Manage Your Body With Functional Fitness
Many of us sit throughout the day more than we should – which you probably realize – but how can you change this up? Get a standing desk? Get a treadmill desk (I could totally see myself busting my…. face)? These may help, but the functional fitness tips that this expert provides below will help you stay limber and manage your body at the office!
I help improve the performance of Fortune 500’s such as Mars and Wrigley companies with a 4 step process I developed called The Reflex, published as a book under the same name here http://amzn.to/1Axjssb.
One of the elements contributing to decreased performance is being locked into stagnant positions at a desk for many uninterrupted hours, constricting one’s brain, lungs, muscles, nerves and circulatory pathways.
The fourth step of The Reflex called Feed Your Body, addresses personal performance through nutrition and exercise.
This article will more narrowly focus on a comprehensive set of exercises you can perform at your desk to help you feel and perform better in both work and personal life.
It’s no surprise that chronic pain manifests itself in the weak links of the body… neck, shoulders, hands, back, hips and feet. Whether you are an athlete or spend 12 hours a day at your desk, these are the common areas where most of us feel aches and pains.
Being chair-bound too long at your desk, whether at a home office or corporate work environment can have a long-term debilitating effect. Oxygenated blood flow decreases, reducing metabolic efficiency.
Some muscles, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue, and nerves become overworked, while others are underutilized, creating the causes for imbalance and future aches, pains, and stiffness.
The negative daily changes are so small that you are not aware of the effects until years of this dynamic have resulted in less function, responsiveness, and range of motion in the major joints of your body, lowering your overall capacity to do in all areas of life.
That which is not managed will deteriorate. This means you need to manage your body’s weak links throughout the day. Arrgghh! Does this mean I have to figure out how to integrate something else to do in my overscheduled day? Yes, but each area, such as your neck, will only take 30 seconds a few times a day.
The awesome return on those 30-second investments is more energy, better stress proofing, and increased oxygenated blood flow.
This allows you to move more efficiently and productively, while being more metabolically active throughout your day.
The method to employ is a cycle-breaker. Best understood as a series of mini-interventions throughout the day, which break the cycle of inactivity with activity.
This effectively hits the physiological reset button, by disrupting and therefore preventing, the cumulative, compound effects of many hours of uninterrupted inactivity.
Simply set a timer on your watch, phone or computer, for 20, 30, or 40 min increments. Ex. Your timer goes off after 30 minutes of inactivity at your desk and you perform one or more of the exercises below for 30 seconds.
Feel free to spend more than 30 seconds if your circumstances allow.
Unless otherwise indicated, repeat each movement 3-5x. Always move to your end range of motion, holding each end position for 3-5 seconds. Release and repeat. Break up the exercises in any order you like, doing as few or as many as you choose in a given period of time.
Be mindful of your chronically tight areas as these should become the go-to spots you spend more time on. Take 30-60 seconds to perform 1 or more exercises and repeat this process throughout the day. If you repeat each 30-60 second cycle 4x a day or more, your body will thank you.
(Gently assist by pulling/pushing on the head with hand in direction of stretch).
Neck Flexion Down – Chin down towards the chest. (Hands behind head, gently pushing down).
Neck Flexion Side – Ear towards right/left shoulders. (Right-hand overhead pulls right).
Neck Rotation – Turn head right/left. (Right hand on left temple/cheek helps rotate right).
Neck Extension – Point nose towards the ceiling. (Fingers gently push back on the forehead or push from under the chin). Although balance is preferred by equally stretching through all 4 ranges of motion, neck extension is the most important for the majority of people to offset the forward/down-facing position dictated by the desk, computer, tablet, and phone work.
Shoulders and Back
Seated Chair Spine Twist – Grasp arms of the chair. Lift and twist trunk left/right.
Seated Side Bend – Hold onto chair armrest with the left hand. Raise right-hand overhead (optional) and side bend (lean) towards left. Repeat on another side.
Bear Hug – Wrap arms around yourself
1 Arm Chair Stretch – Sit near the front edge of the chair. Reach back with one arm and hold onto the top or side of the chair. Twist/turn trunk away from that arm. Repeat with another arm.
Seated Both Arms Open towards back
Cross Arm Pull – Bend and grab the elbow of the right arm. Pull arm across chest with left. Switch sides.
With one leg, completely straighten the knee so the leg is parallel to the floor. Flex foot by pulling toes towards the knee. Squeezing from leg and hip, rotate leg right and left 5-10x. Repeat on another leg.
To test for correct form:
- Place hand on hip to feel hip rotation.
- Look at the leg, rotation should be visible.
- Hip rotation will cause the foot/toes to move back and forth like windshield wipers.
Seated Cross-Legged Stretch – Place ankle/foot of right leg on knee/thigh of left leg (man style leg cross). Place right hand on the right knee and left hand on right ankle. With mild pressure, pull the ankle towards the body to stabilize the leg. Perform each movement below 3-5x.
- While bending forward, push down the right knee with your hand until a hip stretch is felt.
- While bending forward, pull up right knee with hand until a hip stretch is felt.
- While pushing down the knee with the right hand, twist/rotate the trunk right and left.
- While pushing down knee with the right hand, side bend right and left.
Wrist Extension 1- Stand leaning over the desk. With straight elbows, palms down, and fingers pointing back towards you, push the heel of your hands towards the desk.
Wrist Flexion 1- Stand leaning over the desk. With straight elbows, palms up, and fingers pointing back towards you, push knuckles and wrists towards the desk.
Wrist Extension 2 – Raise 1 arm in front with a straight elbow. Turn the palm up with fingers pointing down. Use another hand to pull fingers back towards you.
Wrist Flexion 2 – Raise 1 arm in front with a straight elbow. Turn the palm up with fingers pointing up. Use another hand to pull fingers back towards you until the hand is closed.
Wrist Traction for Carpal Tunnel – Interlace fingers behind the head. Squeeze the fingers of the right hand with the left. Don’t let the left move as you gently try to pull the right hand away from the left.
There will be no visible movement, but you will feel a “pull” in your wrist. You may feel or hear an audible pop or crack and that’s a good thing, as this means your joints and tissue are mobilizing or getting unstuck. Repeat with the other hand.
Ankle/Foot Clocks – With foot off ground circle foot clockwise, then counter-clockwise 5-10x.
Foot Point/Flex – Pull toes up towards the knee, pushing heel forwards. Reverse by pushing toes forwards and pointing them 5-10x.
For even greater efficiency and effectiveness, you can combine some of these movements.
- Neck Flexion Down with Bear Hug and Trunk Rotation.
- Neck Flexion Side with Side Bend
- Neck Extension with Arms Open Towards Back
- Standing 1 Arm Wall Stretch – Openhand, elbow straight, fingers point back. Push palm and heel of hand into the wall. Don’t let the trunk twist. Open chest/shoulders and turn away from stretching arm. The massive stretch of fingers, wrist, forearm, biceps, shoulder, chest, ribs, and cervical nerve roots.
Together these combinations can be really effective!
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