There’s no denying the negative health risks associated with the typical American job that involves sitting for extended periods of time. Prolonged sitting is defined as more than three hours a day. However, it is estimated that over 80% of U.S. workers sit for the entire day at their job, typically anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.Extensive periods of sitting on a prolonged basis have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, spinal stress, weak muscles, certain types of cancer, and a wealth of other negative health effects.
There are simple exercises you can do with just 15, 10 or 5 minutes a day that can help combat these negative effects. Whether you’re on your lunch break or waiting for the copy machine to finish, these exercises can be done anywhere to help sneak some ultra-healthy movement into your day.
With your back in a straight position, simply turn your head to the right until it is aligned over your shoulder. Hold for three seconds while focusing on stretching the neck muscle. Do the same on the left side. Repeat five times on each side. Do this 2-3 times a day to keep the neck from stiffening.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Simply turn to your right side while engaging your core and stretching through your spine while engaging your back muscles. Hold for three seconds. Repeat on the left side. Do this five times on each side. This can be done 2-3 times each day to prevent tightening of the back muscles.
Start by standing with feet hip’s width apart. Place both hands on your hips and step forward with one foot until the knee is at a 90-degree angle while simultaneously dropping the other knee to the ground, also at a 90-degree angle. Push the hip forward as you lower your body, keeping the back completely straight. Rise back to a standing position. Repeat using the opposite leg. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Simple Plank + Child’s Pose Combo
Get down into a parallel position with your toes on the floor, shoulder-width apart and place your forearms on the floor with your elbows beneath your shoulders, keeping your back completely straight and pelvis aligned. Squeeze the abdominal muscles, thighs, and glutes while keeping your back in a straight line. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Roll back into child’s pose, tucking your chest back onto your knees and keeping your arms outstretched with your palms flat on the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds before realigning into plank position. Repeat three times.
One of the muscles that take the biggest hit for sedentary workers is the glutes. They continually weaken during prolonged sitting. Single-leg bridges engage the glutes while also strengthening the hamstrings.
Lying flat on your back, bend both knees and flatten your feet on the floor, keeping your arms resting on the floor. Extend your right leg up into the air, flexing your toes at a 90-degree angle toward your head. Engage the glutes to push your extended foot upward so that your glutes are removed upward off the floor. Slowly lower your glutes back down onto the floor. Repeat 10 times with the right leg before switching to the left leg and doing 10 reps.
This exercise is designed to work your back, triceps and shoulder muscles. Because you are bending over, your core is also engaged. Holding a dumbbell or a full water bottle in your right hand, plant your feet shoulder-width apart and bend slightly, keeping your back straight. Do a rowing motion to extend your elbow up toward the ceiling at a 90-degree angle. Repeat this rowing exercise 15 times on the right side. Switch the weight or water bottle to the left hand and do the rowing exercises 15 times. Stand up straight for 30 seconds. Get back into the slightly bent position and repeat on both sides. Do three sets.
Squats move the hips, which tighten when sitting. Stand with your feet a little bit wider than hip-width. Hold a weight or a water bottle to your chest. Bend at your knees, lowering your glutes toward the ground until you reach a 90-degree position (you should be in the same position you would be in if sitting). Push through the heel to return to a full standing position. Repeat 15 times. If time permits, do three sets.
This simple stretches are excellent to work the glutes, back muscles, hamstrings, and core muscles. These muscles can all be weakened by sitting all day. Holding a weight or a water bottle with both hands in between your legs, stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back entirely flat while you hinge your hips to lower your body forward into a 90 degree position, tapping the weight to the floor. While keeping your back straight, pull the weight upward until you are standing straight up, engaging the core and glutes as you move. Do 15 reps. If time permits, do three sets.
This is a simple stretch to do while you are talking on the phone or typing, but it can greatly prevent muscles tightening in the calves and will increase blood flow. Simply lift one leg and roll the ankle for 30 seconds before switching to the other side. You can engage the core muscles while lifting the leg for maximum impact.
The One Essential Stretch
Even if you can’t do any of the exercises above, there is one crucial stretch you should be doing multiple times, every single day. Every hour you should stand up from your desk, put both hands on your hips and slightly bend your body backwards. Do this a minimum of five times, holding the backward angle for 3-5 seconds each time you stretch. This takes just about a minute and can greatly decrease the strain that prolonged sitting puts on the body, especially the spine.