Lose those last few kgs by exercising at your desk
13 October 2014, 08:11
Nairobi - Many of us are guilty of spending way too much time in front of our laptops these days, something which places enormous strain on our backs and necks as a result of improper positioning.
Sitting places our hip flexors in a shortened, tightened position, resulting in increased stiffness and overall weakening. Hunching also results in the chest muscles and abdominals being tightened and stiffened, whilst the upper and lower back is lengthened and weakened over time.
Work might not seem like the obvious place to improve your posture and muscle tone, but there are some simple ways you can strengthen and shorten your muscles without the help of weights and exercise mats.
Easy Desk Stretches
When sitting at your desk, try to focus on keeping your shoulders back and your back as straight as possible. The slouched position we often find ourself in at the day’s end is contrary to the spine’s natural inward curve, so you need to try to counter this natural hunching as much as possible.
An easy desk stretch involves simply drawing your shoulders back and trying to squeeze the shoulder blades together as tightly as possible. You can do this either with your elbows by your side or with your arms straight down on either side of the body. Whilst in this position, rotate your wrists a few times in a clockwise and then an anti-clockwise motion, in order to counteract the destructive effects of typing.
Using The Facilities
You can perform simple hip flexor and chest stretches using easily found support structures such as door frames or vending machines.
To exercise your chest, simply place your lower arm against a door frame or side of vending machine, with the lower part of the arm vertical against the door and the elbow at 90 degrees. Step forward with your right foot, keeping your back straight until you feel a stretch across the chest. Hold this stretch for 6-10 seconds before repeating with the left foot.
To work your hip flexors, stand on one leg, keeping the other one bent, using the door frame or vending machine for support. Hold the ankle with the same side hand and pull your foot in behind you, making sure to keep your knees together. Pull your foot back until the bent knee is level or just behind the supporting leg. You should feel a stretch, which can be intensified by pushing your hip slightly forward. Hold the stretch for 6-10 seconds before repeating on the other leg.
Whilst these stretches will greatly assist you in maintaining a good posture and extending stiffened muscles, they can be well complemented by a series of exercises which can be easily performed at home, once the work day is done.
All the listed exercises can be performed using light weights, a work-out mat and a Swiss ball, all of which are widely available and cost-effective. If you are new to resistance training, keep the weights lighter and repetitions higher.
1. Kneeling Single Arm Flies
Get yourself into a kneeling position on your exercise mat, and extend your right arm fully, with your thumb pointing upwards. Lift your arm until you feel a squeeze in your shoulder blades, and repeat this 15 times, before switching arms and performing the same action. To increase resistance, you can incorporate a light weight.
2. Bent Over Rows
From a standing position, bend over from the hips, keeping your back straight and your knees slightly bent. Lift two equal weights, starting from a position of full arm extension, and lifting until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle and your shoulder blades are together. Repeat 15 times before moving on to the next exercise.
3. Glute Raises
From a kneeling position, lift your left leg until you feel a stretch in your glutes. Drop your leg to the floor, and repeat this fifteen times. If you have access to ankle weights, use these to increase resistance and really work out those glutes! Repeat this 15 times.
4. Back Extensions
Using a Swiss Ball, kneel against a wall and roll over the ball, making sure to keep your legs straight. Place your hands on either side of your head (traditional sit-up or crunch position) and lift your upper body, stretching your lower back and core muscles.
Repeat 15 times.
Also read: Home-based exercise programmes more effective
5. Pelvic Lifts
This simple exercise is designed to strengthen your hamstrings, and all you’ll need to get going is an exercise mat. Lie on your back, with your knees elevated and feet on the floor shoulder width apart. Tilt your pelvis slightly forward until your back is straight, and then extend your back fully by pushing your pelvis towards the ceiling, making sure to focus on stretching your lower, mid- and upper back in the process. Repeat 15 times.
6. Full Swiss Ball Sit-Ups
This exercise has been developed in order to strengthen your core muscles, and requires the use of a Swiss ball in order to ensure its effectiveness. Sit on the Swiss ball, making sure to keep it positioned in the arch of your lower back. Lie back on the ball and perform 15 sit-ups, making sure to extend the motion fully. The Swiss ball will allow your body to bend around it, opening up the stomach. Should you not have access to a Swiss ball, simple sit-ups will also prove effective.
The above routine should be done as part of a circuit work-out 2-3 times per week, performing each exercise 15 times.