Whether you’re a CEO in the corner office or an intern moving into your first cubicle, anyone who works a desk job is subject to long bouts of sitting. Between checking e-mails, making calls and attending interminable staff meetings, chances are good that you’re slumped in a chair for the majority of the day — and when coupled with the technological advances that have removed the need to climb stairs, stand in long lines or even walk from place to place, the amount of seated time only increases.
While all this sitting may seem like a triumph of technology, the truth is that it’s doing us more harm than good. Recent studies on the effects of sedentary behavior suggest a link between excessive periods of sitting and increased risk for conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. And that’s true even for people who work out rigorously. In one study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that subjects who reported getting two and half hours of moderate to vigorous exercise every week but who also sat in front of the television for more than 40 minutes per day had higher waist circumference, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It would appear that sitting for long periods seriously affects the body’s ability to burn fat.
So if you’re the type who regularly makes it to lunchtime without having left your seat, set a timer (or use the calendar function found in most corporate e-mail software) to remind yourself to get up. Try to stand up every 20 minutes and incorporate this circuit of stretches from Los Angeles-based yoga instructor Lilia Kibarska once every other hour to keep your blood flowing and obesity at bay.
- Modified Downward Dog: Stand with your feet planted about two to three feet away from your desk, legs hip-width apart. Place your palms on the edge of the desk and lower your torso down, keeping your arms straight and pressing your chest toward the floor. Your tailbone should be pressed back and up. Hold the pose for four slow, deep breaths. Repeat.
- Hip-Flexor Stretch: Stand in front of your desk and place your palms flat on top of it. Move your right leg back into a lunge position, with your left leg bent at the knee. Tuck your tailbone in and keep your hips squared. Hold for several breaths before switching legs.
- Head and Neck Tension Relievers: Stand up and place your right arm over the top of your head, your hand gently cupped over your left ear. Keeping your left shoulder down, let the weight of your arm pull your head down toward your right shoulder. Hold for four deep breaths and then turn your head inward so that your nose is in line with your arm. Hold for four more breaths and repeat with the other arm.
And if you insist on staying planted in your seat, try this torso stretch: Sit up straight on the edge of your chair, keeping your spine long, with your right arm gently resting on the arm of the chair. Place your left hand on top of your right hand and twist to your right. Hold for four breaths and return to the center before switching sides.