Many jobs require that you sit for long hours at a desk or behind a computer. If you have a job that keeps you tied to a desk or other seated position for most of the day then you have a higher chance of contracting a variety of health risks.
Since you can’t just quit your job and spend every day at the local gym, you need to find ways to get the blood flowing and receive some kind of exercise to combat poor health. We’ll look at both the dangers of sitting too long and what you can do to get some form of exercise during your work day.
Health Risks of Extended Sitting
In November of 2011, the American Institute for Cancer Research released their findings on the link between extensive sitting and cancer. Based on physical activity data and cancer statistics, they found that 49,000 breast cancer and 43,000 colon cancer cases in the United States were due to prolonged periods of inactivity. Also, after reviewing 200 cancer studies from around the world, it was determined that regular exercise also decreases the risk of other types of cancer such as prostate, lung, ovarian and endometrial which have a greater likelihood of occurring due to inactivity. Besides this new-found link between inactivity and cancer, medical professionals have known for quite some time that regular exercise decreases the risk of other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Inactivity has also been shown to significantly reduce the lifespan of those that are idle for long periods of time. Health professionals have even come to dub such long periods of inactivity that lead to health problems as “sitting disease”. Although medical professionals are still looking into the reasons why sitting and its associated inactivity cause health problems, some headway has been made. It has been found that inactivity decreases insulin sensitivity and increases inflammation, body fat, and sex steroid and metabolic hormones, all of which can cause cancer and disease if not addressed through exercise.
Exercise and Work
On average, people spend between 7 and 9 hours a day sitting when their jobs require it. However, medical professionals say that if you sit much more than an hour at one time then you have sat for too long. Research shows that even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day and go back to sitting the remainder of the day, your health is still compromised. Therefore, it is suggested to perform 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise daily as well as taking frequent breaks from sitting in order to avoid bad health.
Isometric Exercises You Can Do At Work
Here are some easy isometric exercises which you can do at work to keep yourself healthy until you can get to the gym. Be sure to continue to breathe while doing isometric exercises.
Isometrics for Strength
Isometric Hand Presses – Sit up straight in a chair, place your hands together in front of your chest, and squeeze them together using your arm muscles. Hold for a count of 10, release, and repeat for 5-6 reps.
Overhead Presses – Hold a book in front of your chest with both hands and your elbows pointed out. Press the book up and over your head until your arms are straight, but elbows are not locked. Flex your muscles as you make the movement. Release back to the starting position, flexing your muscles on the release as well. Repeat for 10 reps.
Wall Push-Offs – Stand facing a wall that is about three feet away. Lean into the wall, placing the palms of your hands against it roughly shoulder-width apart. Lower your body slowly towards the wall until your forehead is a within a couple of inches of the wall. Hold for a count of 3, press yourself back to the starting position and repeat. Complete 10 reps.
Abdominal Draws – You can perform this isometric exercise by either sitting on the edge of a chair with your hands grasping the seat, or by standing with hands on hips and feet shoulder-width apart. Sit or stand with your back straight. Pull your abdominals inwards, focusing on drawing your belly button to your spine. Hold for a count of 10, release and repeat for 6-8 reps.
Leg Extensions – Sit in a chair with your back straight and pressed against the chair’s back. Grasp the edge of the chair and lift your legs slightly off the floor, flexing your toes to your shins. Slowly raise both legs up as far as you can without over stretching your calves or hamstrings. Hold for a count of 3 and then slowly lower your legs back to the floor. Repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
Isometrics for Flexibility
Neck Stretches – Sit in a chair or stand with your back and head straight and eyes looking forward. Slowly turn your head in one direction as far as you can without discomfort and hold. Then repeat in the other direction and hold. Next, slowly tilt your head forward until your chin almost touches your chest and hold. Then slowly move your head back until you’re looking up and hold. Repeat the cycle 2 or 3 times.
Arm Cross and Twists – Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and head looking forward. Move your right arm across your body keeping your elbow slightly bent. Grab your right arm with your left hand just above the elbow and gently pull until you feel resistance. Now, slowly twist your torso to the right, stopping when you feel resistance. Repeat with the opposite arm stretch and torso twist. Complete 5 full reps.
Raised Arm Side Bends – Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight. Hold your arms straight out in front of you and interlace your fingers so that your palms are facing away. Slowly raise your arms above your head and then lean towards the right using your waist and hold. Stop when you feel resistance. Straighten back up and lean to the left until you feel resistance and hold. Repeat for a full 5 reps.
Remember, staying active while at work, especially when you have a desk job, will help you to avoid health problems down the road. Don’t sit for longer than an hour without interrupting that inactive period with a short walk or one of the above isometric exercises. Then, when you have a chance, perform 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise each day.