Saturday, October 07, 2006

Top 13 Exercises While Sitting at Your Computer

Sitting at the computer all day is not exactly good for the body. If you have to be at a desk all day long, doing some simple things can improve your posture and health.

  1. Sit properly in a good chair designed for deskwork. Your back should be straight, and your head should be looking directly into your monitor. If you have to look down or up, you need to adjust the height of either the screen or your chair. If you keep leaning forward, first get your eyesight checked. If your eyesight is fine use a loose belt or string to tie yourself to the chair. After a while your posture will improve and you'll no longer need this restraint.
  2. Maintain an ergonomic body posture while typing. Keep your legs bent at the knees so that the knees are only slightly higher than your hips. Feet should be flat on the floor or on a step stool of some sort.
  3. Stand up every half hour. Walk around a few steps, stretch your legs, and give your eyes a break from focusing on your computer screen. This will also help prevent blood clots from developing in your legs. Blood clots are very common among middle age people, who generally use the computer a lot.
  4. Roll your head around your neck periodically, but avoid rolling your head all the way back. Do the motion slowly clockwise for 1-3 iterations and then repeat in the opposite direction.
  5. Roll your wrists regularly (this will help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome if you spend a lot of time typing).
  6. Recognize that people tend to hunch in front of the keyboard. To counter that, perform the following exercise: open your arms wide as if you are going to hug someone, rotate your wrists externally (thumbs going up and back) and pull you shoulders back. You will feel a stretch in the scapula area.
  7. Contract your abdominal and gluteal muscles, hold them there for a few seconds, then release. Do this all day long while you are in your chair.
  8. Stretch your arms, legs, neck and torso while sitting. This will help prevent you from feeling stiff.
  9. Take advantage of the downtime created by rebooting or large file downloads to get up and try something more ambitious such as doing a few push-ups, sit-ups, and/or jumping jacks. Beware of your snickering co-workers though.
  10. Acquire a hand gripper. They are cheap, small and light. When you have to read something either on the screen or on paper, you probably won't be using your hands very often so squeeze your gripper. It is an excellent forearm workout.
  11. Acquire an elastic band (also cheap, small and light) and use it to do the actions mentioned in step 8 (i.e., when stretching your arms, do it by pulling apart the elastic band). You will not only stretch but it will also work the muscles slightly.
  12. Invest in a large size stability ball or stability ball style desk chair, and sit on it with back straight and abs firm. The actual stability ball is more effective, however the chair is a more viable option for use in an office environment. Sit, bounce or do basic toning exercises while watching tv or talking on the phone as well. Use the actual ball form in moderation when typing, as this is probably not the most supportive seating to prevent carpal tunnel and tendonitis.
  13. While sitting, lift up your legs on the balls of your feet and set them down. Repeat these until your legs are comfortably tired. Then repeat it again about 10 minutes later. Do this whole routine for about an hour or so. This will exercise your calves.

Little additional tips:

  • Don't neglect the health of your eyes! It is detrimental to your eyesight to focus at one thing for long periods of time (i.e. your monitor) so take breaks to look out the window and focus at something at a farther distance away to maintain good occular health. Also consider purchasing an LCD screen which is easier on the eyes. Optomologists recommend following the "20-20-20" rule--For every 20 minutes spent focusing on your computer screen, spend 20 seconds focusing on something else 20 feet away.
  • As long as something is moving, you will be helping to keep yourself in better shape. Constant movement will burn calories and contribute to cardiovascular health. While exercising at your computer is helpful, it is not a substitute for going to the gym or conducting a regular exercise program.
  • Don't sit still. Fidgeting is a good way to keep moving. Even something like tapping your foot. But don't make too much noise--however you fidget, the repetitive noises may bother other people.
  • Always have water nearby to drink.
  • If you're all alone, try shutting off the computer for a bit and exercise. If you're on a cell phone call, get up and do stretches, or leg lifts, anything to keep moving during down time away from the desk.
  • Try exercises that combine opposing muscle groups (flexors and extensors, e.g., biceps and triceps) to get a good workout. Clasp your hands together with palms facing each other. Pull up with one hand while pushing down with the other.
  • Play music while working to provoke body movement and relieve stress. A smaller instrument will be more convenient.
Jocelyn for