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5 exercises at your desk

Even if you sit all day, you can still keep supple and improve your fitness without getting up from your chair. Do these exercises while waiting for a meeting to start, or to give yourself a break during long tasks.

1. Leg Extensions

While sitting down, lift your legs alternatively until they’re straight out in front of you. Hold for as long as you are comfortable, then lower and lift the other leg. Repeat 10 times. Try counting how long you can keep your legs raised, and see if you can increase the time a little each day. Then lift one foot a few inches off the floor, keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees. Again, hold until it becomes uncomfortable then switch to the other leg.

2. Arm Extensions

Holding your arms straight, move them behind you and lift them up as far as you can, which will do wonders for tight shoulder muscles, then bring them forward, keeping the arm straight, until your hands meet. Make sure your shoulders don’t creep up around your ears whilst doing this exercise and try to maintain an upright posture throughout. Repeat 10 times.

3. Neck rotations

Relax your shoulders and lower your chin until it touches your chest and take a deep breath in while rotating your head very slowly clockwise. When your head is as far back as you can get it, slowly begin to exhale while circling your head back to rest your chin on your chest again. Do this 5 times clockwise, then 5 times anti-clockwise to relax and stretch tense neck muscles.

4. Back twists

Sit up straight and put your left hand on the small of your back, with your elbow bent. Twist to the left as far as you can comfortably. Change to the right side and repeat. Keep switching from side to side, and always move slowly and smoothly – don’t jerk or force yourself to twist further than is comfortable.

5. Punch the air

Although you may feel a bit self-conscious doing this if your workmates can see, punching the air above your head with both arms for intense 30-second bursts is a great way of releasing stress and getting your heart beating faster. Then repeat in front of you and to the sides and finish with 30 seconds overhead again.

Benenden’s Lead Physiotherapist Shinu Varghese advocates moving around whenever possible. “At work, I tell people not to sit for more than 20 minutes. Whatever position you adopt, don’t stay like it for more than 20 to 30 minutes. Constantly changing position uses all your muscles and all the systems in your body.”

Here are Shinu’s tips for moving more during the day:

  • Instead of sitting for phone calls, stand up and walk around as you take them.
  • Hold meetings standing up for short periods (20 mins) then change to sitting (20 mins) – you’ll be amazed at how much faster people get through business without a comfy chair!
  • Don’t keep water on your desk, walk to the water cooler or the kitchen to get a drink whenever you feel thirsty.
  • Go and talk to people in your office face to face, if you have the time, instead of using email or the phone.