Deskbound? Professional tips to keep strong & active

In a typical working week, desk workers spend on average 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at their desk. In a recent study, nearly 70% of employees surveyed did not meet recommended guidelines for physical activity. (1)

The findings also showed that increased sitting time was correlated with:

  • More likely to be sedentary outside of work.
  • A higher BMI score (weight)
  • A decrease in mental well-being

Professional tips to keep strong & active At your desk

Dr Roz interviewed exercise professionals, Nathan & Phil from Foundation Gym, and got a routine you can do to stay strong at your desk. (Click on the image to watch the video version).

Why is it important to keep moving and be active during the workday?

Posture and movement is hugely important for a life expectancy. To increase your life expectancy, you need to be mobile, we were all designed to be mobile everyday.

So, if we can keep more active, we can live longer and feel better?

Absolutely. Research shows active people will live up to seven years longer as physical activity reduces many major mortality risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes type 2, dyslipidemia, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. All-cause mortality is decreased by about 30% to 35% in physically active as compared to inactive subjects. (2)

How much do you need to move in order to have these benefits?

The “magic number” seems to be something around 7000 steps per day as a general basis, but as each of us is individual it may be different for you. We are designed to be hunter-gatherers and move all day, but now we don't we sit at desks all day. To keep it simple, we basically just need to move more and sit less! (3)

What kinds of issues you guys see in people who don’t move enough?

When people don’t move enough there posture is quite poor because we end up with neck forward, shoulders rounded and the hips are really tight. When desk workers come into the gym environment we see the have less range of movement. When we see little kids squat, they can squat with no problems at all, as we get old we should be able to hold that but we lose it because we don’t practice all that range of movement. We see lots of issues like that.

What about those people that hold a lot of tension from the stress during the day, what do you notice with those people?

The desk position can encourage a hunched position, then stress can make this even worse. When you are hunched over you also don’t get enough oxygen in as you don’t breath properly. These factors all promotes our stress system (flight or fight) which doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle. It can make it hard to sleep well as you cant switch off, poor digestion and tight muscles.

To combat this, we need to move and exercise to use up the 'fight & flight' chemicals in the body which helps your body go into a more relaxed state.

What advice do you have for people who do have to be at desk all day?

Minimum recommendations would be getting up every 15 minutes to walk around the office, eg. get water, talk to your colleague rather than email, anything so you can activate your muscles. People don't need a psychologist to tell them to get up and walk around. But if it helps, I'd tell them to put a post-it note on their computer to remind them!

Beyond that take the stairs instead of the lift and elevators, getting of the bus one stop earlier so you can add a few more steps into your day.

If you know you are going to sit down for long periods, make sure you don’t grab your lunch and sit in your desk, get out the office, go for a walk, away from screens so you can relax your system as well. There are so many little things that can keep you healthy if you need to be at the desk all day.

If you want to activate your muscles at your desk is there any kind or type of exercises that would be better?

We recommend using isometric training, which is contracting the muscles we want to training and activate for a period of time, you can do that without anyone in the office notice it or can be something simple as holding up your position when sitting down to your chair, holding the position just above your seat for 3 or 4 seconds.

Exercises (Click on any image to see the video)

Chin Tuck: Tuck chin in for 5 seconds, then poke chin out for 5 sec. Repeat 2-3x

Isometric Crunch: Push back into the back of your chair as you tighten your core and think about pulling your ribs towards your pelvis. Reach your arms towards the floor and hold for 10-60 seconds. Keep breathing in and out.

Leg Strength Chair Hover: When sitting down on your chair, hover 5cm above your chair for 2-3 seconds before actually sitting down. This can be done every time you sit down, or you could do a few reps (eg. hold for 3 sec, come back up 10cm, go back down to the hover). Make sure you keep your breathing going.
Upper Back Posture Exercise: Sit at the front of your chair and grip a scarf (or something similar) with your hands shoulder-width apart, elbows bent at 90deg. Contract your back muscles to pull your shoulder blades back and down. Hold for 5-10 seconds, repeat 2-3 times.
Hip Hinge: From a standing position, bend (fold) at the hips, keeping your legs straight and your back straight.  Think about pushing the hips towards the back and squeezing your gluts. Hold for 5-10 seconds, repeat 2-3 times. This activates the lower back muscles, gluts and hamstrings as well as stretches the backs of the legs in the hinged position.  It is also a good alternative to the chair hover when you have challenges with your knees.

These 5 simple exercises are an easy way to keep your muscles active and strong during your deskbound day. For more information on Foundation Gym check out their website.

If you have any pain or restriction whilst doing these exercises please talk to your Chiropractor.

Strength work does not have to be scary or hard, take action today!

(1) British Psychological Society (BPS). "Office workers spend too much time at their desks, experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2012. <>.
(2) Reimers CD, Knapp G, Reimers AK. Does physical activity increase life expectancy? A review of the literature. J Aging Res. 2012;2012:243958. doi:10.1155/2012/243958