Sitting too much can make you fat—and possibly even kill you. Sedentary behavior has become one of the biggest health hazards of the modern age, with medical researchers constantly finding new and different ways in which sedentary living affects our health.
Some of the more serious side effects of prolonged sitting include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, which is why it has become imperative for us to start incorporating more movement into our daily lives. But since most of us spend our days sitting in front of a desk, it can be quite difficult to maintain a daily movement routine.
The answer? Exercise at your desk! Many people are now turning to mini office workouts and desk exercise equipment to reduce their sedentary time at work or in school. The downside, however, is that other people will probably notice—and you may end up feeling a bit self-conscious.
If you want to work out in the office without drawing attention to yourself, your best option is to utilize a good under desk exercise tool that you would actually want to use. It’ll allow you to hide the fact that you’re actually exercising, because people won’t really notice what you’re doing with your legs and feet under your desk. You can of course skip the desk exercise equipment if you prefer, although you will have to get creative (and be diligent) if you choose to go that route.
To keep your “deskercises” fun and all the more effective, we’ve listed some quick workouts that you can try right at your desk—without attracting attention from your co-workers or fellow students!
This is a great exercise for stretching your calf muscles and promoting circulation. Simply place your feet on the SitFlow disks, then flex and extend your feet at the ankles (feet and toes facing downward or upward). Both feet should be pointing in the same direction at the same time. However, if you want to make it a bit more challenging, have each foot alternate between the upward and downward motions (one foot points upward while the other points downward, and vice versa).
Doctor’s Tip: This movement is particularly helpful when your feet are starting to feel tight or swollen.
The easiest movement you can do with the SitFlow is the basic swing. As the name suggests, all you have to do is keep your feet parallel on the disks and swing your legs back and forth, similar to how a child would use a playground swing. This exercise promotes knee mobility, but it can also be helpful in making you feel more relaxed.
Doctor’s Tip: You can also do this while flexing and extending your ankles to further promote blood circulation.
Similar to the basic swing, the side-to-side exercise is performed by swinging your legs on the SitFlow—but this time, from left to right. This helps promote hip mobility while effectively working your thigh muscles.
To do the helicopter movement, simply move one leg forward at a time and let the SitFlow guide the alternating movement. This simple under desk exercise engages your knees and ankles while working your thigh, calf, and shin muscles.
Doctor’s Tip: Let your torso rotate with the leg movements to further activate your core.
With your feet planted firmly on both disks, march with your SitFlow by pushing down with one foot. Alternate your legs with each step and feel the burn and pressure in your thigh muscles and lower back. Like the side-to-side movement, this promotes hip and knee mobility.
Doctor’s Tip: Change your pace and difficulty level by marching with big and slow or small and quick steps.
With the ankle mover exercise, you will mostly rely on the disks and keep the movement focused on your ankles. Step on the disks and rotate your feet inward and outward, making sure to really stretch your ankles. This under desk exercise is a great way to avoid stiff ankles while simultaneously working your thighs, shins, calves, and hip rotators.
If you don’t own a SitFlow or if you simply want to change it up, here are a few simple exercises you can do at your desk without the need for equipment. Some of them can even be performed while sitting down or standing up.
Do each of them at least twice a day for a complete body workout!
Lean your head and neck forward, backward, and to each side for 5-10 seconds at a time. Use the nearest hand to add more downward pressure to the head, which should intensify the stretch. You can also do slow rotations of the head and neck to relieve stiffness and stress, especially after sitting and writing or typing on your desk for long periods of time.
Sitting for hours on end, particularly if you have bad posture, can create a lot of stress and pressure on your shoulders and back. To avoid this, stretch your spine and muscles by doing some back twists. Sit up straight, then place your left arm behind your left hip. Twist your upper body towards that hip, and hold. Repeat on the other side.
Relax your shoulders by rolling them as far back as you can until your shoulder blades are as close to each other as possible. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and release. You can also raise your shoulders high up to your ears and hold the position for at least 5 seconds. Challenge yourself further by holding some weights (like a heavy book or a water bottle) in each hand while doing shoulder raises.
You can also do arm presses to target your biceps and triceps. Start by resting your forearms on your desk, with your arms bent to form a right angle. Sit up straight, stabilize your core, and press your arms downward onto the table, with the most force on your wrists and palms. Maintain the position for 30 seconds, then relax.
Next, press your arms under your desk with your palms up to contract your biceps. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax.
Strengthen your core by sitting up straight and contracting your abdominal muscles—which means pulling your belly button in toward your spine. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and repeat 10-15 times, but make sure you don’t hold your breath throughout the exercise.
Activate your hips by lifting one foot a few inches off the floor with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle and holding the position for as long as you can. You can also try this with both feet off the floor and your legs spaced slightly apart.
Clenching your gluteal muscles will not only help improve the shape and tone of your butt—it will also improve blood circulation and ease the strain in the area after sitting on it all day. You can do this discreetly by simply squeezing your glutes as tight as you can for two whole seconds at a time. Do 20 quick clenches and end the set with one 30-second clench. You can do this sequence at least two times a day.
As we move down to the legs, we start focusing on stretching the shin, calf, and thigh muscles. While sitting in your chair, straighten one or both legs in front of you and hold them up for 5-10 seconds. Lower them without touching the ground, and repeat.
You can add difficulty to this simple workout by adding some weights over your ankles, squeezing your thighs, or making the lifts much slower with just one or both feet.
Standing can put too much strain on your ankles, but sitting for long periods of time can also make your heels feel tight and achy. Get your blood pumping and relieve the stiffness by lifting your forefoot as high as you can until only the balls of your feet are touching the floor. Then, slowly lower them back down.
Do this for 20-30 times with both legs, then do it with each foot at least 15 times to help strengthen your calf muscles.
This is a good exercise for when you’re about to head out for lunch or a short break. As soon as you stand up from your chair, take a few seconds to hold onto the back of your chair and stand up on your toes (like a ballerina). Hold for 10 seconds and repeat as many times as you can.
Whether at work or at school, these desk exercises are a great way to unobtrusively burn more calories, manage your stress levels, and increase your daily physical activity levels without having to worry about calling attention to yourself in the classroom or office.
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