Picture this: you are sitting at your desk at work, focused on and determined to put into words the ideas that you’ve brewed in your mind. There’s a mug of coffee somewhere to your right, just beyond the stack of hand written notes and other important paperwork you’ve yet to sort through. Feeling a little low on brain fuel, you reach for that mug. What happens next is something out of the movies (or, you know, a painfully bad infomercial)—pain sings through your body, from the line of your shoulders that’s now strung tight as a bow down to the small of your back. (Plus you may or may not have spilled the contents of the mug on the aforementioned stack of important paperwork.)
Put aside the ridiculous infomercial quality of what I’ve just asked you to imagine, and you will find that the threat of a long day at work dealing with a strained shoulder is very, very real, no matter what your gender, age, race, or corporate position is. I myself have been subjected to this torture several times; the kind of torture that often lasts until I am able to press something warm onto the affected area(s).
There is one thing we can do to prevent these small but bothersome office-injuries though, and that is through exercise. Yes! Exercise! At your desk, while taking a break, or even while dictating tasks to your computer or tablet!
If, at this very moment, your brain is conjuring up images of you in your corporate attire, planking your break time away in the office, kindly hold that thought, rewind, and start again. There is absolutely no need for you to roll out your yoga or exercise mats with these ten simple exercises that will help keep you and your muscles awake and away from coffee-spilling cramps and possible debilitating back pain, while helping your blood circulation and your energy flow!
1. Shaking — Yes, shaking! This is one of the best ways to loosen your limbs up and get your blood and energy circulating. It also warms up your joints and muscles, which is perfect if you have a few more minutes to spare to do the other exercises on this list. So be sure to shake your hands, shoulders, hips, and feet before they die on you in the middle of a meeting or worse: decide to cramp up while you’re trying to follow the rest of these simple exercises!
2. Stretching — I think that any exercise list that doesn’t include this is not a proper list at all. Many people seem to think that stretching should occur pre-exercise. In my humble opinion stretching is an art and an exercise in and of itself. Try to shake and stretch at the same time (i.e. raise your arms high above your head while shaking your hands or extending your unbent legs out and shaking your feet); it leaves you feeling all tingly, alert, and awake! Plus it relieves your shoulders, lower back, hips, buttocks and thighs from aches of constantly supporting your entire body weight!
3. Arm swing — I’m all about sticking to the title of this article and keeping things simple, and what else is simpler than the classic arm swing? You can swing your arms from front to back, side to side, or swing it ‘round; whichever way you prefer, it’s bound to help tone your upper arms while keeping you awake and your upper limbs, shoulders and even your neck far from tiring out easily.
4. Hip twist — Stand up and plant your feet firmly on the ground at shoulder width apart. Twist your upper body from the hip to one side then hold the position for at least two seconds before facing forward then turning to the other side. Repeat this process at least three or four times, and be sure to do this slowly so you don’t pull a muscle. Sure, you may see exercises one and three as a possible reference to a hit by The Beatles, but trust me, they really do help in keeping strain and physical stress away, especially when you’ve been sitting at your desk for hours on end.
5. Knee raise — This is something we’ve all seen football (or soccer) players do while warming up before a game. Why is this on the list? Simple: it opens up the hips while strengthening our thighs and abs, and all with the uncomplicated process of lifting your bent leg up as high as you can towards your chest and holding it in place for a few seconds, lowering it gently, before switching to the other leg. Repeat no less than five times per leg, or at least as many times as you are comfortable doing.
6. Squat — Ah, sorry, no. Still no rolling out of yoga or exercise mats here! All you need for this is to take at least two or three steps away from your desk (to prevent bumping your knee or head against it) and the willpower to remain in squatting position for a good ten to fifteen seconds each time you dip into it. But be sure to plant your feet firmly and that they are shoulder width apart so you can balance well! (Remember: squatting helps build strength and endurance, two things that come in handy, especially when the lift or elevator is broken and you have to carry a box of folders filled with Very Important Stuff to another floor.)
7. Jog in place — Okay. You’ve already loosened the knots in your shoulder before they could even form and you’re all limbered up now, so it’s time to ramp things up a bit, cardio-wise! You can jog in place while waiting for your computer to finish downloading the documents you just got sent or while waiting for the printer to finish reproducing all 250 pages worth of sales reports and marketing forecasts. By doing this, not only are you building your body and your lungs’ stamina, you’re helping your body and mind with the amount of oxygen you take in through your deep inhales and exhales!
8. Walk — Walking is something we rarely think of doing in the office, especially at this day and age of technological advancement. But instead of being heavily reliant on your company’s internal messaging system, why not get up and bridge the distance between you and your co-workers by walking to their desk, cubicle, or office? Not only will you feel reinvigorated, you will also get the chance to shake, stretch, swing your arms, and jog at the same time, all while getting a much needed (slight) chance of scenery!
9. Roll. Your. Eyes. — Yes, really! This isn’t just about your body we’re trying to take good care of; we’re compiling this list of simple exercise tips for the sake of your entire well-being, and that includes your eyesight! We tend to forget that we cannot function at 100% if there is something wrong with the windows to our souls, so make sure to give your eyes some rest! Power naps aside, you can do as your weekly massage therapist does after they give you a good massage: rub your hands together, and press the heel of your palms against your closed eyes to give them warmth (this helps in chasing eyestrain away). You can also massage your temples, lightly pinch the bridge of your nose, or gently press down below your eyes on both sides of the nose bridge. And, let’s not forget: roll your eyes. Literally. This, to me, is like the arm swing of the hip twist of the ocular muscle, it helps get rid of the heavy pressure behind the eyes when I’ve been staring at my computer for too long!
10. Drink lots of fluid — No, this isn’t your regular exercise, as a matter of fact, it isn’t an exercise at all. But it’s something we need to exercise, if you catch my drift! Remember that water helps regulate your body temperature, keeps your memory sharp and, most importantly, carries the nutrients you’ve consumed and distributes it to the rest of your body while also removing waste.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, my very own 10 Simple Exercise Tips at the Office! Most of these tips I have gathered or learned from my sister, who is a tour guide and triathlete, my music professor who loved to dance, and finally, my parents, who are still astute business people and who are still active and do not look a day older than fifty-nine, despite being a decade older than that (they really love tips #8, 9, and 10)!