London-based nutrition and fitness expert, Parna, gives us handy fitness tips to counter long hours in offices that keeps us away from the gym. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
There is hardly anyone these days who do not realise the benefits of exercising and having an active lifestyle. Yet everybody is not able to adopt that habit. There could be many reasons behind it like lack of motivation, lack of time, especially when you have to spend long hours at the office, etc.
Even when I used to have long stressful hours at work I used to struggle a lot to find time exclusively for doing exercise. Sooner or later I found out some strategies to deal with it. I realised that short bouts of stretching exercises, strength exercises in between work, conference calls, etc. go a long way in improving your overall fitness levels.
I am going to share some of my favourite strategies here:
- Take those stairs: Avoid the elevator whenever you can and take the stairs instead. This is a good cardio exercise. And if you want it intense, you can accelerate on the stairways and take two steps at a time, every other flight, for a real leg burn.
- Walk while you talk: There’s no need to sit still, while you talk on the phone or think. Sometimes a face-to-face talk is the best way to communicate and it gets you up and moving around. Take a stroll down the hall to catch up with co-workers or welcome a new employee. Or, instead of dialling extensions and sending lazy emails to the manager two doors down, put in some face time. Got a coffee break? Got a few free minutes? Take a walk outside and get some fresh air (and extra steps). Need to discuss something with a co-worker? A walking meeting can be more productive and healthier too!
- Drink plenty of water: Drinking plenty of water keeps you hydrated as well as it compels you to take frequent trips to restrooms and if the restrooms or pantries are farther the better!
- Toe taps and stationary jogs: Tapping your toes speedily on the floor, under the desk is a great thing to do. You can even take a short break and go to a corner or the edge of a staircase and lift up those legs to tap the toes on its edge, alternating feet, like in soccer-drill fashion. You can also do stationary jogs, if you can, to release stress from your muscles.
- Weights: Keeping some weights and a resistance band near your desk is a good idea. You can lift weights while you talk. Keep a weight near the telephone; pick it up when you get a call and pump your arms while you talk. Feeling tired and bogged down? Take a five minutes weight break to lift your hand weights and get your blood flowing.
- Resistance bands: Stretch your stress away with a resistance band. The tension in your shoulders, neck, and back is easy to release with standing stretches and a resistance band. You can also use the resistance band to stretch your arms and legs. Your mind and body will be more flexible and alert too.
- Work your abs: You can strengthen tummy muscles while sitting in a chair, attending a meeting or a conference call. Simply take a deep breath and tighten the abdominal muscles, bringing them in towards the spine as you exhale. Stay squeezed for 5-10 seconds and release. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps each.
- The shoulder shrug: Though, I will not recommend doing this during meetings as it can be misinterpreted by people.
For the shoulder shrug, simply raise both shoulders up toward the ears, hold for 5 seconds, and then relax. Repeat for 15 reps. Feeling unstoppable? Try advanced shoulder shrugs while standing and holding weights in each hand.
- Desk exercises: Like the points# 7 and 8, there are several other desk exercises available on the internet which can be practiced while at work. For example, the leg raises the isometric glute exercise, etc.
For the leg raises, while seated, straighten one or both legs and lift up and hold in place for five or more seconds. Then lower the leg(s) back to the ground without letting the feet touch the floor. Repeat (alternating legs if raising them separately) for 15 reps. Underwhelmed? Loop a resistance band around the ankle for added weight, or for more of an abs workout, add a crunch.
For the isometric glutes exercise, simply squeeze the buttocks, hold for 5-10 seconds, and release. Repeat until the agenda wraps up or the glutes tire. The results will be uplifting in more ways than one.
- Standing desk: Standing itself isn’t exactly a traditional exercise, but research shows it’s much better than sitting. After all, long periods of sitting is injurious to health and it is linked to increased risk for diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, whereas standing significantly increases your daily caloric expenditure. Stand whenever you can, and consider investing in standing desk or workstation too!
- Pedometers, Smart watches, Fitbit: Though I never needed one as I am already self-motivated, but these are a great tool for motivation among people who lack self-motivation. Since every step counts, wearing these gadgets is a wonderful motivator to move more during your workday. People are tempted to check their pedometers often and get more ideas for adding a few more steps here or there!
Recent research suggests that the recommended 30 minutes of cardio five times per week may not undo the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle with several long hours of sitting in a day.
Although these strategies and the desk exercises for the cubicle-bound, won’t promise you Olympic mile times or six-pack abs or an absolutely sculpted body, they might just improve strength and burn a few extra calories to get started with!
Photos sourced by the author.
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Parna Mukherjee, founder of RitLean, is a mom, certified nutritionist and health coach. She lives in UK and works with health enthusiasts of all age groups all over the world, helping them to set fitness and health goals and achieve them. Her goal is to help people find easy ways to make healthy choices and live a better healthier life.