By: Angie Horjus, NBC-HWC
No matter your shift or job title, work can make working out a challenge in our busy lives. But just because you feel bound to a desk or standup workspace for several hours a day doesn’t mean you have to forgo your focus on staying active.
The way I see it, physical fitness is all about angles. We can come into any move from a variety of angles for an optimal workout—top to bottom, left to right, diagonal and so on. From the amount of resistance we apply to a muscle group to the attitude in which we approach fitness, follow along as I break down the angles that you can engage to feel fit and healthy throughout your work day.
Your core is so much more.
Your core is the central and innermost area of your body. Therefore, the first focus in on building stability within this space. As I like to say when teaching fitness classes, stability first, then strength, in that order. Posture is your most important core workout. It can be practiced all the time, day and night, except for when you are asleep. Wherever you go, you take your posture with you—so there’s no reason not to practice often, including while at your desk. Follow these posture tips:
- Stand just a little taller than you are, or imagine a string extending from the top of your head pulling upward and elongating your body.
- Peek down and check to be sure your feet are about hip distance apart and that your left and right foot match direction of where your toes are pointing.
- Soften your knees. You don’t want to lock up a joint.
- Give yourself a slight posterior tilt by tucking your glutes under and lengthening your spine. Picture your pelvis as a fish bowl, keeping the water level.
- Draw your navel inward and upward while continuing to breathe naturally. Air flows in and out while you keep your middle braced and strong.
- Pull your shoulders back and down away from your ears while opening your chest in a “proud stance.”
- Check that you are evenly distributing your weight by feeling where the pressure is in your feet.
- Finally, slightly retract your chin.
Have a ball.
Trade in your office chair for a stability ball and work your core all day. Make sure your hips are slightly higher than your knees in a seated position when choosing your ball. The great thing about having exercise equipment that doubles as an office chair is it gives you the ability to take an abdominal crunch break anytime. Apply your good posture cues to your seated position: upright and locked in.
Sculpted legs and lifters.
If you live in fear that one day you’ll wake up only to find your behind has taken the shape of your office chair, there are ways to prevent such an event. (Although rest assured I have yet to see documentation of this phenomenon.) Here are some quick exercise tips to strengthen your lower half—just in case.
- Isometric glute contractions. Give your bum muscles a tight squeeze and release 10 times, then repeat with a break in between. This is fairly discrete and can be done anywhere from the office scene to standing in line at the grocery store. Choose your timing wisely.
- Bio-breaks are the perfect time to head to the “big stall” in the bathroom (if you don’t have an office for privacy) and do a few squats, walking lunges and leg lifts just to remind your muscles to wake up since we sit on these all day. Solo elevator rides can also be opportunity to spend 20-30 seconds on an exercise.
- Inner thigh work. Use your waste basket or small plastic recycle bin to squeeze and release between your knees 10 times in a row. See how many reps and sets you can squeeze into your day.
- Plie squats with an overhead press. OK, this one may be geared more toward those who work from a home or closed-door office. Find your wide stance then turn your toes out a little. Align your knee with your second and third toes for proper form. Imagine that you’re standing between two planes of glass, so no tipping forward or back—lowering your body straight down and up. Optional: with small, medium or large hand weights in hands—lower your body with your glutes, legs and perfect posture. Then as you rise up, press your weights up over your head. Repeat, perhaps with a side raise for the arms next or and upright row.
- Stairs are an automatic go-to for positive ways to work against gravity. Yes, gravity is a gift! Use stairwells throughout the work day in a variety of ways to keep your glutes, legs and core asking for more. Anything we do on a single leg requires core for stability. Try traditional single steps on the stairs while pushing energy up through your heel for a change instead of staying on the balls of your feet. The variety of taking two stairs at a time will add to your core work for balance, as well as give you more intensity. Tempo is another great way to add intensity by the nature of slowing your speed down and speeding it back up again.
Say “Goodbye” to “Hello Betty.”
Have you ever waved goodbye and noticed something jiggling on the back of your upper arm? It’s that part that waves back at you we affectionately call your “Hello Betty.” As we age—or as I like to politely put it, as we “grow up”—our muscles need a bit more attention to not only stay strong, but to keep our skin filled out smoothly. Here are some strength training tips to make sure your tricep area is not left waving in the wind.
- Seated Tricep Dips off of your office chair. Use the chair seat as a strong base and make sure it’s stable.
- Seated Tricep Extensions. Keeping exercise tubing with handles in your drawer is the perfect way to give your triceps some strength training.
Flexibility is the most ignored component of fitness.
Remember to stretch out and breathe deeply to thank your body for all it does for you through the day. Take a nice long inhale to allow oxygen in to reach your muscles and brain.
From increased energy and improved sleep to a boosted immune system and even slowing the aging process through protein increase, the benefits of daily exercise are plenty. Don’t let your work schedule get in the way. Not only will your body be stronger for it, your mental health will get a boost from the screen time breaks. Remember, just like exercising at the gym or taking a fitness class, drink plenty of water and make time to stretch.
About the Author: Angela Horjus is among the first National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches at Priority Health, and in the US. She approaches her clients and all people with curiosity, respect and a spirit of fun. Angela’s passion for helping others become the best versions of themselves has inspired her current work as a health and wellness coach and throughout her past ventures. Her fitness career of 20 years, including but not limited to group fitness and personal training, cultivated the inspiration to write articles promoting self-improvement and personal growth. Angela’s continuing education is with nationally recognized institutions in health, fitness and wellness specialties. She also has an English degree from Grand Valley State University. Angela is currently working on her American College of Lifestyle Medicine certification.