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Get Out of Your Chair: Desk Exercises for the Overworked Desktop Nerd

Sitting is the new smoking. That’s right; we’re looking at you, fellow-desktop nerds, and you’re in good company. The latest data shows that sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950. Sitting at the computer for long stretches leads to all kinds of negative health outcomes. Add that to the stress of a missed deadline or declining production numbers, and you’ve just upped your risk for a blood clot, diabetes, or heart disease. Now for the good news: You can help prevent these outcomes by incorporating exercises right at your desk.

How does a sedentary life kill more than your joy?

According to the CDC, one in four Americans sits for longer than 8 hours each day; the average is 11 hours in a chair or on the couch. The cumulative effect of all this time on our rears is the slow decline of our health. When you add in the 40% of adults who don’t exercise, you start to get a good sense of why we’re scolding you right now.

If you already exercise, you’re on the right track. But if you also sit for long stretches, you might not reap all the benefits of physical activity. A 2017 study showed that no matter how much exercise you do every day or week, an excessive amount of sitting is still detrimental to your health. So, what’s the answer?

How to increase movement while working from home

The mantra of the American Heart Association is “sit less, move more.” It’s a catchy slogan and a valuable reminder to all of us to periodically get up and get moving. For most of us, it’s been difficult to stay physically active during quarantine. We could all use some tips to increase movement while working from home:

  • Schedule exercise and stick to a routine. Set an alarm for every half hour, so you stand up from your chair and stretch. If you have a standing desk, use it.
  • Take advantage of digital apps for exercise tracking. Your smartphone offers access to every app imaginable, and you can take advantage of all kinds of free online exercise classes.
  • Use the tools you have at hand. You don’t need expensive equipment to get a good workout. You don’t even need to leave your home. Sit-ups, push-ups, yoga, and various other exercises are simple to do anywhere.

Desk exercises to do every day

If we’ve convinced you that too much sitting is a bad thing, but you feel tied to your desk, here are a few suggestions for exercises you can perform while sitting at your desk — even while on a conference call:

  • Relieve the tension in your neck with some slow head tilts and neck rolls. The key is to do this gently while breathing deeply.
  • Stand up from your chair and stretch toward the ceiling with your right arm while leaning to the left. Reverse and repeat. Again, move slowly and feel the stretch.
  • Get your legs moving with a hamstring stretch. Extend your left leg out fully and bend over to reach down as far as you can. If you can touch your toes, great — just be sure to not fall out of your rolling desk chair. Now reverse and repeat.

Bottom line, sitting for long periods is bad for your health. Incorporate a few new behaviors into your day, and reap the rewards of a healthier you.

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