Says the doctor

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The GP approved exercises to encourage your employees to do at their desk.

January is the month to make resolutions: detox, join a gym and get fitter. Great ideas but what about our full-time job? If research is to be believed, apparently nearly 30 per cent of us feel our seated jobs have contributed to us putting on weight. And around three quarters of those that felt that way also felt depressed by it.

There are several potential adverse effects on health from having a seated job and there is plenty of media buzz around the risks of sitting too much. But, there are some simple exercises you can do that can keep these health conditions at bay.

Back pain

First and most heard of, lower back pain. Poor posture, spending too much time in front of a screen and lack of proper ergonomic chairs make the dreaded back aches and pains all too common in the office worker.

You could ask for an expensive standing desk for yourself or make the whole office shift around to make this work for you. Or you could sit up, relax your shoulders and try this. Roll your shoulders 10-15 times. Then pretend you’re holding a pen in between your shoulder blades. Tighten up for 5-10 seconds some 12-15 times. Next bend down and try to touch your toes. Do this around ten times.

This loosens your upper and lower spine up and ensures flexibility.

Heart disease

It is a known fact that too much sitting around contributes to heart disease. Blood flows slower and muscles burn less fat. More chance for those arteries to clog up. You don’t have to have a treadmill instead of a chair at work to prevent heart disease.

It is possible to exercise while doing desk work. Photograph: iStock / endopack

Take a mini break for a stationary job (you can do it in the toilets if you’re too embarrassed). All it needs is to get your heart pumping for a minute or two. You can celebrate a deadline that you’ve smashed or the fact that it is Friday by doing jumping jacks. Speedily tap those toes up and down under your desk – still counts as cardio. You can even do football drill type moves using a small box filled with some useless office papers.


Another unwanted complication of sitting all those hours in the office. In 2011, a study found a decline in insulin response after just one day of prolonged sitting. Insulin heles carry sugar into our cells for energy. Idle muscle cells though do not respond quite so readily to the insulin and so the body makes more and more of it. This can lead to diabetes.

Snack little and often. Eat a healthy breakfast. Add to that some desk exercise (deskercise) and you are doing yourself massive favours. How about ten repetitions of a wall sit while waiting for the kettle? Or push ups against a sturdy wall while waiting for the photocopier?

Mental downtime

Yep, being sedentary really does increase the chances of a foggy brain. Especially after lunch. Using those muscles makes you pump more blood and oxygen to the brain. This helps release all those happy and useful messengers to keep you sharp such as endorphins and serotonin.

Drink water regularly. After lunch get in a little stretching. Start your silent squeezing. Squeeze those glutes together and hold for ten seconds. Do this 20 times or as much as you want. Some deskercise can be done without looking like a lunatic. It is also good to work on the kegel exercises; eight repetitions of 10-15 second holds of those muscles down below as if you are going to stop your urine midflow.

Poor circulation in legs

Sitting for long periods of time affects the circulation in your legs. It causes pooling of blood in your legs and can cause varicose veins or even cause a DVT (a clot in your legs). Prevent this and tone your legs at the same time. Start with your hamstrings but standing behind your chair and kicking back like a donkey one leg at a time slowly. Hold at the top for five seconds. Do this ten times in each leg. Then while you’re sat working on those important files, kick your legs out and rotate your ankles as much as you like. All these exercises can be done easily while working at the office. Lack of time should not be an excuse.

Dr Preethi Daniel is clinical director at London Doctors Clinic



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