The Ultimate Workout for Office Workers Who Sit All Day

If you spend all day sitting, you probably have some postural issues and some tight, inactive muscles.

Sitting a lot is bad for our health and posture.

A few years ago, sitting was called the new smoking. This was a bit extreme but it still does have a huge effect on our health.

A 2010 paper by the American Cancer society, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology said that women who were inactive for 6 hours a day were 94% more likely to die of complications from obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease over a 14-year period.(1)

Another 2014 study found that men who were inactive for 6 hours per day were 48% more likely to die than their standing counterparts during the 5-year testing period, taking into account physical status, age, race and whether they were a smoker or non smoker.(2)(3)

You might already know that exercise is an important way to mitigate issues caused by sitting, however you’re not totally in the clear because you hit the gym a few times a week. In this article, I’ll address some of the specific physiological problems that can arise from too much sitting and provide a workout that can help to remedy them.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

sitting athlete
Mooshny/Shutterstock

Sitting and Your Posture

Sitting too much combined with looking down at your cell phone, tablet and computer are the main causes of the dreaded “text neck” and the rounded shoulder look.

This causes the muscles of the upper back to become weak and inhibited and this results in a loss of strength and mobility in the upper body.

But wait there’s more.

Forward head posture is linked to tension headaches and decreased lung capacity, which can cause problems with inhaling and exhaling air.(4)

You think this would make cardio and overhead pressing more enjoyable? I think not.

[Related: 3 Exercises to Help Strengthen and Improve Posture]

Why Should I Stand More Anyway?

A study by Carrie Schmitz, Senior Manager at Ergotron, claims that if a person stood instead of sitting for an extra 3 hours a day, they could burn over 30,000 calories in the course of a year or what could amount to 8 pounds of fat.

Furthermore, circulation slows when you’re sitting, which is one reason it’s been linked to circulatory problems and it’s a reason people get deep vein thrombosis on planes. Standing more allows for improved circulation throughout the spine and the muscular system .

Standing more also helps your core strength, posture, and balance. However, don’t go crazy. Standing too much can lead to lower limb fatigue and lower back problems because of compression of the spine — a mix of standing and sitting works best.

So, let’s combine the calorie burning power and health benefits of standing with a workout routine that will get you stronger.

[Related: The Right Way to Sit At Your Desk to Minimize Posture Problems]

Dead Bug Guide

Workout Instructions

  1. This is 3 day per week program, so Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Rest 48 hours between trainings.
  2. Complete the routine as a circuit and rest when needed between exercises. Rest 90 to 120 seconds at the end of each circuit.
  3. For single arm/leg exercises do the prescribed repetitions on each side.
  4. Use a weight that allow you to complete all the repetitions with good form.
  • Day 1: 4 circuits – 5 repetitions for each exercise. Heavy weight.
  • Day 2 : 3 circuits – 10 repetitions for each exercise. Heavy to moderate weight.
  • Day 3: 2 circuits – 15 repetitions for each exercise. Moderate to Light weight.

side plank 1

Warm Up

  • Crocodile breathing: 6 reps

Lie prone with your hands underneath your head and breath deep into your belly and exhale.

  • Deadbug: 6 reps

Lie supine with knees above hips and hands above shoulders. Extend right leg in front and left hand behind while breathing out. Then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.

  • Hip extensions with reach: 5 reps each side

Lie supine with your feet on the floor and arms by your side. Extend hips and then reach with your right hand to the left hand side of the floor. Then come down and up again repeat reach on the other side.

  • Six-point rocking: 15 reps

Begin on your hands, knees and toes with your head up. Rock your butt to your heels and then back to the starting position.

  • Side plank: 15-30 seconds each side

Lie on your side in a straight line with your elbow underneath your shoulder and feet stacked on top of each other. Push through your elbow until your hips are off the floor. Hold for desired time.

  • Half kneeling hip flexor stretch: 30 seconds each side

Begin in a half kneeling position with knee underneath hip and ankle underneath knees. Squeeze your butt, exhale air your air out, hold, and breathe.

  • Band pullaparts: 15 reps

Hold a resistance band shoulder width apart at shoulder level. Pull the band apart using the muscles between your shoulder blades and return slowly to the starting position.

The “Stand More, Sit Less” Workout 

  • 1A. Goblet Squat

Having the weight in front of you helps pull you in better posture and engage your anterior core. And it trains hip mobility after hips have been shortened from sitting.

  • 1B. Single Arm Row

Trains the important muscles between the shoulder blades that are important for posture after your shoulders have been inwardly rotated during the day.

Top of the movement

  • 1C. Single Arm Landmine Press

The reach at the end of this movement trains the serratus anterior which is important for shoulder health after your shoulder blades have been dormant during the work day.

  • 1D. Goblet Side Lunge

Trains hip mobility, especially the adductor muscles that have been shortened from sitting.

Suitcase-Deadlift-Top

  • 1E. Suitcase Carry (40 yards on each side)

You require good posture to perform this exercise. Chest up , shoulders down and level. Will help reset better posture at the end of your work day.

[Related: See our complete video guide to the suitcase deadlift!]

Wrapping up

If you sit most of the day at work, why would you do so at the gym? Standing and lifting will help burn more calories and help undo some of the damage from sitting. However, after you’re done, please feel free to sit down and recover — just not for too long.

Featured image via Ajan Alen/Shutterstock

References

1. Patel AV, et al. Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Aug 15;172(4):419-29.
2. Leach HJ, et al. The influence of sitting time and physical activity on health outcomes in public housing residents. Ethn Dis. 2014 Summer;24(3):370-5.
3. Young DR, et al. Sedentary Behavior and Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016 Sep 27;134(13):e262-79.
4. Zafar H, et al. Effect of Different Head-Neck Postures on the Respiratory Function in Healthy Males. Biomed Res Int. 2018 Jul 12;2018:4518269.

Shane McLean

Shane McLean

Shane McLean is a Certified Personal Trainer who’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from the general population client all the way to ex-Navy seals and college athletes.

Shane is a big believer in seeing exercise as a gift for the body and never a punishment — exercise should be as enjoyable as possible and never just a “work” out.

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