Desk Chair Jockey: Adding Fitness to Fight Fatigue at Work

Exercise has always been my Achilles’ heel.  I chalk it up to the fact that in High School the only reason I ever exercised was because my basketball coach was screaming, “push yourself, run faster, time’s almost up!”  Now that ten years and three babies have elapsed, I have to find intrinsic motivation to get the workout done.  I no longer stand all day taking money from people as my job, so I also have the disadvantage of a job that keeps me on my butt most of the day long.  While researching ways to fight fatigue, as I sit on my rear, I came across some advice and hints on making the most of the desk job day, in which I could stretch and burn some calories as well.

In an article on Mayo Clinic’s website, I found that one of the single greatest things to fight fatigue besides getting extra sleep at night is to stay hydrated.  Drinking water is a healthy way to perk your alertness and has the additional benefit of keeping you focused, helping you do your job better.  While caffeine is my usual go-to (at least three cups in the morning), water helps you better battle your day instead of leaving you dragging after your squirrel-on-drugs moment of instant effectiveness.  In fact, as I write this, I have already taken my own instruction and drank several Styrofoam gulps of water to improve my advice.

The website also offers some great examples of stretching that can be done at your desk or in your workspace.  My favorites are the “not-so-obvious-because-I-work-at-a-school-and-don’t-need-people-to-look-at-me-like-I’m-a-fool” stretches.  The first is the shoulder stretch.  This stretch also works well as a cool down after a strenuous exercise.

A) Lifting your arm at the elbow, pull your arm across your chest and hold for fifteen to thirty seconds.

B) Tension should be felt through the back of your shoulder.

C) Upon completion, switch to your other arm and repeat the stretch.  Do as many as you feel adequately gets  you  relaxed.

The second stretch is called a “chin tuck.”  This type of stretch is simple enough to incorporate during the day; however, I don’t recommend doing them while your boss is around because he or she might suspect that you are sleeping.

A) Facing straight ahead, lower your chin to the chest and hold for fifteen to thirty seconds.

B) Relax and bring your head back to the starting position.  Repeat, again, as often as you feel warrants it.

If you think you’ll just never make it to the gym, or are like me and enjoy your afternoon snack too much, there are even ways to burn calories at your desk.

A)  Standing, amazingly, is one of these ways.  Take opportunities to stand and walk, like delivering a message by   hand instead of through text or e-mail, and you will burn as you go.

B)  If you’d like something more productive, exchanging your desk chair for a fitness ball will promote core strengthening, as well as a little bounce in your day!

C) You could also keep fitness equipment nearby.  Using small hand weights to do bicep curls as you work on a project can help you strengthen and shred.

D)  Taking up meetings on the go is another way to incorporate brisk walking – and the faster the pace, the more calories you cut.

If you are less inhibited by the type of exercise you do in public, then the Abdominal Crunch Desk Exercise is for you.  In his article “5 Desk Exercises for Your Busy Office” on, Joshua Riddle describes a core strengthening and better posture promoting exercise that is as fun as it is effective.  The more people you can get involved, the more laughter you encourage in your workplace, which we know leads to a happier mood as well.  I would guess that the two o’clock slump is the best time to try this exercise.

A)           Sit on the edge of a seat.

B)            Lean back from your waist, keeping your back straight.

C)            Hold the seat of the chair with both hands.

D)           Lift both legs up, keeping your knees bent while tightening your abdominal muscles.

E)            Straighten your legs, holding your heels a few inches off the floor.

F)            Repeat steps D and E until you’ve done ten repetitions.

For more ideas and articles related to improving your health during your tied-to-the-desk days, check out the above links.  Happy Exercising!