Exercise in a Hurry

Five-minute workouts to keep your desk-bound body happy.

January/February 2018

By Christine Yu

If you spend hours every day hunched over in a seated position, you’re not alone. A recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found people spend 8.5 hours a day parked in chairs, thanks in large part to our sedentary jobs.

The bad news? Higher levels of sitting are linked with a greater risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, not to mention cranky muscles and joints that can put you at an increased risk for injury. Plus, it takes two to three times the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week to overcome all those hours of sitting, says Rachele Pojednic, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at Boston’s Simmons College.

Lauren Udwari, 35, of Sarasota, Florida, takes at least two quick exercise breaks during her workday. “As a writer, I come back to my work with far more clarity and patience after a short workout,” whether it’s a two-minute plank or 20 push-ups, she says. “It often helps me reframe a frustrating situation.” Plus, it helps her fight the afternoon slump.

To help you stay active during the workday, NYC-area strength and nutrition coach Adam Rosante has developed three workouts to offset the tight hip flexors, rounded shoulders and weak core that come from a desk job. “These workouts strengthen and mobilize the muscles needed to counteract these problems, fix postural issues and even help burn some fat,” he says.

The best part? They only take five minutes each (and should be done at least twice a week). All you need is a resistance band and a tennis or lacrosse ball.

CORE

1. Iso-Hold: Sit tall on the edge of a chair, feet on the floor. Draw your belly button in and up and engage your core. With elbows bent and arms to the side, bring your feet off the floor. Hold 1 minute. To modify, place your hands on the edge of your chair.

2. Accordions: Sit on the edge of a chair and hold the chair with both hands. Lean back to a 45° angle and extend your legs to form a V. (Bend your knees if your hip flexors are tight.) Using your abs, bring your chest and knees together. Continue for one minute.

3. Bicycles: Sit tall in a chair, fingertips behind your head. Bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. Return to start and repeat on the other side. Continue for one minute.

4. Iso-Hold (repeated): Hold for one minute.

5. Desk Climbers: Place your hands on the edge of a desk and step back to the top of a push-up. Alternate driving your knees forward.

 

UPPER BODY

1. Incline Push-Ups: Place your hands on the edge of a desk and step back to the top of a push-up. Bend elbows, lower your chest and press up. Continue for 1 minute.

Each time Wes Judd, 25, of Santa Barbara, California, left his office, he did 10 to 15 pull-ups on a hangboard mounted above his door. “I would sit back down at my desk with my arms a little sore, my heart rate a bit elevated, which worked to subtly but effectively refocus my thinking. It took me out of my own head for just a moment or two and put it back on my body,” he says.

2. Band Pull-Aparts: Hold one end of a resistance band in each hand, arms extended out and shoulder-width apart. Pull the band apart to the sides. Slowly return to center. Continue for 1 minute. Perform either standing or seated.

3. Lateral Raises: Stand with both feet in the middle of a resistance band. Hold one end of the band in each hand, palms facing thighs. Raise arms to shoulder height and lower. Continue for 1 minute.

4. Bent-over Fly: Stand with both feet in the middle of a resistance band. Cross the band and hold one end in each hand. Bend at the hips and lower your torso almost parallel to the floor. With arms straight, raise arms to shoulder height and slowly lower. Continue for 1 minute.

5. Pec Stretch: Stand with your left side facing a wall. Place your hand on the wall at shoulder-height and slowly turn to the right. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on the other side. Alternate sides for one minute.

 

LOWER BODY

1. Ball Drives: Place a tennis or lacrosse ball on the edge of a desk. Rest your right hip bone on the ball. To position the ball on your hip flexor, roll it inside and down from the hip. Lean into the ball for five breaths. To deepen effect, slowly drive your right knee forward and extend straight five times. Switch sides and repeat. Continue alternating for one minute.

2. Ankle-to-Knee: Sit tall on the edge of a chair, feet flat on the floor. Cross right ankle over left knee. Exhale and fold for five breaths. Repeat on other side. Continue alternating for one minute.

3. Lunge Push: Step right foot back to a lunge, hands on the floor inside your left foot. Place your left hand on top of your left foot and press your elbow into your shin, driving the knee out to the side. Hold for one breath. Step back to a push-up position. Step right foot forward and repeat movement on this side. Continue alternating for one minute.

4. Squat Twist: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hands in prayer position at your chest. Lower into a squat. Place right fingers on the floor outside of your right foot. Lift left arm up, twisting to the left. Hold for one breath and return to start. Repeat on the other side. Continue for one minute. As needed, stand to rest.

5. Ball Drives (repeated): Repeat for one minute.

 

INDOOR JOBS MAY CREATE
VITAMIN D DEFICITS

Do you spend days chained to a desk?

Not only are you probably not getting enough physical activity—you’re probably not getting enough vitamin D, either.

Canadian scientists, analyzing data from 71 studies involving more than 53,400 people, found that 80% of shift workers suffer from vitamin D deficiencies, which also appeared in more than three-quarters of all indoor workers. Study results were published in the online journal BMC Public Health.

The body creates its own vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunshine. However, an increase in time spent indoors, as well as the extensive use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancers, means that many people don’t have sufficient stores of this crucial nutrient.

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