Many people have transitioned this year to working from home instead of in a traditional office. This transition has had positive and negative effects on lives, routines and bodies. For some, the change of commute from bedroom to couch, kitchen or (if they’re lucky) home-office has drastically reduced time spent walking to and around the workplace. Among other health effects, backs everywhere are suffering for those who choose to work from the couch (guilty as charged!)
Sitting all day (on a couch or elsewhere) has long been known to be problematic, and it can lead to some concerning health outcomes, including obesity. Additionally, it can contribute to a group of conditions – increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol levels and high blood pressure – that come together to form metabolic syndrome.
There is also the likely increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. To add to all of these scary prospects, when you’re sitting on a couch your posture is likely to be negatively impacted which can speed up the onset of muscle dysfunction. This is what you might know as muscle tension and pain from imbalance.
Fortunately, making some changes to your workday routine can help your body overcome these negative effects of a sedentary workday. Adding bits of movement and exercise throughout your day can add up and help you when you’re not feeling like a regular workout before or after your shift. If you find just four minutes in each hour to move your body, then by the end of an 8-hour day you will have gotten in a 30+ minute workout. Here are some exercise ideas you can easily incorporate into your work-from-home workday.
Taking a short walk is pretty straightforward, and if it’s a nice day then it offers a chance to also get some fresh air. Getting up helps your mind refocus and gets your blood circulating which can help you concentrate better and think more creatively. You don’t have to go outside – you can always walk or jog in place for a minute or just stroll around your home or apartment building quickly. Anything that gets you up and moving works.
Squats are a great way to open your hips and stretch out your legs. This exercise can also help work your glutes, making them stronger for supporting you throughout your workday. Just 10 body weight squats per hour in an 8-hour workday adds up to 80 squats a day. Regular squats are effective on their own, but if you’ve invested in some home workout tools, this is an easy exercise to add some free weights or resistance bands for even more muscle-building.
These offer a great break from the monotony of desk work, and though the exercise itself is a simple body weight hold, the mental and physical strength required can be quite challenging. Try holding your body off of the floor with your elbows and toes planted and your body straight like a plank for 30 seconds. After practicing a few times a day, you might find that you’re able to hold your plank for 1 minute before you know it. Planks work your core and help improve your posture. These also combat the negative effects of couch-sitting by helping to lengthen and strengthen your spine.
Born from yoga, one of the most ancient forms of exercise still practiced today, the cat-cow stretch is great for creating space in your spine, chest, and neck. To do a cat-cow just move into a tabletop position (on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips) on the floor or a yoga mat. From there, elongate your spine and stretch your head and neck up, then come back to the neutral tabletop. Continue this flow for one minute for the maximum benefit.
Exercising throughout the day is great for taking breaks, but some small exercises can even be done while you’re working. Wall sits are a great option for when you’re on a phone call or watching a webinar – all you need is a wall. These help you build isometric strength and endurance in your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. Just hold your body against the wall in a seated position with your knees at a 90-degree angle for as long as you can. These will burn calories and build strength while you work.
Don’t let your body pay the price for your new workspace or your type of job. There are many ways to move during the day that will help you build strength and flexibility while also improving cognitive function. Try some of these exercises for just a few minutes in your work-from-home workday to reap big benefits.
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