Workday Workout

Sitting at a desk all day may result in serious health risks -- even if employees get regular excercise. So with that in mind, here are some ways HR leaders can help their workers exercise at their desks.

This article accompanies A Culture of Health.

Sunday, May 1, 2011
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It's no secret that Americans need more exercise, but with busy schedules, a lack of motivation and the temptation of unhealthy food choices all around, many workers simply don't get enough of it.

And for those of us who sit at a desk for long periods of time during the day -- it could result in serious health risks.


A study cited in a May 2009 article in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that sitting a lot increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, certain cancers and early death -- even if you exercise regularly.

So with that in mind, here are some ways HR leaders can help their workers exercise at their desks. Now, get movin'!

Get started with some breathing and stretching techniques from the Division of Occupational Health and Safety:

Deep Breathing

* While standing, or in an otherwise relaxed position, place one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest. 

* Inhale slowly through the nose and hold for four seconds.

* Exhale slowly through the mouth. 

* Repeat.

Cable Stretch

* While sitting, with chin in, stomach in, shoulders relaxed, hands relaxed in lap and feet flat on the floor, imagine a cable pulling the head upward. 

* Hold for three seconds and relax. 

* Repeat three times.

Sidebend: Neck Stretch

* Tilt head to one side (ear towards shoulder). 

* Hold for 15 seconds. 

* Relax. 

* Repeat three times on each side.

Diagonal Neck Stretch

* Turn head slightly and then look down as if looking in your pocket. 

* Hold for 15 seconds. 

* Relax. 

* Repeat three times on each side.

Shoulder Shrug

* Slowly bring shoulders up to the ears and hold for approximately three seconds. 

* Rotate shoulders back and down. 

* Repeat 10 times.

Now that you're all stretched out, get your heart moving with these 60-second cardio-burst exercises from WebMD that were developed by Kelli Calabrese, an exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise:

Jumping Jacks

* Glance at the wall clock and rip off a minute's worth of jumping jacks. If you're a beginner, try the low-impact version (raise your right arm and tap your left toe to the side while keeping your right foot on the floor; alternate sides).

Football Run

* Do a football-like drill of running in place for 60 seconds. Get those knees up! (Beginners, march in place.)

Simulated Jump Rope

* Simulate jumping rope for a minute: Hop on alternate feet, or on both feet at once. An easier version is to simulate the arm motion of turning a rope, while alternately tapping the toes of each leg in front.

Shadow Boxing

* If you can step into a vacant office or conference room, shadow box for a minute or two.

* If not, just do them while seated. (Try not to punch your computer.)

In that same WebMD article, Calabrese offers some at-work strength-training tips:

Seated Leg Raise and Hold

* Sitting in your chair, lift one leg off the seat, extend it out straight, hold for 2 seconds; then lower your foot (stop short of the floor) and hold for several seconds. Switch.

* Do each leg 15 times.

Seated Dips

* To work your chest and shoulders, place both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your bottom off the chair.

* Lower yourself back down but stop short of the seat, hold for a few seconds.

* Do 15 times.

Chair Rolls

* To stretch your back and strengthen your biceps, place your hands on the desk and hang on.

* Slowly push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you're looking at the floor. Then slowly pull yourself back in.

* Repeat 15 times.

Desk Pushups

* Desk pushups can be a good strengthener. (First, make sure your desk is solid enough to support your weight.) Standing, put your hands on the desk. Walk backward, then do push-ups against the desk.

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* Repeat 15 times.

Finally, let's firm up those abdominals with a little help from for men and women:

Abdominal Hold

* The easier version of this exercise requires a chair and begins by sitting upright with your shoulders over your hips. Take a deep breath, then slowly exhale engaging the stomach muscles by visualizing your belly button pulling toward your tailbone.

* Continue your slow breathing while holding your abs in this flexed position; slowly raise your right foot off of the floor (try to straighten your leg if possible).

* Hold for a count of 10, then switching to your left foot. Repeat four to five times.

* To increase the intensity sit closer to the edge of your chair, placing your hands on the edge for balance and slowly bringing both feet off of the ground. (Make sure your chair is stable for the advanced version.)

Sitting Twist

* Begin this exercise by sitting up tall at the edge of your chair with your shoulders square over your hips. Place your hands behind your head so your elbows are pointing out to the sides. Keeping your hips facing forward, slowly twist your entire torso, neck and head to face toward your left side. Bring this movement back to center and then twist to face the right side.

* Repeat 10 to 20 times on each side.

* To make this movement more advanced, when you turn toward the left side, slowly raise your left foot off of the floor and bring your left knee to meet your right elbow. Repeat the twist to the right, bringing your right foot off of the floor and bringing your right knee to meet your left elbow.

See also:

A Culture of Health

Healthy Winners (PDF)

Motivating Employees to Stay Healthy and Safe

Engaging Employee's Families

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