, move the head to the back until you can feel a double chin. Keep the head in that position for 5 to 10 seconds. This can be repeated 3 to 5 times. This exercise is also known as the head glide.
- Bend the head forward until you feel the strain on the neck and keep it for 5 to 10 seconds. Similarly, bend the head backwards and maintain it for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise 3 to 5 times.
- Lift the eyebrows, open the eyes wide, stick the tongue out, and maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat this exercise 3 to 5 times to stretch the facial muscles.
- While sitting in the chair, one can lift the left leg and hold the shin. Bend down so the nose is close to the knee. Maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds before repeating with the other leg.
- While sitting, cross the right knee over the left knee. Rest the right arm on the right thigh and slowly turn the head towards the left side looking over the left shoulder. Hold the armrest of the chair with the left hand. Maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat the exercise 3 to 5 times.
While sitting straight such that the back touches the backrest of the seat, stretch and lift the left leg off the floor and point the toes upwards (flex the ankle) and then downwards (extend the ankle). Repeat this exercise 3 to 5 times on each leg.
The leg exercise while sitting at the desk, involves lifting each leg 5 to 10 cm off the floor in a stretched position and keeping it in that position for 5 to 10 seconds. The individual should sit forward so the feet are placed flat on the ground and the back is away from the backrest. The exercise should be repeated 3 to 5 times for both the legs. This exercise is also known as the wooden leg.
Stretching Exercises at the Desk
Shoulder and back Exercises
- Move the shoulders around from the back to the front in a circular movement. Repeat this 5 times in the same direction. Similarly, move the shoulders 5 times in a circular movement from the front to the back. This exercise is also known as the shoulder roll.
- Stretch the shoulders in front of you and interlock the fingers with the palms facing away from you. Keep the shoulders stretched for 5 to 10 seconds. Similarly, stretch the shoulders behind the back and interlock the fingers with the palms facing the back and keep it for 5 to 10 seconds. Stretch the shoulders above the head and interlock the fingers with the palms facing upwards and maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. You can slowly move to either side (left and right) in this position. Interlock the fingers behind the head with the palms touching the head. Stretch the bent shoulders to the side such that the back is pushed inwards. Maintain this posture for 3 to 5 seconds. These exercises can be repeated 3 to 5 times. These exercises stretch the back.
Standing Exercises at the Desk
Shoulder and Back Exercises
- Move the shoulders upwards slowly till they touch the ears. Keep it in the raised position for 5 to 10 seconds before bringing them back to the normal position. This exercise can be repeated 3 to 5 times. This exercise is also known as the shoulder shrug.
- Bend the hand and touch the right shoulder such that there is a pull on the left shoulder. Maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat the process with the other arm by touching the left shoulder. This exercise can be repeated 3 to 5 times.
- Move the arms in a circular motion around the head and to the side. Cross the arms in front of the chest and move it above the head by breathing in. Bring the arms to the side and slowly breathe out before bringing it back to the normal position. The circular movements can be increased with widening circles. This exercise can be performed 3 to 5 times.
- Lift the left arm, bend it behind the head and touch the back of the right shoulder. Lift the right arm and touch the bent left elbow. Keep this position for 3 to 5 seconds before repeating with the other arm. This exercise must be performed 3 to 5 times.
- Stand straight with legs stretched apart. Raise the hands in an outstretched manner in the upwards direction and maintain the position for 5 to 10 seconds. This exercise can be performed 3 to 5 times. This can also be performed in the sitting position.
- After sitting for a prolonged period, stand up with the legs apart and the knees in a slightly bent position. Place the palms on the lower back with the fingers pointing downwards and press against the back so it bends backwards. Maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then return to the normal positon. This exercise can be repeated 3 to 5 times.
- Place the palms on the wall and stand away from the wall by stretching the hands. Bend the left leg with the foot on the floor and facing forwards. Stretch the right leg away from the wall with the foot facing forwards. Stay in this position for 5 to 10 seconds before repeating the stretch with the left leg.
