You can’t exactly tell your boss to take a hike, but there are other ways to get rid of the pain in your neck you get after just a few hours at the office. All it takes is a few innovative office fitness tools, posture adjustments and innovative ways to stay active on the job. Read on for expert tips from Shirley Archer, fitness expert and author of Fitness 9 to 5: Easy Exercises for the Working Week.
Stand up whenever you can. “Evidence from multiple studies tells us that sitting for more than four hours per day without getting up to move is an independent risk factor for increasing your risk of heart disease,” Archer says. “The simple reason is that we need to move more throughout each day to stimulate our circulation and keep our bodies healthy.” Not only that: Simply moving from sitting to standing doubles your calorie burn. Next time your coworker asks if you want to grab a coffee from the break room, do it just for the short walk. Also, accomplish work chores like opening mail or returning phone calls from a standing position (march in place or pace, even, if you can).
Get fit at your desk. If your budget, employer and space allows, consider a drafting-table-style desk, Archer recommends. Cost can be a factor as these desks are not easy on the bank account—but then again, you’ll be saving in chiropractic bills for lower back pain and other issues! Or, consider the FitDesk (essentially, a stationary bicycle) or Treadmill desk that actually keeps you moving as you work! These can also be costly, and they are not the best option if your job requires a lot of typing. However, “the pro is you can exercise while reading or taking business calls,” Archer says.
Work your abs in secret. Just sitting up straight every day gives you an ab workout, says Archer. A “ball chair,” such as the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair, can be used as an alternative chair to promote good posture. Just make sure it’s pumped up properly and fitted to your size so it doesn't do more damage than good. There are also air-filled chair pads, such as Fitball Seating Disc, which serve the same purpose. Or, do this subtle move, suggested by Archer:
- Sit tall on your sits bones (bumps on the bottom of your pelvis) with your feet on the ground and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Inhale, as you lengthen up through the top of your head. Exhale and relax your shoulders, but stay lifted in the spine.
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- Inhale, draw your belly in all the way. Exhale, relax.
- Inhale, draw your belly in about 30 percent. As you exhale, keep that 30-percent tension in the belly, and relax your ribcage.
- Now, keep sitting tall!
Tone your tush before your AM meeting. After you’ve put your lunch in the break room fridge, but before you sit down at your desk chair, perform one set of squats. Archer calls this move the “I’m not quite ready to work” chair squat:
- Stand in front of your chair as if you’re going to sit, and either raise your arms in front as you lower your buttocks, or rest your hands on your hips.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips, letting them barely touch the seat without putting any weight on the chair.
- Then, return to standing. That is one repetition.
- Start out with 10 reps and work up to 20-25.
Strengthen forearms and avoid aches. Several simple props will help you avoid getting carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful progressive condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist. Squeeze a stress ball, such as Rejuvenation’s Hand Invigoration Putty, to work that hand strength and increase blood flow. Or, a light dumbbell or a water bottle filled with water will also do the trick. Archer suggests the following exercise:
- Hold the dumbbell or water bottle in your hand.
- Rest your forearm on your thigh, palm down, with your wrist joint extended past your knees.
- Exhale as you lift the back of your hand up toward your forearm, lifting the water bottle; inhale as you return to the starting position.
- Do up to 12 repetitions or work for 30 seconds.
- Switch hands and repeat.
Stretch it out for one minute. Spending a minute stretching during the workday will go a long way to relieving back and neck pain. Look for a strap that has different grip positions. “The Stretch Out Strap is my personal favorite for multiple-area stretching, like side, chest and neck, and ideal to use while sitting at your desk,” Archer advises.