Whether at home or in the office, long stretches at the computer have consequences.
After two straight hours of sitting at your laptop, you’re more likely to experience pain in the lower back, hips and thighs, as well as slight declines in cognitive function.
The simple fix? Get up every 45 minutes or so and move around for about five minutes, recommends Dan Clapper, certified athletic trainer and Spectrum Health Sports Medicine supervisor. He also oversees the Spectrum Health Orthopedics at Work program.
If you want to make the most of those free minutes, Clapper suggests working in some incredibly simple but high-reward exercises.
These dynamic movements require no weights and they’re easy, as long as you don’t have any nagging injuries.
1. Body squats
If your knees are in good shape, this should be your go-to breaktime exercise, Clapper said.
Without using weights, simply spread your legs about shoulder width apart and squat down until your knees are bent close to 90 degrees. Come back up—not too quickly—and then go back down.
Do three sets of 10 repetitions, taking a few-minute break between each set. That’ll give you 30 squats in less than five minutes.
“That gets the blood flow going and it works multiple major muscle groups,” Clapper said.
There are so many variations of this mainstay that nothing should keep you from achieving a few sets, no matter your fitness level.
Standard pushups work your core, shoulders, back and arms while keeping your blood flowing strong.
If you want to simplify, however, you can do pushups on your knees or even standing up and leaning into a wall. Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions.
“As long as you don’t have any shoulder pain or low back pain,” Clapper said.
3. Forward lunges
The most worthwhile exercises target major muscle groups, something lunges achieve quickly.
Without using weights, simply step forward on one leg and then bend down on both legs, then come back up and repeat. Do this 10 times for one leg, 10 times for another. Two or three sets for each leg should do.
You can also do high knee arching, but “not too aggressive,” Clapper said. Avoiding injury is key.
4. Arm exercises
In many cases, full-time office workers who aren’t regulars at the gym will want to ease into a fitness plan. It’s foolhardy to come charging out of the gate.
“For the most part, at home, you don’t want to make anything too difficult,” Clapper said.
Enter the arm circle. Limber up your arms by swinging them in circles. It can loosen your muscles and tendons, priming your body for other activities to follow.
In that vein, range-of-motion exercises for the neck are useful, Clapper said. This includes chin tucks, head rolls and side-to-side motions. Three sets of 10 each day.
“That’s probably one of the biggest things you can do for your cervical spine,” he said.
How often do we amply stretch the legs, back, arms and core muscles? Probably not that often.
But don’t underestimate the power of simple stretches.
Your quads, hamstrings, back and chest will all benefit from deliberate stretching. Not sure what to do? Clapper recommends Hep2go, an online resource that provides helpful images of stretches and body-weight exercises.
Body-weight exercises are especially great because you can do them anywhere and there’s a low chance of injury.
“You can just add more reps if something isn’t challenging enough,” Clapper said. “It’s very functional. You’re using your own weight.”
Also, don’t overlook the value of yoga.
“It’s always good in stressful times like now,” Clapper said. “It stretches, it calms, it concentrates on major muscle groups.”
No matter what you choose, don’t overcomplicate it and don’t let it run on forever.
“If it’s complicated, people aren’t going to do it,” Clapper said.
Simple and quick will do the trick.