It’s likely that you spend too much time sitting, and with the current restrictions, that time is likely to be increased.
If, however, you expect your body to perform, whether that’s running, cycling or swimming, you will need to give it a little bit of TLC to counteract this very flexed and static position. We all find ourselves spending far too much time, so we’ve got a selection of tried and tested exercises and movements which you can easily do at home.
If you’ve ever been on a long-haul flight, then you’ve probably heard the advice of trying to move your ankles or even go and do some calf raises. If you can sit for long periods of time, it will have the same effect on your body.
If you’re not moving, you’re going to find that the blood is going to pull in your lower legs, and your circulation is generally just going to decrease.
So, start by standing up next to a wall and simply rise onto your toes as high as you can go. Start with 10 rises on both legs and then go to 10 on the left and then 10 purely on the right.
You can add in some more ankle mobility by finding a step and then stand with the balls of your feet on the step, lower your heels down below your toes before rising back up onto tiptoes, keep this to 10 with your feet together, and find out what works best for you. Aim to repeat it three times.
Let’s keep the blood moving and warm you up a little bit more. All know what a squat is. If you start with your feet at around 11 and 1 o’clock on the clock, just wider than hip-width apart, and you’re simply going to lower your body down towards the ground as low as you can comfortably and controllably go.
All the time, think about keeping your chest nice and upright and wide and your back nice and straight. Make sure you stand fully upright at the end of each squat as you really want to concentrate on opening up the front of your body that has been flexed in that sitting position.
If you want to take it up a level and really get things firing, try to turn these squats into squat jumps. You’re simply going to start with a squat, go down towards the ground, and from there, you’re going to explode in an upwards movement trying to jump as high as you can using your arms to drive you as well.
Our upper body naturally takes a lot of strain when we’re sitting down at our desk. We tend to fold forwards, our shoulders rotate inwards, our thoracic spine becomes more curved than is natural, and we quite often poke our chins and extend our neck.
So, in order to counteract that, we don’t want to just do the opposite position, we also want to engage the muscles that help us get into that position. For this exercise, we’re going to be using gravity to help us.
Supine shoulder retraction
Find a space on the floor and lie face down. Put your arms out to the side in a goal post shape. From here, squeeze your shoulder blades together and down so against gravity whilst gently lifting your arms off the ground.
Hold this for a count of five, release, rest, and repeat it five times. Once you’ve got some activation and a bit of movement in this part of your body, you can add in some assisted movements.
So, place your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and then from here, you’re going to gently squeeze your glutes to start with and then push your shoulders up off the ground away from you, so you’re just arching your back in a very gentle sort of soft way, basically counteracting that position you’ve had at the desk.
All the time trying to keep your chin tucked in and your neck in a neutral position. Take it as far as you feel comfortable in a continuous movement, and then bring it back down.
And we want you to try and do this in a flowing style of movement, repeating five in a row, and once you’ve done those, try to alternate with the other set doing the whole lot two or three times.
For this exercise, we’re going to stay on the ground. You’re simply going to flip over onto your back, lying with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
From here, we want you to put your arms out to the side so you’re making a T-shape and then a nice gradual movement drop your knees over to one side so keeping your legs together and dropping them over to the side.
And you’ll start to feel when you reach the end of that movement, and it’ll be a natural stretch sort of down the outside of your leg and a little bit through your torso.
You can add to this stretch if you want by turning your head towards your arm in the opposite direction, and it’ll just feel like a really nice stretch across the diagonal of your body.
Hold it for as long as you feel comfortable, then bring your head back to neutral before bringing your knees up to the middle and then take them over to the other side. Repeat it a few times until you’ve really maximized that benefit.
It’s a stretch which you’ll struggle to do standing up or at your desk, and it’s just another nice mobility of the spine and a full body rotation stretch.
It’s time to address the hip flexors, those muscles at the front of your hips, and they are going to have been in a flexed position whenever you’re spending time sitting, so they’re an area that certainly needs addressing whenever you’ve got the chance.
For this, you’re going to simply take a lunge step forwards, and then you’re going to drop that back knee down towards the ground until you feel a nice deep stretch down the front and especially around that hip area.
Your knee might be on the ground. It’s up to you to play around with this exercise to find out what’s comfortable and what you can hold for long enough to really benefit from the stretch.
The great thing we love about this lunging stretch is there are so many varieties you can take you can add your arms by lifting them up towards the ceiling, and that will help with the full front body stretch and really deepening the stretch at the front.
Or you can add in a bit of a side bend so you bend away from that back leg, which will increase the stretch more the side body as well as down the front, or even add in a bit of a twist.
It’s really up to you, so we are not going to prescribe a time on this one as it depends on what variation you’re doing and how many different movements you want to do within each lunge but obviously, make sure you do the same on one side as you do on the other.
Single leg arabesque
This is a nice fun one to finish off, one that will activate those muscles that have probably switched off whilst also challenging your balance and your coordination.
Hinge forwards on the standing leg using your arms to balance. If you can stretch your arms out in front of you and go as far as you can maintain that balance, even if it’s just a few centimeters, it’s something that you can work on.
And if you’ve mastered that, then try adding in a knee drive, so move in a controlled manner through standing and bring that floating leg up towards your chest.
One more challenging variation is the dancer’s pose, so grab a strap, a dressing gown strap, and simply put it around the bottom of your foot that you’re going to be taking off the ground and then hold it with your hand behind you.
From here, you’re going to hinge on that standing leg just like you did before, but this time you’re going to be pulling that foot in towards you with your hand using the strap whilst also pushing away with your foot so you’ll start to feel a really nice stretch down the whole front of your body,
You’re also going to be activating the glutes and those supporting muscles on that standing leg. It does require a little bit of balance, but it’s a good fun one for you to go and try.
So go and have a play and adapt whatever it is that will suit your body, and if you can incorporate this into a daily routine, that is perfect.
Maybe you’re working from home, and if you’ve got a long period of sitting, why not take a selection of these exercises and use them as a good excuse to just get your body moving again.