Regardless of whether you’re a freelance writer or a receptionist, chances are you have to sit down a lot for your job. While standing desks are an option for some, not everyone can take advantage of that excellent tool. I belong in that category when I’m writing, and after I sit for long periods of time, my posture and energy level plummet. So, how can you best take care of yourself when you’re stuck sitting for an entire day? Check out some of these stretches and exercises that wake up the blood after a few hours in your cubicle.
1. Spine Stretch
Before you picture trying to lie down underneath your desk, hold on. This stretch does wonders for your spine alignment and is a good break from staring at your computer screen.
- Take your fingers off the keyboard, and place them on your knees. Straighten your back as much as possible.
- Raise your hands high above your head, straightening your arms and lengthening your spine. Sit tall.
- Keep your arms straight, and begin to lower them until they are perpendicular with your shoulders.
- Hold them here as you feel your shoulders drop some of their tension. Repeat Steps 2-4 as many times as you need.
Note: Try your best not to tense up too much when your hands are in the air. Keep breathing, and let the energy flow through your fingertips.
2. Calf Raises
If you ever ran track and field, you probably remember this one. It won’t let you type very well, but it can provide a short workout for your calves and glutes while strengthening your ankles. You can do this one at whatever speed—you’ll get a greater burn in your calves and glutes the faster you go, but your ankle muscles get a better workout the slower you go.
- Stand with your feet together. (Ladies, you’ll want to take off your stilettos for this one. For ankle strength, this exercise is best done barefoot or in socks.)
- Staying careful to keep your ankles together, rise up until you roll onto the balls of your feet. The higher you go, the better.
- Lower yourself slowly until your heels reach the ground again.
Note: Make sure your heels continue to touch all the way up and down. Do not let them roll out.
You may not dance ballet, but pliés are still great workouts that you can do behind your desk while still typing. Since most of us do not have extremely flexible knees, this exercise is best for aligning your spine and strengthening your glutes. Although there are several positions to do pliés in, I choose to do it in first position.
- Bring your feet together, then turn them out so that your heels are connected. Make sure your knees feel good here. Don’t risk an injury by turning out your knees too much. You should be able to stand up straight in this position without pain—if you can’t, bring in your feet a little. You can also let your ankles have some breathing room from each other. The trick is to be comfortable, not to look like a prima ballerina.
- Bend your knees and sink as low as you can without raising your heels. Make sure your knees do not go over your second toe. Unless you have flexible knees, you won’t sink down very far, and that is okay. Also, keep your tail tucked. If you were to look in a side mirror, there ought to be a straight line from the top of your head to the bottom of your tail.
- As you straighten your knees, squeeze your glutes together. It’s a subtle exercise that can really do some damage if you do it enough times.
Note: Doing calf raises in first position are also a great workout and can be a nice addition to when you’re coming out of a plié. Because your feet are turned out, it can be a little harder to keep your balance though. You need to make sure you elevate straight up—don’t let your ankles roll out. That can lead to sprains, but if you do this right, it’s a great ankle strengthener.
4. Core Huggers
I’ve never learned the true name of this little warm-up, but I love it. It’s very simple, but it’s a good way to wake up your core muscles and remind them to stay engaged while you keep good posture at your desk.
- Wrap your arms around yourself like you’re giving yourself a hug.
- Rapidly shake your shoulders up and down while staying in the hug. If you’re keeping the upper body tight, your torso should feel a tiny burn.
- Alternate your arms and repeat Step 2.
This is another dance exercise, but this one is for the hoofers. Obviously, it’s way more fun in tap shoes, but it works in most other shoes as well. This exercise can work your shins a bit, but mostly it’s to get the fidgets out of your feet. Just be careful you’re not too loud and bother your neighbor!
- Lift your right foot so that only the heel is touching the ground. This is called a “dig.”
- Keeping the foot straight, lift the heel and “spank” the ground with the ball of your right foot. If you do the transition quickly, you’ll notice the ball of your foot bounces a little off the floor.
- Let the ball of your foot step on the ground again. Your heel should remain off the ground but not so high as it would in three-inch heels.
- Set down your heel so that you’re flat footed again.
- Repeat Steps 1-4 on your left foot.
This is a hard one to explain without visuals, so here’s a video I found. It adds a small combo at the end, but it gives you several examples of a paradiddle at various speeds.
Do you have any stretches that you find helpful when sitting for long periods of time?