Aching back and neck. Stiff joints. Bad posture. It’s not unusual for office workers to experience these ailments after sitting at a desk for hours five days a week (not to mention stress). It’s no better when you’re working from your desk at home. If this sounds familiar, consider taking a Pilates break during the workday.
“When you’re sitting at a desk, your hips and back are scooped in a C curve which can have an effect on the muscles,” says Jo Ann Graser of The Pilates Method Alliance, a national organization dedicated to promoting the teachings of Pilates and certification of its instructors.
Introduced in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, who called his system Contrology, Pilates focuses on core strength and has been known to improve flexibility and balance. Although often associated with six packs and abs, many believe the practice also helps with stress management and relaxation.
According to Graser, who serves as the president of PMA’s board of directors, movement is key for people who work in sedentary jobs. “When you’re sitting for long periods, you need to get up and take a walk, arms swinging,” she said.
If you are interested in how you can effectively do Pilates at your desk, Graser recommends the following stretches.
Figure Four Stretch – Double Leg Stretch Pilates
Push away from the desk and scoop forward to the edge of your chair. Place your right ankle over your left knee. Make sure your hips are squared with the desk. Put your left hand on the right thigh. Let your right hand hang down to the side. Sit tall, rotate torso and focus your right eye towards the back of the room. Reverse the legs and repeat steps.
Upper Back and Neck Stretch – Spine Stretch Pilates
Sit tall and put your hand on your collarbone. Cover that hand with your other hand. Inhale as you tilt your head to move your ear to your shoulder and exhale as you return to center.
Because Pilates generally helps strengthen the neck and shoulders, it can lessen back pain that results from sitting at a desk.
Change Seated Positions
“The goal is not to be sitting in the same position,” said Graser. “Change how you sit in the chair throughout the day. Sit tall at your desk with your feet flat on the floor.”
Adjust Your Posture While Driving
Before taking off, Graser suggests sitting tall and adjusting your rearview mirror as soon as you get into your car. “If you can’t see it as you’re driving that means you need to sit up and adjust your posture instead of readjusting the mirror.”
Wellness site mindbodygreen.com also offers various stretches to release daily tension at work, like simple shoulder circles. Sit upright in a chair and slowly move your shoulders forward, up, down and back for five repetitions. Reverse the circles for five more repetitions.
To get the blood circulating after sitting all day, ankle flexes are also ideal. Sit in a chair and cross one leg over the opposite knee. Point the toes of the top leg away from you and flex the toes back. Do 10 repetitions. Repeat the stretch on the other leg.
Even people who don’t consider themselves fitness devotees or hate the gym can reap the benefits of practicing Pilates at work, both physically and mentally.
Do you do any exercises at your desk? What works best for you? Share your tips in the comments.