As remote work is here to stay, many of us are spending more hours at our desks than we were in the office post-pandemic. At the office, we were used to taking breaks to get coffee, grab lunch or just chat with coworkers in between meetings. As many of us enter a remote-first work environment, we’re spending long hours working and sitting at our desks—which has become a concern. In fact, experts expect to see an increase in sedentary behavior because of it. A sedentary lifestyle is when most of your day is spent sitting or lying down while doing daily activities. Unfortunately, this kind of lifestyle can increase your risk of developing chronic conditions such a heart disease—which happens to be the leading cause of death in both men and women.
To avoid this sedentary way of living and to keep ourselves healthy, we’ll go over 8 simple heart-healthy exercises you can do at your desk that strengthens your heart and body.
What Types of Exercises Improve Heart Health?
Living an active lifestyle has several benefits. It can improve the way we think, feel and sleep and it allows us to increase our performance in other activities—like work. There are plenty of ways you can move your body throughout the day, but here are 3 types of exercises that help improve your heart health:
Aerobic exercises are a form of cardio conditioning that helps increase your heart rate. Walking, jumping rope, running, cycling and dancing are all great examples of aerobic exercises. Since aerobic exercise improves your blood circulation, it results in lower blood pressure and heart rate, thus improving your heart health.
Stretching helps improve flexibility which helps your musculoskeletal health. By doing this, it allows your body to perform and recover from the exercises that improve your heart. Stretching also improves your balance and helps minimize the risk of injury when performing other exercises.
Resistance training involves any exercises that cause your muscles to contract, which leads to an increase in strength and endurance. Lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing functional motions using your body weight are all great ways to build muscle strength. Doing a combination of resistance and aerobic exercises can help raise HDL(good) cholesterol and lower LDL(bad) cholesterol, which can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Heart Healthy Desk Exercises
1. Neck Stretch
Neck stretches can help improve the range of motion in your neck and help relieve some of the kinks and stiffness you may have from sitting all day. Keep your back straight leaning against your desk chair and turn your head to look over your shoulder. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds then switch and repeat on the other side. Try doing this 6-8 times on each side.
2. Desk Dips
Desk dips are a form of resistance training that engages the triceps and core. To do this exercise, place both hands facing forward at the end of your desk. Keep your palms flat on the desk and do a “dip” motion by bending your elbows straight then into a 90-degree angle—lowering yourself up and down. Try doing a set of 20 reps to feel the burn.
3. Torso Twist
A torso twist is another stretching movement that can help you improve or maintain your range of motion in your torso and activates your core muscles. Sit up in your chair facing forward, place both hands behind your head, then slowly twist your body from side to side, getting a full range of motion. Make sure you are twisting from your waist without moving your hips. Hold on each side for 10 to 30 seconds and perform 6 to 8 times on each side.
4. Leg Raises
Leg raises are a form of resistance training that targets your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Sit upright in your desk chair and simply raise your legs, keeping them straight, then lower them back down once they’re parallel to the floor. Hold on to the side of your chair if you need extra support. This is a simple yet effective workout that you’ll really be able to feel a burn with.
5. Chair Squats
We all know and love squats, as they’re a great compound exercise that targets your quads, hamstrings, glutes and core muscles. To do a chair squat, stand a couple of steps in front of your chair, keep your weight in your heels, then lower your body down stopping when you’re almost in a seated position. Repeat this exercise 10 times for one set.
6. Desk Push-ups
Push-ups are a great resistance training exercise that targets your chest, shoulders, triceps and core. Similar to regular pushups, you’ll be using your desk to support yourself instead of being on the ground. Make sure your desk is sturdy enough to hold your body weight, then take a few steps back and put both palms flat on your desk. Make sure your hands are placed should-width apart, then lower yourself down and push back up. Try completing 20 pushups or as many reps as you can.
7. Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks are aerobic exercises that increase blood flow and can help lower blood pressure if performed correctly. Start by standing with your feet together and arms by your side, then raise both arms above your head while jumping outward. Jump back into the starting position and repeat. Try doing 30 jumping jacks or as many reps as you can.
Lunges are great for targeting your abdominals, lower back, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Make sure you have space around your desk to move, then stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly step forward with one leg while bending your knee. Come back to the standing position then repeat with the opposite leg.
Additional Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy
In addition to staying active, here are a few ways you can mitigate your risk of heart disease and keep your heart healthy:
- Sit less and move more
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Stop smoking and stay away from second-hand smoke
- Only drink alcohol in moderation
- Manage stress and anxiety
- Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels
Sticking with a healthy and active lifestyle can be a challenge, especially when working from home. Try incorporating these heart-healthy desk exercises and tips we mentioned in this article to help ensure you’re minimizing your risk of heart complications.
Original article can be viewed in its entirety here.