- With the right palm resting on a support, lift the left leg and bend it from behind so the base of the foot is facing the back and pull the ankle towards the buttocks. The left knee should point downwards and one must feel a stretch in the thigh. This exercise should be repeated with the other leg. Each position should be maintained for 5 to 10 seconds and the exercise should be repeated 3 to 5 times.
- Stand erect and place one leg on a stationary surface that is at a comfortable height. Bend slowly forwards until you feel a stretch in the back. Stay in this position for 5 to 10 seconds before returning to the erect position. Repeat the procedure with the second leg. This exercise may be repeated 3 to 5 times.
Abdominal or Tummy Exercises at the Desk
- Kneel down on both the knees and lift the left leg to rest the left foot on the floor. Keeping the right leg outstretched behind, slowly raise the arms on both sides of the head and bend the back backwards. Lift the face upwards or look in front. Feel the stretch in the abdominal muscles.
- Sit at the edge of the chair and lean back until the upper back rests against the chair. Support your hands on the armrests. Stretch the legs and lift them so they are parallel to the ground. Fold the kness until they touch the chest and stay in that position for a few seconds before releasing them. This exercise may be repeated 10 to 20 times. If the back starts to arch, take a break.
- Sit by the edge of the seat with the feet placed flat on the ground. Hold onto the armrests and lift one knee at a time by bringing it to the chest. This contracts the muscles in the abdomen. Lift each knee alternately in the form of a cycling motion.
Yoga Exercises at the Desk
Wrist: Stand erect by the desk with the feet slightly apart and the shoulders in the same line with the feet. Place the palms on the desk with the fingers facing you. Maintain this position for 10 to 30 seconds. This prevents a common affliction, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, observed in those who are constantly working on the keyboard a lot.
Spinal Stretch: Sit and bend down to touch your toes with your hands. Stay in that position for 10 to 30 seconds, while taking deep breaths. Return to the seated normal position.
While seated, stretch the hands, lean forward and place the palms on the desk. Maintain this position for 10 to 30 seconds. This is also termed as the downward dog seated position.
Leg Stretch: Following up with the above posture, fold the right leg over the left knee and stay in the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
Rib Stretch: In the seated position, stretch the hands up on either side of the head. Lean on the left side and place the left hand on the desk and feel the stretch on the ribs. Maintain the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
Back Stretch: Place the palms on the desk and start moving backwards by bending down to stretch the hands until the hips line up above the knees and the back is stretched horizontally. Maintain this position for 10 to 30 seconds.
Stress Relief Excercises at the Desk
Breathing exercises are great stress relievers and can be done at any point in time and at any place.
- Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let your mind wander to a place that you would like to visit and explore. By imagining yourself in that peaceful setting, you will feel yourself relaxing. Keep taking in deep breaths with your eyes closed and imagine happy things until you feel at peace.
- Take a deep breath through your nostrils and hold it for 5 counts and then release the breath through the mouth for 8 counts. Keep repeating until you feel the stress wear off.
- Take a deep breath with the eyes closed and expand the stomach. Repeat twice before breathing in and out normally through the nose and mouth. Maintain a normal breathing routine with the eyes closed until the body is relaxed.
Latest Publications and Research on Exercises You Can Do at Your Work Desk
- Overuse injuries in the athlete. - Published by PubMed
- Sports nutrition for the recreational athlete. - Published by PubMed
- Some current challenges facing the athlete and their doctor. - Published by PubMed
- [Impact of change of ideal cardiovascular behavior and related factors on healthy vascular aging]. - Published by PubMed
- Effects of aerobic fitness on cognitive motor interference during self-paced treadmill walking in older adults. - Published by PubMed
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Dr. Smitha S. Dutt. "Exercises You Can Do at Your Work Desk". Medindia. https://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/exercises-you-can-do-at-your-work-desk.htm. (accessed May 18, 2022).
Dr. Smitha S. Dutt. 2021. Exercises You Can Do at Your Work Desk. Medindia, viewed May 18, 2022, https://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/exercises-you-can-do-at-your-work-desk.htm.