As written for Hip&Healthy here, in Dec 2017
For most of us, sitting at a desk for elongated periods of time, is an unfortunate fact of working life. It’s quite unnatural to be sitting in the one position for eight hours a day, five days a week – with if you’re lucky – a one hour break to stretch your legs at lunch. Yes, there are now standing desks and some people bring in balance balls to help their posture. But for most of us, it’s a simple chair – table combo and there’s not much getting around that. So what can we do to maximise our health and fitness, while working in a predominantly sedentary job? Find the best workouts to suit your lifestyle.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT
Regular movement is just as – if not more important than exercise. So to start with – it is important desk workers make sure they’re getting that right. If you’re not getting the basics aligned, it’s going to undermine your workouts when you do go from desk-working to working-out. Here are three to keep in mind;
- Get up from your desk at least once every hour. The easiest way to make sure this happens is to buy yourself a nice big litre water bottle, and drink a minimum of two of them by home-time. Not only is the water intake side of this trick important, but you’ll be needing to duck to the loo…at least once an hour.
- Stretching while you work. Preferably for at least two minutes at a time. Release the pressure on your back with some arches backwards and forwards, and some overhead reaches. It doesn’t sound much, but doing this as you wait for the kettle to boil is an easy way to keep limber and give your muscles a reprieve. The next step up, is investing in a foam roller, which is perfect for stretching out and elongating tired desk ridden muscles. There are brilliant tutorials on YouTube that will help take you through the best way to use your roller. Focus on stretches of your mid-back, IT band, calves and glutes.
- Don’t underestimate walking. Fitting in a workout in an hour time frame, while also squeezing in a shower and time to eat, isn’t for everyone. Sometimes the lunchbreak just isn’t long enough! But even a stroll around the block is going to do your legs the world of good. The next step up from this, is walking to and from work. If the whole route is just too far, catch transport half way and walk the rest. 20-30 minutes walking is a good amount to start with. Do that there and back and you’re looking at roughly an hours walk a day! If THAT is still too daunting. Take the stairs instead of the lift once you’ve hopped off the train. When it comes to moving your body in and around hours of sitting – everything matters.
TURN IT UP A NOTCH
There isn’t one ‘miracle cure’ workout that is going to reverse hours of desk sitting. The key to keeping fit is varying your workouts, and keeping them whole body. Surprise your body, change it up, keep it different – the human body will adapt and get used to any one exercise technique. So for desk sitters, it is particularly important to evolve your workouts and to experiment in different areas of ‘movement’ to ensure your body doesn’t plateau. I’ve hand-picked the best workouts that tick the two most important boxes for desk sitting 9-to-5ers, high fitness & time sensitive.
CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Workouts are based on functional movements, reflecting the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. CrossFit is a perfect example of full body training, and will not only make you fitter and stronger, but more flexible. The fastest CrossFit workout can be done in four minutes, but generally they are 20-40 minute sessions. If you’re new to more formal types of exercise, CrossFit is a great place to start – as they pride themselves on a personal training style approach catering to all levels.
This is the best workout to sign up to when perusing your local gym schedule. It’s a full body workout with a strong emphasis on barbell-weighted moves. Incorporating weights into your workouts is one of the best ways to reach your goals fast. It’s also the perfect shock to your system that’s going to get your body thinking and reacting, if you’ve been sedentary for the past nine hours at work. Or, if you’re an early bird – do a workout like this before work, and your body will continue to reap the benefit for hours after.
Dance is such a wonderful form of exercise, and has many mental and physical benefits including muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness, muscle tone, weight management and better coordination. For those that find the above weight based training quite intimidating, you can get similar results with a high intensity body-weight related dance class. The important thing is you are moving, getting your heart rate up and improving your fitness in a high intensity state will full body movements. Dance fits the bill.
PLYOMETRIC RESISTANCE TRAINING
Think Joe Wicks ‘The Body Coach’ and Kayla Itsines; these workouts are full of body weight movements and high intensity training with weights intermixed. It’s designed to get you sweaty fast and is all about short sharp bursts of movement with minimal breaks; think weighted squats, high knees, skipping and lunging. Neither of these two training regimes include workouts over half an hour. Which is perfect for desk workers, as you can slot it in before or after work and still have some time left over for everything else.